Dan Campbell references kneecap biting, ‘The Big Lebowski’ in entertaining introduction as Detroit Lions coach
New Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell, in a passionate, emotional, intense and sometimes funny hourlong news conference, wove his way through talking about biting kneecaps to welcoming tourists to referencing “The Big Lebowski” as he introduced himself to his new city and team.
If there were any questions about the type of passion Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp and team president Rod Wood were looking for in their next head coach, it was evident from the moment Campbell stepped to the microphone to the moment he left it.
Campbell gave a 19-minute opening statement, provided direct answers on a multitude of topics and expressed exactly what type of team he wanted — one that mirrors the city he once played for.
“This place has been kicked. It’s been battered. It’s been bruised. And I could sit up here and give you coachspeak all day long,” Campbell said Thursday. “I can give you, ‘Hey, we’re going to win this weekend.’ None of that matters, and you guys don’t want to hear it anyway. You heard enough of that s—, excuse my language.
“Here’s what I do know. This team is going to take on the identity of this city and this city has been down and it found a way to get up. It’s found a way to overcome adversity, right? So this team is going to be built on, we’re going to kick you in the teeth, right? And when you punch us back, we’re going to smile at you. And when you knock us down, we’re going to get up and on the way up, we’re going to bite a kneecap off. All right? And we’re going to stand up and it’s going to take two more shots to knock us down. And on the way up, we’re going to take your other kneecap and we’re going to get up and it’s going to take three shots to get us down. And when we do, we’re going to take another hunk out of you.
“Before long, we’re going to be the last one standing. That’s going to be the mentality.”
Campbell’s message for the passion he wants his team to play with and for him to coach with was clear. He admitted part of what he was selling Thursday were pitches for potential free agents to come to Detroit.
It also was the first time any of Campbell’s new players had heard him speak, so he wanted the message to come through to them.
Campbell also showed his humor, starting his introduction by joking he ended up in Detroit by telling his agent, Rick Smith, to make sure the Lions believed they were meeting with Iowa State coach and hot NFL coaching prospect Matt Campbell.
And Campbell recognized his resemblance to the character The Dude, played by Jeff Bridges in the “The Big Lebowski,” saying he has heard the comparison before but “the hair is not like it used to be.”
The Lions evidently embraced the reference to “The Big Lebowski,” identifying Campbell as “Head Coach / The Dude” on the nameplate hanging outside his office.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 21, 2021
Campbell said after the news conference he would change from his suit to team-issued gear and get to work, which he did shortly afterward. A source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Campbell and the Lions have hired New Orleans Saints assistant Aaron Glenn as Detroit’s new defensive coordinator.
Campbell had mentioned Glenn during the presser as a candidate he hoped would join him in Detroit.
“It’s no secret I talked to Aaron Glenn about defensive coordinator,” Campbell said. “I was with him [in New Orleans]. He is somebody certainly I am interested in. But I’m working through that.”
It’s this combination of things that sold Ford Hamp and Wood. In the search, Wood said the Lions were looking for four main criteria: “A leader of men, someone who could command the room and the attention of the entire team; the temperament to handle the grind of an NFL season, dealing with losses, injuries and outside distractions; a positive voice for the entire organization with the media, the league, colleges, staff and our fans and the ability to assemble an excellent staff.”
“We’re going to kick you in the teeth, right? And when you punch us back, we’re going to smile at you. And when you knock us down, we’re going to get up and on the way up, we’re going to bite a kneecap off. And we’re going to stand up and it’s going to take two more shots to knock us down. And on the way up, we’re going to take your other kneecap and we’re going to get up and it’s going to take three shots to get us down. And when we do, we’re going to take another hunk out of you. Before long, we’re going to be the last one standing.”
Lions coach Dan Campbell
Ford Hamp said Campbell sent a book of his coaching philosophy before their first interview and “literally I read his statement on culture and leadership and it was like he read our minds.”
“We need to bring some hope back into this city, man,” Campbell said. “I’m willing to do whatever. Look, I think, I’m a big mind-over-matter person and a lot of you are going to think I’m a kook a little bit here, but I do believe you can will things to happen in some regard.
“If you’re a really positive thinker, I think positive things can happen to you and those around you being to grow from that and they feel your energy.”
The former NFL tight end understands what he’s getting into with the Lions. He played three seasons in Detroit, including part of the 2008 team that went 0-16 — although he admitted Thursday he was injured most of that year and spent time rehabilitating in Texas, so he wasn’t around the day-to-day.
But Campbell, 44, has been a player, he’s been an assistant, and he’s been a head coach in an interim capacity with the Miami Dolphins in 2015.
Campbell also has spent the past half-decade learning under Sean Payton with the Saints, a man and an organization he continually credited during his introduction and got emotional talking about. So he has a handle on what he believes and how he believes it.
“I think the football team can spark something great here. But, listen, that’s in my core what I believe, man,” Campbell said. “Look, I don’t want to sell you guys something that you’ve been sold so many times over — believe me I get it. And I wouldn’t want any of you guys to just jump on board right now and be like, ‘I’m sold, I got it 100 percent.’
“I wouldn’t expect you to. But I’m going to do everything in my power to win you guys over and get our team to win you guys over. At the end of the day, I know wins and losses are the only thing that matters. But when I say I want our team to take on the identity of this city, I mean it.”