Dan Campbell makes Lions player-coach relationship easier

Detroit Lions tight end Dan Campbell (Photo by Mark Brettingen/NFLPhotoLibrary)
Detroit Lions tight end Dan Campbell (Photo by Mark Brettingen/NFLPhotoLibrary) /

Dan Campbell is the latest in a long line of head coaches for the Detroit Lions charged with the difficult task of returning the struggling franchise to forgotten glory. With the team experiencing yet another rebuild, it has many fans asking why this time will be different.

The answer can likely be found in the man himself. During Campbell’s colorful introductory press conference to the Motor City, he made it clear he’s not a cookie-cutter head coach. Campbell’s kneecap biting rant went viral to the delight of both fans and the national media. And it has many hoping his bravado as a former NFL player himself can help the Lions climb out of the NFC North basement.

A third-round selection in the 1999 NFL Draft out of Texas A&M by the New York Giants, Campbell played tight end in the NFL for 11 years. He played for the Lions from 2006-2008 and posted a career year his first season in Detroit recording 21 receptions for 308 yards and four touchdowns as an 11-game starter.

Here’s what Lions linebacker/fullback Jason Cabinda told FanSided’s Matt Lombardo on The Matt Lombardo Show recently when asked about the difference Campbell being a former player makes as the team’s new head coach.

"“I think one when it comes to a guy who’s played, it makes the player-coach relationship a lot easier being that he can truly relate … just from a standpoint of language, how to talk to each other, feeling what the other feels, that connections all there because he’s been there. I think that’s the biggest part when a coach really understands his players and from then on be able to make decisions based on where we’re at.”"

While being a former player might give Campbell an edge over other head coaches when it comes to communication, it doesn’t mean the 45-year old doesn’t also possess the coaching background to cultivate success in Detroit.

Retiring from the NFL as a player after spending the entire 2009 season sidelined due to injury with the New Orleans Saints, Campbell joined the Miami Dolphins’ coaching staff as an intern. He moved his way up the ranks becoming the team’s tight end coach for five years and even being named interim head coach during the 2015 regular season.

Campbell would impress at the helm, leading the struggling 1-3 Dolphins under former head coach Joe Philbin to a 5-7 record. He would rejoin the Saints and their head coach, Sean Payton, the following year. Campbell has spent the past five seasons as the assistant head coach and tight ends coach in New Orleans.

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As a former player, Dan Campbell brings a level of understanding and communication that could make his connection with his players in Detroit a true asset. As a coach, Campbell has spent the past five years under the tutelage of one of the brightest coaching minds in football. That combination could be the key to getting the most out of a Lions’ roster that posted a 5-11 record in 2020.