Dan Campbell was candid about his vision for the Detroit Lions during his introductory press conference in January of 2021, even as his "knee-cap biting" metaphor became fodder for mockery.
The Lions, with the set of personalities they had and still have on the coaching staff as much as anything, were a great choice for HBO's "Hard Knocks" in 2022. They were so good that the network wanted them to do it again during training camp last summer, but they declined.
Campbell is a walking quote, during weekly press conferences, postgame press conferences, postgame locker room speeches....you name it. With what we see and don't see, he clearly has the full faith of the players and now the results are showing the vision he had all along.
Among the Campbell speeches captured by "Hard Knocks" in 2022, my personal favorite is still this one, talking about "handling adversity" and how teammates respond to a teammate's adversity.
But a couple other speeches by Campbell that were captured by the "Hard Knocks" cameras were more poignant, and serve as capsules of a vision that has come to fruition.
Dan Campbell speeches from "Hard Knocks" encapsulate his vision for the Lions
First up, we have Campbell laying out during a team meeting what he feels "GRIT" means.
"What are we? What makes us what we are, and what we're gonna be? ....It’s our core foundation, men. Grit," Campbell says. "And what does it mean? Really, in a nutshell, I think it means this: we’re going to go a little bit longer, we’ll push a little harder, and we’ll think a little deeper, and a little sharper. To me, it means, we’ll play you anywhere. We’ll play you on grass, we’ll play you on turf, we’ll go to an f*cking landfill. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you have one (expletive) cheek and three toes, I’ll beat your a**."
During the other, Campbell got emotional when defending his practice plan.
"If you don’t work on tackling. If we don’t work on run after the catch, making a move. Man, what are we doing?" he says. "Then we finally get to Week 8, and we come to life because we have enough reps. I’m telling you, honestly, I’m doing this because it actually does help you with injury … I’ve got a plan. I swear to you. All I think about is you guys. That’s all I think about, man. That’s all I f*cking think about is you guys and how I set you up for the best (expletive) possible, the best possible advantage I can give you to have a season. I swear to you. I just need you to trust me. Please."
High-level success has come for the Lions in Year 3 under Campbell. That's quicker than most expected, if they expected it at all. Some people surely thought it would never come on the day he was introduced as head coach.
If only two speeches can fully capture Campbell's vision for his team, these two behind the scenes looks we wouldn't have seen without "Hard Knocks" are it.