Dan Campbell enjoying smooth sailing through first offseason as Lions coach
In the NFL, first-year head coaches are often caught off guard by the surprising number of things they didn't have to deal with as assistants. On top of the additional coaching duties, keeping track of the full roster, there are also increased media and marketing responsibilities that come with going from a background figure to the face of the franchise.
As former Lions coach Matt Patricia put it, it can be like drinking from a firehose.
And while Patricia's replacement had the benefit of an interim run as the coach of the Dolphins in 2015, no one would be surprised if he too was feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of the job. But that's not the case, according to Campbell.
In an interview with KTCK-AM in Dallas, Campbell credited the smoothness of his transition to Saints coach Sean Payton, who hired Campbell as an assistant head coach in 2016 with the promise of preparing him for his next opportunity, as well as the staff around him in Detroit.
"I don't feel like there's anything we've hit to this point that's been over my head, or too much," Campbell said. "I don't feel like I'm swimming. I also have a great group around me. Brad Holmes, our GM, has been outstanding. Sheila Ford is kick-ass. I'm telling you, she's top-notch. We got lucky, now. We're fortunate because she's on top of it. She just wants to know what we need help with, what resources.
"She doesn't dictate. She doesn't tell us (to do) anything. She just wants to be here to help, she wants to be involved and listen. She's been great. The president, Rod Wood, has been great. Chris Spielman is like my long, lost brother. He's a great resource. It's been great, it really has."
Campbell and Holmes, the team's joint decision-makers, are in the early stages of shaping the roster in their shared vision. That's included a massive trade that shipped Matthew Stafford to Los Angeles and brought back Jared Goff, a second trade for defensive tackle Michael Brockers, the release of several veteran contributors and a first wave of free-agent signings.
Prior to free agency, Campbell acknowledged familiarity would play a role. That's come to fruition with multiple additions, from Holmes' experience with Goff and Brockers in L.A., to Campbell's overlap with tight end Josh Hill and linebacker Alex Anzalone in New Orleans, to assistants Anthony Lynn and Antwaan Randle El previously working with receivers Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman.
"One of the things that I told our staff, man, let's find these guys that, A, we know they can play, but B, we have had relationships with, that we know," Campbell said. "Because it's not so much about what we think they can do, or what they can do — because you can turn on a tape and find out what somebody can do — it's the fact when you know the player's warts. I feel like that's more important than the other part of it. When you know somebody's, maybe, potential weaknesses, that actually helps you more than anything else."
And more than anything, Campbell said the Lions are looking for consistent, hard-working players.
"We're no different than anybody else," he said. "Even if you're a great player, we don't want turds here, man. We don't want lazy guys. We don't want guys that are up and down. And we don't want flash players. If you're a flash guy and you're like, 'My God, did you see that play?' then the next play he's in the tank and we don't know where he's at, we don't know what he's going to do, I've got nothing for those guys. It's the ones that are consistent and you see it all the time."
As for the draft process, this is the first full offseason where face-to-face interaction between teams and prospects has been eliminated. Given these players are expected to be the foundation of your franchise, not having the ability to sit in the same room and interview them would seem like an added stress, but again, Campbell shrugged off the inconvenience.
In fact, he sees it as as a positive, based on how both he and Holmes view the scouting process.
"If you look at what the Rams have done throughout the last, shoot man, call it almost 8-10 years, they've really drafted well," Campbell said. "They've got the same guys intact. Now, they haven't had a first-round pick (recently), but they believe in a certain way to scout, no different than what we did in New Orleans. I mean, we arguably had some of the best drafts over a five-year period of anybody in this league. That's what turned us around more than anything, man. We hit on our draft picks.
"One of the ways that we did that is we graded these players on them as football players before we ever looked at the numbers," Campbell said, referring to combine measurements such as the 40-yard dash and vertical jump. "The numbers were the last thing we ever hit, damn near right before the draft. So we're grading the football players and that's what you're doing now. That's what you have to do. So I'm actually comfortable with it, I know Brad is comfortable with it, and it's pretty fun, man. Just grade the football player, then the numbers, how much to do the numbers skew you? They shouldn't really.