Dan Campbell is easy (too easy?) to root for, but the Lions head coach leaves a lot to be desired in-game and he is moving toward the hot seat.
From the moment he was introduced as Detroit Lions head coach and talked about “biting knee caps”, Dan Campbell has been easy to root for. The team played better late late season, which fostered some promise heading into this season.
The world getting a closer look at him and his team via “Hard Knocks” only brought more positive buzz.
Two weeks into the season, the Lions had given the last undefeated team in the league (the Philadelphia Eagles a run for their money and beaten the Washington Commanders.
In Week 3, the Lions had the division rival Minnesota Vikings on the ropes, due in part to Campbell being aggressive to go for it on fourth down–just like he was last season as the Lions when the Lions set a single-season record with 41 fourth down attempts.
But in a critical moment when that game could have been won, Campbell put his tail between his legs and literally chose the thing with the lowest win probability even if the field goal was made.
Let’s just forget about the Lions’ dreadful defensive performance in Week 4 against the Seahawks, and jump right to Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots.
In-game coaching acumen is pushing Dan Campbell toward the hot seat
The Lions, with a new kicker in place in Michael Badgley, went for it on fourth down six times on Sunday. They went 0-for-6, including a couple times later in the game when a field goal would have at least avoided a shut out.
Even early, only trailing 6-0, going for it on fourth down went as badly as it could have after losing seven yards on 3rd-and-2. A 6-3 deficiti, or 6-0 if Badgley had missed a field goal, became 13-0 in a deflating instant.
Nick Baumgardner of The Athletic summed things up nicely during Sunday’s game.
To put it simply, Campbell is now 4-17-1 as the Lions’ head coach. Two of the most recent three losses can be pinned directly on his in-game coaching decisions, on each end of the aggressiveness spectrum.
The Patriots were not 29 points better than the Lions on Sunday. But when the game was theoretically within reach, and finally to at least avoid the embarrassment of being shut out, Campbell did his team no favors.
At least he knows it.
The head coach has to balance aggressiveness against recklessness, and not let emotions dictate decisions. As much as Bill Belichick is a bullseye for his patented ability to say nothing and appear unaffected by everything, he is the cooler head who will not have his decision-making clouded and he will adjust when something isn’t working.
Campbell may just simply not be head coach material. He’s got a bye week to regroup with his coaching staff, and 12 games to prove he deserves a third season. The equity or benefit of doubt he has built by being likeable is fading, and the heat on his seat is getting warmer.