For better or worse, Dan Campbell wears his heart on his sleeve.
Think back to the day of his introductory press conference. Before his first words as the Detroit Lions head coach, Campbell was an emotional wreck. By now, many have seen numerous shots of him walking around the team practice field. He was in tears. He kept those same emotions heading into the actual presser, often choking up while speaking––something that most overlooked because they wanted to focus on “kneecaps.”
Sunday was no different after a gut-wrenching loss, 19-17 loss to Vikings. The Lions lost for the second time in three weeks due to a 50+ yard game-winning field goal. This time, the culprit was Greg Joseph. The loss was such a kick in the “you know where” that Campbell fought tears as he addressed the media.
“It’s tough, it’s tough,” Campbell told reporters. “Look, you want it for yourself, as an organization, and for all of us. But you want it for those players. I mean, they’re out there busting their ass.”
“When you see your players give all that they have and you lose that way, it’s tough. You know, you don’t want that for them.”
Shortly after his statement, that clip of a visibly upset Dan Campbell circulated throughout various social media sites. ESPN’s Get Up briefly touched on the segment on Monday morning. And it shouldn’t surprise anyone if more shows follow suit. After all, Campbell’s been gold for media outlets since his arrival in Detroit.
Many shows may (or may not) overreact to Campbell’s display on Sunday. However, if they do, they should keep one thing in mind. And that Campbell’s reaction isn’t because his team is losing, but he’s sick of how they’re losing. He’s sick of the teases.
In my opinion, if his Lions team were to lose games, he would feel better if he knew in his heart that they lost to the better team.
However, he doesn’t appear to feel that way, and it shows through his actions and words. Campbell believes that if the Lions corrected a few mistakes, they could easily have some W’s and still not searching for that first one. This same theory can apply to many teams besides the Lions, but it fits given the result over the past three weeks.
Dan Campbell knows the Detroit Lions are in a rebuild.
He knows that he’s coaching a below-average football team, even though he’ll never say it. Despite that, the last three games for the Lions were winnable. Instead of 0-5, they could be 3-2, holding second place in the NFC North, or at least 2-3.
That’s why he was crying after Sunday’s loss.
Because for the past three weeks, all three losses were teases. The Lions could have beaten the Ravens if Campbell and his staff managed the final moments better. Electing not to go for the first down in the red zone on their last drive and settling for the field goal with too much time left on the clock hindered them. Not to forget, they also gave up a 4th and 19, which set up Justin Tucker’s game-winning field goal.
They could have pulled out a victory against the Bears if they managed their short-yardage situations better and elected to kick field goals in the red zone in the first half and the 4th quarter when they were down two scores.
And then there was Sunday’s loss.
For the most part, Dan Campbell and his staff corrected most of the previous mistakes. A lot of what Campbell caught criticism for didn’t exist in the loss to the Vikings. Heck, in the same situation from last week, down two scores, Campbell took the field goal, and this time, he put it on his defense to make a play.
And they did. Jalen Reeves-Maybin had a helluva strip on Alexander Mattison with 1:56 left that set up a D’Andre Swift touchdown. It didn’t stop there either. Campbell dialed up the aggression and chose to go for the two-point conversion for the win, which was successful.
In those final moments, they did everything right.
Unfortunately for the Lions, once again, a mistake cost them a whole game worth of effort, and that was on defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn choosing to rush three at Kirk Cousins. Cousins took advantage, going 3-for-3 on the final drive, which set up Greg Joseph for the game-winning field goal.
Imagine being a Lions player or coach at that moment. You fight through so much adversity to give your team a chance to win, and then you lose like that.
That’s why Dan Campbell cried.
Some may say it’s not that big of a deal now, but you better believe that other players around the league are watching that. You better believe Detroiters are watching it too. Because while there is no such thing as a moral victory, Campbell at least won over the hearts of Lions fans by showcasing how much winning means to him. If anything, that’s a start. It’s something you can hang your hate on for now.
Regarding sports, Detroiters only want guys that want to be here. If you showcase any inkling of not being fully invested, they’ll drive you out of town. Dan Campbell bought him some equity with the Lions fanbase that wants to win. Because after Sunday’s loss, he showcased that he is more than just the Detroit Lions head coach.
He showed he was one of them.
Follow Kory Woods on Twitter at KoryEWoods.