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Dan Campbell: Coach or Caricature?

Football Guys, Frauds, and Flags

Minnesota Vikings v Detroit Lions Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Real football starts tomorrow! The wait is almost over. All the hype, all the optimism, all the excitement, it is here.

The Eagles get a nice measuring stick to start the season in the Detroit Lions, a team expected to be competitive but not a threat in the NFC. Any Given Sunday always applies but the Eagles should be able to put them away with out too much trouble like they did last year. If not, well, don’t hit the panic switch yet but you can flip open the cover. The Lions are already down a few starters due to injuries after Dan Campbell ran a physical training camp. Nick Sirianni did not and has a healthy roster. I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.

It does make me wonder...

How long can Dan Campbell’s caricature last?

Dan Campbell’s Football Guy™ persona was initially treated as a joke, but it kind of worked? The Lions were awful as expected, but they were competitively awful, and that’s not nothing. In Week 1 they rallied to nearly upset the 49ers, and that was pretty much the theme of their season: a tough out. They went 2-6-1 in one score games, and while that’s obviously not a good record it was a competitive amount of close games. Their 3 win peers the Jaguars only had six such games, while Campbell’s rookie head coach peer and media darling Brandon Staley had ten such games. After an 0-8 start the Lions “rallied” to a 3-5-1 record. In Week 17 the Lions were blown out 51-29 by the Seahawks. In Week 18 they wouldn’t have been the first team to go through the motions in the season finale in a lost year. Instead they were leading the Packers when Green Bay waved the white flag and took Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams out of the game.

It’s easy to make a case that the Lions are a team modestly on the up. They’re a young team: in the past two drafts they have taken eight players in the first three rounds, eight rookies or second year players started at least 6 games last year, only four players are 29 or older. They improved as the season progressed, and they played hard for their coach. If this were a buy/sell/hold situation, the Lions would be in a buy category. Similar to the Eagles they’re doing a nice job of surrounding the QB position with talent.

But then you look at the QB situation and wonder where they go from here. Jared Goff isn’t and won’t be the answer. Detroit they had no real options to improve their QB situation this season. The draft was unappetizing and no veteran worth acquiring was going to go to Detroit. A 7 or 8 win season will be real progress for the Lions and not unexpected. It will also put them in QB purgatory. Their pair of 1st round picks helps, but one of them belongs to the Rams so it could easily be a late 1st. More importantly, all the other teams with multiple 1sts in 2023 could also be in the market for a QB. Another bad season that ends with a really high draft pick is probably in their best long term interests, but that wouldn’t mesh with Dan Campbell’s overachiever vibes.

Campbell is already a betting favorite to win Coach of the Year, which is a funny thing to bet on because the award is almost always given to the coach whose team exceeds expectations, by being a favorite to win such an award doesn’t that mean the coach then met but did not exceed expectations?

The scrappy underdog fighting the brave fight is a fun story in year one, but in year two it quickly turns to the realization that the team stinks and the coaching staff doesn’t have anything but ankle biting to offer.

Speaking of potential frauds…

Fraud Watch!

Every year there are fraud teams. Sometimes they’re staring you in the face all season long.

Saints - Jameis Winston had two good games last season (9 of his 14 TDs were in two games), but somehow he’s going to lead this team to the playoffs? Sean Payton has been replaced with Dennis Allen, who might be the worst coach Al Davis ever hired. The Raiders won 16 games in the two seasons before Dennis Allen, 19 games in the two seasons after Dennis Allen, and 8 in the 2.25 seasons with Dennis Allen. He has the worst winning percentage of any coach since Al Davis bought the team. They already have 10 guys on IR. And the Eagles own their 1st round pick, so we should be rooting for this team to fail.

Packers - They’ve got Aaron Rodgers and that’s pretty much it. Their starting WRs are Alan Lazard, Sammy Watkins, and Randall Cobb. Marcedes Lewis is their starting TE, the last time he had 30+ catches was 2012. If you gave that set of pass catchers to a young QB, you’d make excuses for their supporting cast and you wouldn’t be wrong. And their defense isn’t good enough to carry the team. They’ll make the playoffs because the NFC North is weak.

Buccaneers - Their offensive line is already in trouble and offensive lines are difficult to fix in-season. Tom Brady looks like Gisele drained all his blood before moving out, and he missed most of camp because he felt like it. Gronk retired. Bruce Arians also “retired” and has been replaced with Todd Bowles, who went 14-34 in his final three seasons with the Jets. 33% of Hue Jackson’s wins with the Browns came against Todd Bowles. Like the Packers the Bucs should make the playoffs because someone from the division has to.

Broncos - Russell Wilson isn’t cooked but he’s on the stove. The Broncos are all in with maybe the third best team in their division. Their head coach was a lousy offensive coordinator in Buffalo and Jacksonville but then he got to coach Aaron Rodgers and suddenly he’s a head coach! Their defense wasn’t good last year under Vic Fangio, their new defensive coordinator is a guy who wasn’t even a position coach six years ago.

Cowboys - I hesitate to put them on here simply because they’re not really expected to be that good. But I’m not turning down a chance to dump on the Cowboys. Dallas’s defense was 1st in turnovers last year and that isn’t happening again. After racking up 7 INTs in the first 6 games, Trevon Diggs had 4 over the next 11 and they were Matt Ryan while up 36-3, Taysom Hill, Daniel Jones, and Taylor Heinicke. The Cowboys had a brutal offseason and they’re already down a starter due to injury. Last season was the peak of the Mike McCarthy era.

Eagles - Yeah I went there. The Eagles have clearly upgraded their roster. They have an easy schedule in a weak NFC, it is possible they finish with the top seed in the playoffs. None of that matters if Jalen Hurts and Nick Sirianni ain’t it. No pressure!

Stat of the Week That May Only Interest Me

Last season Week 1 had the most penalties of any week of the season with 257. Week 2 saw the second most, with 251. The least? Week 18 with 152, and Week 17 was the fourth least. 2020 was similar, Week 2 was the most penalized, Week 3 was the third most, and Week 17 was the least.

So if it seems like the refs suck this month, you’re right, it’s what they do in September.

Top 5 Things From Detroit

1. Motown

2. Brandon Graham

3. Detroit style pizza

4. RoboCop (though it was filmed in Dallas because they needed a place that looked like a shithole)

5. The mustaches of Detroit natives Tom Selleck, Tom Skerritt, Kirk Gibson, JK Simmons, and Sgt. Slaughter

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