Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Edit
topical

Shawn Windsor: New Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell's philosophy for football is already outdated

  • 0
Dan Campbell with Dolphins, AP photo

Miami Dolphins interim head coach Dan Campbell looks up during the second half of a game against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in Miami Gardens, Florida.

The Detroit Lions new head coach, Dan Campbell, has never been a coordinator. He has never called plays, on either side of the ball. He has never had to take an offseason and design a detailed, meticulous strategy and stuff it in a binder, or on a computer.

And that's just fine.

Campbell understands the game. Relates well to players — according to many who have played for him. And, by most accounts, has a fine sense of the shifting cultural norms from one generation to the next.

As he told Billy Liucci, a Texas A&M writer who hosts a podcast, last summer:

"You have to be able to adjust to the athlete of today. And what the athlete of today is-it's not necessarily, 'Oh man, it's a negative thing.' It's just different. And these kids were raised different, and they have different experiences than we did 20 years ago and those before us .

". you have to be willing to listen to these (guys), and I feel like there needs to be more of working relationship with your athletes, certainly at the NFL level. These are grown men that we're dealing with. Like I always approach it as we are working together . Now, how do I make your job easier? That's my job. How do I pull the most out of you? That's my job as a coach. And your job is to use me as a resource."

If there is a single reason Sheila Ford Hamp hired Campbell, you can find it in those words, and in that sentiment. She didn't want another dictator prowling her sideline.

Hamp understands that to win in the NFL these days, communication, leadership and motivation are essential. If Campbell only arrives with these traits, the Lions should be better off moving forward.

And yet?

There is still the matter of strategy and on-field philosophy. Campbell spoke about this too in the same podcast:

"On offense, I need you to ball-control, man. Chew up the clock. Let's get in manageable third downs, get your first down and let's do some more things that are high efficiency plays that are going to chew up the clock."

On the one hand, this is a fine and sturdy view of how to win games on Sundays. There are plenty of teams that do, including the team he is coming from — the Saints, who made the divisional round this season propelled by a top-five defense and an elite running game.

On the other hand?

Drew Brees, New Orleans' quarterback, isn't near the player he once was. His limitation throwing the ball, especially to the boundary and downfield, kneecapped the offense.

And while the Saints' ball-control attack was good enough to make the playoffs and win double-digit games the last couple of years, it wasn't good enough to beat the best offensive teams in the playoffs — New Orleans lost to Tampa Bay on Sunday.

The best offensive teams in the league are the teams that win the titles. The conference championship games bear this out.

Let's stay with Tampa, where Tom Brady and a group of top-flight receivers, along with a couple of solid running backs, form the third-best scoring offense in the league.

Tampa's opponent this Sunday in the NFC title game, Green Bay, has the best offense in the league, led by an even better quarterback (at least this season) in Aaron Rodgers.

Meanwhile in the AFC title game, the Buffalo Bills come with the second-best offense and the Kansas City Chiefs? Well, the defending champs have Patrick Mahomes and the scariest bunch of skill players in the game.

All four teams left can throw the ball. And all four can run it well enough to keep a defense guessing.

As for the teams that relied on ball-control and short third downs?

They had nice seasons, sure, but they will be watching from here on out. Teams like Tennessee and Baltimore and Indianapolis and Cleveland and the Los Angeles Rams and, yes, New Orleans.

These are all good teams. They had fine seasons. The kind of season Lions fans would love.

And if Campbell builds the kind of ball-control, physical squad he likes and if the new general manager, Brad Holmes, unearths enough playmakers on defense, the Lions could — maybe should — be relevant in a way they haven't been in decades.

But championship seasons don't come this way anymore. Remember the Saints' top-five defense? You know who had the top four defenses?

Los Angeles, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Washington, in that order. The next two best defenses — Miami and New England — didn't make the playoffs.

This isn't to say that defense doesn't matter. Of course, it does. It's just to say that defense doesn't matter as much as it used to.

Playoff teams need to be solid on that side of the ball. Title teams, though, need to be elite on offense. Like the Chiefs were a year ago, when they beat the San Francisco 49ers, the team with the league's stingiest defense, in the Super Bowl.

As Alabama coach Nick Saban said last month, football is changing, and for those that grew up thinking running the ball and playing defense is the way to a ring, it's difficult.

Saban was talking about college football. He was also talking about his own philosophical adjustment. And while the NFL is different enough from college, the similarities are more pronounced than ever.

The Packers lit up the Rams last week in Green Bay, for example. The best offense filleting the best defense.

Campbell understands the shift in the game. And while it's true that his ball-control, short-third down goals could produce solid playoff runs, it's not quite enough to produce a parade.

Good thing, then, that he said this in the podcast as well:

"You can't use the same thing every game. You have a philosophy, but not every opponent is the same. You have to judge each opponent, what they have and what you have and what the matchup's like, different every week. And sometimes what beat that team is not going to beat this team this week."

Campbell was talking about what he learned from Bill Parcells — he played for the legendary coach in Dallas. Parcells, of course, loved ball-control offense and sticky defense. He also loved outfoxing the other side.

If Campbell combines a willingness to change with everything else he brings, he might be onto something special.

The Lions are banking on it.


Photos: Packers' 2020 season so far in pictures

Photos: Packers' 2020 season in pictures

Check out photo galleries from every game of 2020 through the end of the regular season and the playoffs.

topical
  • 0

Wisconsin State Journal photographer Steve Apps captured all the action from Lambeau Field as the Green Bay Packers fell to the Tampa Bay Bucc…

alert topical
  • 0

Wisconsin State Journal photographer Steve Apps captured all the action from Lambeau Field as the Green Bay Packers defeated the Los Angeles R…

topical
  • 0

The Green Bay Packers took care of business Sunday, securing the top seed in the NFC playoffs and a first-round bye with a 35-16 victory over …

topical
  • 0

The Green Bay Packers jumped out to an early lead and didn't let up en route to a 40-14 victory over the Tennessee Titans Sunday night at a sn…

topical
  • 0

The Green Bay Packers withstood a late challenge from the Carolina Panthers to hold on for a 24-16 victory Saturday night at Lambeau Field in …

topical
  • 0

It wasn't always smooth sailing Sunday at Ford Field, but the Green Bay Packers held on for a 31-24 victory over the Detroit Lions to clinch t…

topical
  • 0

Wisconsin State Journal photographer Steve Apps captured all the action from Lambeau Field Sunday as Aaron Rodgers turned in another MVP worth…

topical
  • 0

The Green Bay Packers were in control from start to finish Sunday night at Lambeau Field as they dispatched the Chicago Bears 41-25 to earn th…

topical
  • 0

The Green Bay Packers' 14-point halftime lead vanished quickly as the Indianapolis Colts stormed back in the second half to take control en ro…

topical
  • 0

Wisconsin State Journal photographer Steve Apps captured all the action from Lambeau Field as the Green Bay Packers defeated the Jacksonville …

topical
  • 0

The Green Bay Packers jumped out to an early lead and didn't let up Thursday night as they cruised to a 34-17 victory over the San Francisco 4…

alert topical
  • 0

Wisconsin State Journal photographer Steve Apps captured all the action from a wind-swept Lambeau Field Sunday afternoon as the Minnesota Viki…

topical
  • 0

Coming off their first loss of the season, the Green Bay Packers returned to early season form Sunday as quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wide re…

topical
  • 0

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw two interceptions within a three-pass span of the second quarter as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers…

topical
  • 0

Despite missing a few offensive weapons, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers continued his outstanding early season play as the undefe…

topical
  • 0

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for 283 yards and three touchdowns as Green Bay defeated the New Orleans Saints 37-30 on Sun…

topical top story
  • 0

Wisconsin State Journal photographer Steve Apps captured all the action as the Green Bay Packers came back from an early 11-point deficit to b…

topical
  • 0

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was in top form Sunday as the Green Bay Packers defeated the Minnesota Vikings, 43-34, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minne…

alert topical
  • 0

From a controversial trade up the draft board to acquire Utah State quarterback Jordan Love in the first round to the addition of some much-ne…

0 Comments

Be the first to know

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

To beat Green Bay at Lambeau Field and advance to the Super Bowl, it’ll take another superb performance from a defense that until last Sunday had not played a dominant game since it sacked Aaron Rodgers four times and intercepted him twice in a 38-10 rout of the Packers in Week 6.

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

News Alerts

Badger Sports

Breaking News

Crime

Politics