Restore the roar? Not quite yet, but we're getting there.
Fresh starts in the NFL are often ugly, but rarely are they as outward with their ugliness as the 2021 Detroit Lions. Franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford, after 12 years of service that was only ever rewarded with failure, was shipped off to the Los Angeles Rams in a player swap with Jared Goff, an event that shouted out Detroit’s intention to be bad to the entire world. Stafford was the best passer the team ever had, Goff was someone else’s leftovers, and the rest of the moves that followed the quarterback swap made it clear this was no soft reset. It was a complete and total concession to being bad and needing to be bad for the near future before things could turn around for the long run. The Lions were going to lose games and they knew that and it was fine.
Let’s rewind for a second. Even before the trade, the team made themselves a laughingstock in the media with their head-coaching hire. The Lions brought on Dan Campbell, formerly the Saints tight end coach who had briefly served as the interim head coach in Miami following Joe Philbin’s firing. Campbell was a fun, energetic meathead of an interim at the time, but it hadn’t really occurred to anyone that he would be someone’s choice for a head-coaching job.
Campbell confirmed everyone’s meathead assumptions with his first few press conferences as he waxed poetic about toughness, never giving up, and, of course, chompin’ on kneecaps over and over, all while seeming a wee bit overcaffeinated. He sounded more like the tough but caring coach of a small high school, not the buttoned-up CEO type or scheme wizard that populates the rest of the league’s head coaching positions. Campbell appeared to be someone just a little out of his depth, and the team he was being asked to commandeer was not going to do him any favors.
None of the Lions’ offseason moves were to set up Campbell for success in 2021 either. Almost the entire receiver room was allowed to walk, including the effective duo of Marvin Jones...