Expert Analysis


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The Remarkable Leadership of Dan Campbell

The Remarkable Leadership of Dan Campbell

The Lions won their first game of the season on Sunday, beating the Minnesota Vikings with a last-second TD pass from Jared Goff as the clock expired. What’s remarkable about this is not the fact that they won their first game or that they beat a decent Vikings team, but what led to this win.

Anyone in an NFL building can tell you that the toughest days are when you are struggling. It can be tense with low energy at times. But in these moments, those who have an innate leadership quality such as Dan Campbell can still progress. 

Back in 2015, Coach Campbell was the TE Coach for the Miami Dolphins. During that time, as a member of the front office, we went through a changing of the guard at Head Coach, and we decided on Campbell to be the interim HC. 

Something unique occurred that season as he remained the interim Head Coach for 12 games in the 2015 season. During that time, one thing was abundantly true — Campbell had a rare and innate ability to lead. It came from his ability to be relatable to those with disparate backgrounds and hold people accountable in a motivational way. He has an amazing ability to be demanding in a friendly way. Along the way as a coach, he has been impressed upon and shaped by the coaches he has learned from, including Sean Payton and Bill Parcells. But he has ultimately always been his own person. He’s an innate and transcendent leader whose energy is palpable.

His leadership is shown and spoken for by the nature of the 2021 Detroit Lions season. So far this season, they have been in seven games that have ended in one score, having not won a single one until this past weekend. Getting players to buy in and play hard each week gets harder and harder as the season goes along, especially as the losses pile up. The ability to compete each week proves that the message of Campbell resonates with the players and gives the Detroit front office a reason to be hopeful long term. We do not know how it will play out on the field, but it can not be denied that the players respect and believe in their Head Coach.

Let's take a look at the celebration of the Lions as they won this past weekend. It shows you what you need to know about Dan Campbell, the leader. 

The excitement, perseverance, belief and relief in the eyes and actions of the players is prominent. Who does veteran QB Jared Goff run to first after throwing the game-winning TD? His Head Coach. They have battled for 13 weeks to come away with this victory despite lesser talent, and credit must be given for getting a team to play hard week in and week out.

When taking a deeper look into the team that is the Detroit Lions, they’ve had a lot of challenges:

On defense, per Ourlads, Detroit has only 1 starter who is older than 30 years old and 8 of the 11 starters have entered the league between 2017 and 202. Similarly, none of the offensive starters are above the age of 27, with Jared Goff and Taylor Decker (both drafted in 2016) as the oldest. 

To pair with an extremely young core, the Lions have the highest percentage of their cap (22%) and most cap dollars ($43.03M) allocated to those on the IR. Only 21 players have hit IR for them (with the high being 35 from the Titans), but those 21 include high money players such as Trey Flowers and Jeff Okudah. With news of Corey Davis hitting IR for the Jets, the Lions will fall to second in both IR cap categories.

The Lions currently sit in 20th place in The 33rd Team Discipline Index, as they have struggled to limit their penalties. Cleaning up their discipline (penalties, turnovers and 3rd down efficiency) will be the next step for this team. Despite many changes needing to be made, the Lions should have confidence that they’ve found the correct leader.