With Hard Knocks over and another offseason in the books, it was time for the Detroit Lions to finally play some football. A strong home opener against a tough Eagles team and an inspirational performance against Washington led Lions fans to believe that this season might be different. Now in week 7, the same team stands at 1-5 with the first overall pick in sight.
Who is to blame for this team’s shortcomings? Did fans jump the gun in the second year of a rebuild? And perhaps most importantly, where do the Lions go from here?
It is hard not to point fingers when a season takes a turn for the worse. Dan Campbell, now in his second season as head coach, is just 4-18-1. Brian Daboll has won more games in just 6 weeks as the head coach of the Giants. While Campbell can certainly inspire players to fight, he has been abysmal converting that passion into wins. The Lions remain without a win on the road under his tenure, and his questionable decision-making has not made it any easier.
Campbell has notorious been one of the most aggressive head coaches in the NFL. In his first year, he set the record for most 4th down attempts in a season. While many of those calls can be attributed to a team consistently fighting from behind, there are some that make you scratch your head. Down just 6-0 against third-string Bailey Zappe in Gillette, Campbell passed up a 50-yard field goal attempt and went for it on 4th and 9. His aggressiveness was rewarded with a Jared Goff fumble returned for a touchdown.
While Campbell has certainly not been perfect, he is coaching the second-youngest team in football over the past 5 years. The Lions’ defense is currently relying on four rookies to start every week. The Lions’ offense, once the highest scoring this season, has been without top playmakers Amon ra St. Brown and D’Andre swift for several weeks now. Campbell is working with a depleted roster, to say the least.
Though the roster has been composed of many otherwise practice squad players thus far, the Detroit Lions are not void of talent. The offensive line has looked dominant this season, paving the way for a top run attack while allowing just 9 sacks. The receiving corps, which has missed St. Brown, looks to add first-round pick Jameson Williams at some point this year. On the defensive side of the ball, Jeff Okudah, the former third-overall pick, is off to a fantastic start. Aiden Hutchinson, 2022’s second overall pick, has as many sacks as the rest of the team combined through 6 games. The Detroit Lions have a talented foundation with valuable draft capital in 2023. This was not the year fans had hoped for, but the team is not too far off from competency and even competition.
Dan Campbell should have more than enough talent and depth after another offseason to leave him with no excuses. Until then, he must demonstrate better game management and decision-making. Detroit Lions fans have put up with far too much to watch another wave of talented players ruined by coaching. For now, Lions fans will continue to root for next year, as has been the tradition since 1957.