Can competition drive Dan Campbell’s Lions to overachieve?

Detroit Lions head football coach Dan Campbell (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Detroit Lions head football coach Dan Campbell (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /

Four years ago, the Detroit Lions possessed a team that appeared on the edge of playoff success. And that was saying a lot for a franchise that hadn’t won a postseason game since the 1991 season. And prior to that, not since 1957.

It was a long drought that former head coach Jim Caldwell seemed destined to break. After all, Detroit went to the playoffs twice during his four-year tenure. And Caldwell had posted three winning seasons never allowing the team to drop below a 7-9 record.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t good enough for the regime in Detroit. Hoping to make a borderline contender into a playoff mainstay, the Lions promptly fired Caldwell after a 9-7 season in 2017. They then elected to bring in Matt Patricia to replace him after his successful run as the defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots.

Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn proceeded to dismantle Caldwell’s successes in order to install a more Patriot-like culture. And that experiment resulted in three straight losing seasons in Detroit and the duo’s dismissal last November.

This offseason kicked off yet another rebuild in Motown. This one with the former longtime director of college scouting for the Los Angeles Rams, Brad Holmes, as general manager, and New Orleans Saints’ assistant Dan Campbell as head coach.

It’s another new regime with another new direction trying to implement yet another culture change in the Motor City. But at the heart of this one seems to be competition.

Here’s what Tim Twentyman recently wrote about how competition seems to drive this new coaching staff on the team’s official website,

"“We saw a ton of competitive periods in OTAs and minicamp where players were pitted against one another and even coaches against coaches at times. It gets the competitive juices flowing a bit and breaks up the monotony of practice. Campbell said he wants competition to be involved in everything the players do while at work.”"

The Lions kicked off training camp this week, it’s first with Campbell at the helm. Aided by a staff of former NFL players turned coaches, the new head coach will be looking to stoke the fires of competition this summer and forge a team capable of winning ball games in 2021. But with many not expecting much from the Lions this upcoming season, can competition be the ingredient needed to help this group overachieve?

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While this is yet another rebuild in Detroit after seemingly have a playoff-worthy team four years ago destroyed by the previous regime, the grit and the toughness that new head coach Dan Campbell wants to instill in his Lions this summer is a refreshing change. Still, all the talk is empty without an improvement in the win column. That’s a lesson the previous regime never learned.