Despite being the best sports city in the world, Detroit’s teams have not been as phenomenal. The Detroit Tigers and Detroit Lions fans have had it the worst.
The Detroit Tigers had an early 2010s juggernaut get crushed in the 2012 World Series and came one David Ortiz grand slam from the Fall Classic the following year. Despite clinging onto free agents and hope for the next two seasons, they couldn’t get it done.
The Lions of the same era had a top-tier defensive team. Not to mention, a recent Hall of Famer at the center of the “screw it, Calvin’s somewhere” offense. This team nearly had postseason success too – save for a Brandon Pettigrew PI call and two Stafford fumbles in Dallas – and a batted ball in Seattle.
Then, the last 6 years happened.
Regular incompetence – what’s good Brad Ausmus.
Bearded incompetence – hey Matt Patricia.
Both teams needed massive changes. That started with the coaches.
The AJ Hinch Detroit Tigers
In October 2020, the market was low for a top-tier coach who literally won a World Series with a trash can: AJ Hinch. The struggling Tigers capitalized on this and inked him to a three-year deal.
It was obvious that Detroit had a roster that more resembled a AAA team than the loaded squad he led in Houston. This did not stop Hinch from strongly establishing what the identity of this Tigers era would be: aggression.
This AJ Hinch team steals more, hustles for extra bases, and hits aggressively. They might not have all the talent to win, but they’re going to make every game difficult on opponents.
Hinch said it best himself,
“If you want to be apart of (this team), then you’ll come. If you don’t, then we’ll beat you,”
It’s this strategy that has a Tigers team that won 47 games in 2019 just six games under .500 in the middle of September – even more impressive given Detroit’s rough start to the 2021 campaign.
AJ Hinch’s success as the Tigers skipper is also due to the staff around him. Pitching coach Chris Fetter has done wonders for the young pitching staff in Detroit. Matt Manning, Casey Mize, and Tarik Skubal have all taken massive strides this year. The bullpen’s core has sub-3.5 ERAs. Closer Gregory Soto has enjoyed a lights-out All-Star season.
The offensive aggression and more consistent pitching rotation has led to more wins and shows fans the culture they have to look forward to in a few years.
The same can be said for the Detroit Lions and Dan Campbell.
Dan Campbell and the Detroit Lions
When the Detroit Lions hired Dan Campbell, many tired Detroit fans were left scratching their heads.
Yes, he was better than Matt Patricia by default. But who even was this guy?
But, it didn’t take long to fall in love with him.
The kneecaps quote.
The true alpha quote.
His coffee consumption.
We all knew this meant nothing until the games started and Campbell could prove his mentality actually impacted his team.
Luckily, Week 1 came quickly. The Lions faced the 49ers – an NFC favorite. Dan Campbell routinely went for it on fourth down. His players hyped each other up after every play. Penei Sewell – the smart pick – did phenomenal against Nick Bosa. The team made mistakes and struggled without a doubt. But Dan Campbell never told us the Lions would be good.
This game was about culture.
This was more than evident when the Lions got a two-point conversion down 41-23 late in the fourth. With some hustle and quality game strategy, Detroit got the ball back for one last drive down 8 points.
The game literally came down to the last play.
It wasn’t supposed to.
And it’s because things are different.
Both the Tigers and the Lions seem to be on the right track with their coaching staff. Lots of work needs to be done. But the outspoken Dan Campbell and AJ Hinch are great models of this city and what its teams need to succeed.