Lions head coach Dan Campbell defends onside kick decision
That it didn’t work out lends to hindsight criticism, but Lions head coach Dan Campbell didn’t hide from an explanation for his decision to try an onside kick on Sunday.
Last season, Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campell had an aggressive mentality. The Lions set a single-season NFL record for fourth down attempts with 41 (21 times successful), and that aggressiveness was backed by win probability analytics. A 3-13-1 team had to try to gain an advantage in any margin it could.
Campbell is surely not going to change his mode this season. There will be mistakes, but the head coach will make sure if the Lions go down, they go down swinging more often than not.
Having just cut the Eagles’ lead to 31-21 early in the third quarter on Sunday, Campbell decided to try an onside kick. The Eagles recovered it, and proceeded to go 49 yards in five plays to expand the lead to 38-21.
Hindsight is always 20-20 when things like that don’t work. If the onside kicked had worked and the Lions scored any kind of points on their ensuing drive, Campbell is an aggressive coach who knows when to press the right buttons. If it fails, as this one did, he’s got some explaining to do with the defense struggling to stop the run the way it was.
So Campbell was left to explain the decision. Not that he was long-winded about it right away.
Dan Campbell defends his onside kick decision
Right after the game regarding the onside kick, via Heavy.com, Campbell was brief.
"Because I wanted the ball back,”"
During his Monday press conference, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Campbell elaborated.
"My fear was that, man, they’re going to hold the ball for eight minutes, even if when we do get a stop and they’ve chewed up eight or nine, 10 minutes, and even with a stop now you’re getting forced to have to be in two-minute mode earlier than you want to be,” “So that was just kind of the thought.”"
Campbell then faced the hindsight elephant in the room head-on.
"I mean, look, obviously hindsight it’s like, ‘Well, it didn’t work. Well, hell, we shouldn’t have done that,'” “That is an easy thing to say. It’s like, ‘Well, just kick away. But I just, man, I felt like it was the time to do it and I wanted to see if we could get one and we wanted a little bit more of a sideline, a little shorter, but I put that on me. Hell, you keep working that for a little bit and I feel like it’s there, maybe you’ve put it on the shelf.”"
Sounds like Campbell will trust his instincts, and will try an onside kick again if/when he thinks the time is right down the road. That’s the kind of coach Lions’ fans should want, one not afraid to try things and be aggressive. And it’s the only kind of coach Campbell knows how to be–success or fail, right or wrong.