Jimmy Johnson knows the challenge of building a team into a winner, and he has heaped some praise on Lions head coach Dan Campbell.
When it comes to turning a team around, and doing it fairly quickly, Jimmy Johnson knows of which he speaks. In 1989 he took over as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, who were coming off a 3-13 season.
Things would get a little worse, as the Cowboys went 1-15 in Johnson’s first season as head coach. But with some help from the Herschel Walker trade in October of 1989, and a bounty of draft picks from the Minnesota Vikings, the Cowboys would win three Super Bowls over a four-year span in the 1990’s.
The year before the Cowboys won that first Super Bowl under Johnson, they lost to the Lions in the Divisional Round (the Lions’ last playoff win).
Dan Campbell stepped into a rebuilding project in Detroit in 2021, as he introduced himself to the local media with his now famous “knee cap biting” comments. A 3-13-1 mark in his first season, albeit with better play by the team late in the season, was the first step.
This year brought the franchise’s first winning record since 2017, with a 9-8 mark as the Lions fell just short of the playoffs.
Jimmy Johnson is very impressed with Lions head coach Dan Campbell
Johnson spoke with Tim Twentyman of the Lions’ website from Super Bowl LVII radio row this week.
"I think Dan Campbell has been impressive because early with Dan you saw the team play extremely hard and they were a very physical team,””In fact, I made the comment on FOX NFL Sunday, I said, ‘Man, they play hard, they are well coached, but they don’t win.’ Well, all of the sudden that hard work and that effort started paying dividends and they started winning games.”He’s done a great job there,” Johnson said of Campbell. “I’m very impressed with Dan Campbell.”"
The Cowboys first winning record and playoff appearance under Johnson came in his third season, while the Lions had a winning record (without a playoff appearance) in Campbell’s second season. That’s not meant to be a prediction the Lions will start winning Super Bowls in a couple years, it’s just an interesting note about getting to a winning record when a rebuild is launched.