Allen Park — Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell is no closer to knowing who will call offensive plays for Sunday’s season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles than he was in February, when Ben Johnson was formally promoted to the team’s offensive coordinator position.
OK, that’s probably not true, but Campbell continues to play coy about the decision in the week leading up to the game with the Eagles.
“Well, this is going to be interesting to find out,” Campbell said with a smile on Monday. “I’m excited to know, too.”
In the grand scheme of things, it probably doesn’t matter much. The scheme, game plan and play-calling are all a collaborative effort between coach and coordinator, with heavy influence from the team’s offensive position coaches. The decision largely boils down to which voice will be in quarterback Jared Goff’s ear during the game.
It was Campbell who stepped into the role in the middle of last season, assuming the duties after yanking them from former coordinator Anthony Lynn. And while the transition was far from perfect, there’s no denying the Lions offense improved the second half of last season.
Before Campbell started calling plays, the Lions averaged 16.8 points per game while Goff struggled, posting an 85.3 passer rating. After the change, the team’s scoring average jumped to 21.2 points, despite Goff, running back D’Andre Swift and tight end T.J. Hockenson all missing multiple contests. And in the six games Goff did play during the second half of the campaign, his passer rating improved to 101.8 with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 11-to-2.
During that stretch where Campbell was calling the plays, Johnson had been elevated from coaching the team’s tight ends to coordinating the passing game. His work with the offense, and Goff in particular, was praised throughout the organization, culminating with the offseason promotion. Additionally, he’s been the one calling the plays during the preseason.
But while refusing to announce who will handle the duties to begin the regular season, Campbell joked he wasn’t quite ready to part with the responsibilities he’d grown fond of last year.
“I’ll be honest with you, I’m just not quite there yet,” Campbell said. “I still have this eagerness to want to call it myself. And so, man, it’s going to be — I don’t know. It’s going to be good.”
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