To wrap up our series looking at the playing careers of Detroit Lions coaches, head coach Dan Campbell is the featured subject.
Before being hired as Lions head coach, Campbell spent five seasons as assistant head coach/tight ends coach for the New Orleans Saints under Sean Payton. He started his coaching career an intern for the Miami Dolphins in 2010, before becoming tight ends coach in 2011 and finally finishing the 2015 season with a 5-7 record as interim head coach after Joe Philbin was fired.
Despite catching just 27 passes in his college career at Texas A&M, Campbell was drafted by the New York Giants in the third round (79th overall) of the 1999 NFL Draft.
Detroit Lions coaches as players: Dan Campbell
Over his time with the Giants, Campbell was part of the 2000 team that made it to Super Bowl XXXV and a 2002 offense that yielded nice seasons from quarterback Kerry Collins and running back Tiki Barber.
Campbell moved on to the Dallas Cowboys in 2003, as one of the first free agents signed after Bill Parcells came in as head coach. In two of three seasons as a Cowboy, he started at least 12 games as a second tight end alongside Jason Witten.
Campbell then signed with the Lions in 2006, starting 11 game and playing in all 16 games that season with 21 catches, a career-high 308 yards and a career-high four touchdowns. But the next two seasons in Detroit were wrecked by injuries, and he played in three total games.
Campbell signed with the Saints in 2009, reuniting with Payton–who was on the coaching staffs in New York and Dallas when he played in those places. But a training camp knee injury cost Campbell that entire season, and he was finished as an NFL player.
It’s quite an accomplishment for Campbell to have lasted 10 NFL seasons as a blocking tight end who occassionally caught a pass. He brings that underdog mentality to his role as Lions’ head coach, for better or worse, as he’s also refreshingly open and unpolished compared to his head coaching brethren. Looking to the coming season, more wins should come.