Newest Detroit bromance? The Lions’ Dan Campbell and Brad Holmes; that’s how it should be

Detroit Free Press

You’ve seen the photos — or photos of the photos — and in the meta-multiverse of the Dan Campbell and Brad Holmes bromance, the vibe is what matters most.

An NFL general manager wearing a sweatshirt featuring a portrait of his head coach to a post-draft news conference? An NFL head coach returning the favor a few weeks later at organized team actvities by wearing a snapshot of his GM?

Wait, it gets more existential. In the photo Campbell wore last week, Holmes was wearing a photo of Campbell, which means, technically, Campbell was wearing a photo of himself. The Multiverse: It ain’t just for cartoon spiders. 

It’s for the most playful GM-coach combo in the NFL. Or at least the most playful — and possibly fruitful — pairing in recent Detroit Lions’ memory, and by recent, I mean since 1957.

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Scientific? Hardly.

But this is about perception, and we’re talking about cartoon multiverses, or parallel universes, or metaphysical vibes anyway, so, forget about science.

All that counts is the universe that sent Dan Campbell and Brad Holmes to Detroit. This is the one you want. This is where the Campbell-Holmes (or Holmes-Campbell) tandem may be the hottest in the league. And it’s not just the photos.

Though those make for a good story.

What makes for a better story?

That Holmes and Campbell call each other their brother — the photos are merely symbols of a deeper and more authentic connection — and that the connection came about on a guess and a prayer, though a gut feeling backed by the experience of one of the more underrated cogs in this surging Lions buzz machine:

Chris Spielman.

The former Lions great works as an assistant to team owner Sheila Hamp and team CEO Rod Wood, and his influence is all over the hiring of Campbell and Holmes. That they were hired independently six days apart is revealing.

This means that Spielman and Hamp and Wood and the rest of the hiring team had to guess that Holmes (hired on Jan. 14, 2021) and Campbell (hired on Jan. 20, 2021) would be simpatico. This means they had to compare their notes from interviewing each and decide if it could work.

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Yes, that’s a form of homework. But that’s also a form of guesswork, and so far, they’ve guessed right.

“I told you all, this is my brother, my guy,” Holmes said the night he wore the sweatshirt emblazoned with Campbell’s image. “I love this sweatshirt. It’s awesome.”

“Yeah, it’s pretty good,” Campbell said last week of his T-shirt of Holmes. “My wife got me this. My wife found it. I don’t know where from, but she ordered this.”

And to think, Holmes thought he wasn’t worthy of his own line of “merch” — merchandise for those not in the know: He joked about this the night he wore Campbell’s image.

“I don’t think they put me on that kind of pedestal,” he said.

No, general managers don’t get statues generally. But these are the Lions, and if Campbell and Holmes take this thing all the way, they’ll get their own wing in the Ford Field atrium.

That remains the dream. In the meantime, there is the business of building the roster and developing the players.

This “business” is done together, through meetings and phone calls, texts and walk-bys on the practice field. As Campbell noted last season:

“We talk all the time. We communicate on a daily basis, multiple times, on everything. If he’s got something, he presents it to me and he tells me what he’s thinking, and he asks me what I think … He looks at it through my eyes and I look at it through his eyes … we’re both in lock step with each other.”

How’s that for simpatico?

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Not in a vacuum — the best NFL franchises are propelled by chemistry between the front office and the coaching staff. Or at least by a similar vision.

But so many of those pairings are often because the GM and the head coach had history some place, or because the GM hired the head coach, or because the GM was hired to execute an established coach’s vision. None of those scenarios played out here in Detroit.

Hamp and Spielman took a different track and sought a head coach and a general manager on parallel timelines. As mentioned, they were hired six days apart. They hardly knew each other.

And yet?

“He’s special coach and special human being,” Holmes said of Campbell. “He’s one of those guys that makes anybody feel better about themselves.

Campbell has said similar things about Holmes, and said this last season, after the team lost six of its first seven games:

“He and I’s relationship is as good as ever.”

Talk about solid footing. No wonder they were laughing and joking and showing up representing each other at the podium over the past few weeks. No wonder they are brothers-in-loungewear, if you will — partners in a relationship they didn’t choose or even seek, but one for which they are grateful, and act as if they were meant to find each other.

A bromance?


As Holmes said to the NFL Network before last year’s draft: “We are so like-minded. We are cut from the same cloth. We see things alike.”

That mind-meld helped them bond immediately and set up a plan; although Hamp and Spielman deserve credit for setting the table, Holmes and Campbell are doing the cooking.

“We took some lumps early on but you’re starting to see that plan really become clear,” Holmes said. We have a culture of collaboration and communication. I tell everybody, if you want to be a part of this, it’s going to be a fun ride.”

Contact Shawn Windsor: 313-222-6487 or Follow him on Twitter @shawnwindsor.

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