It’s been said that the greatest trick that’s ever been pulled off is when the devil convinced people he didn’t exist. That honor should belong to the editors at HBO, because Hard Knocks had y’all fooled.
Before the season began, HBO’s all-access docuseries featured arguably the worst franchise in the history of the league: The Detroit Lions. And due to its lighthearted moments, smooth editing, and a “likable” and energetic musclebound head coach, people fell for it. They believed that a team that’s never been to the Super Bowl and that was coming off a 3-13-1 season was going to be a legit threat. At one point, the Kansas City Chiefs were the only team receiving more bets to reach the Super Bowl than the Lions.
People are stupid. But the Ford family could make a smart decision, for once, if they fired Dan Campbell.
“It was the worst of the season overall as a team. That falls on me,” said Campbell on Sunday. Detroit (1-4) fell 29-0 to the Patriots (2-3) and third-string rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe in the first start of his career.
“I believe we’ve hit rock bottom, now it’s time to get back up,” he added.
Coming into Sunday, the Lions had already proven just how bad things had gotten in Detroit. “We’re going to look at everything. We’re going to look at it all, top to bottom,” Campbell said about his defense after losing 48-45 to the Seahawks at home. However, that three-point loss, and the other games that they had “been in” didn’t tell the full story of just how mind-boggling of a season the Lions were having before Sunday. Check this out from The Athletic:
“The Lions have (had) scored 140 points through four games — the most in the NFL. Opponents have scored 141 against Detroit — also the most in the NFL. Those 281 points are the most combined by any team through the first four weeks of a season. The Lions became just the 30th team in the Super Bowl era to score 140-plus points in its first four games. They’re the first of that bunch to post a losing record.”
After Campbell lost to the guy who used to have his job — Matt Patricia went back to being an assistant with the Patriots after going 13-29-1 during his tenure as head coach of the Lions — things somehow got worse. Detroit somehow managed to go 0-6 on fourth down, which is the worst single-game fourth-down performance in league history. They also set a franchise record by allowing 170 points in their first five games of the season, which is worse than the 169 points that the 3-13 2002 team allowed.
Campbell had it all wrong. This isn’t rock bottom for the Lions. Rock bottom occurred when the team fired Jim Caldwell and hired Patricia, and then him.
“At the end of the day, it’s wanting to take this team to the next level,” said former Lions GM Bob Quinn on why he fired Caldwell. “To me, that’s winning championships, that’s winning playoff games and that’s winning the Super Bowl.”
Caldwell was coming off his second consecutive 9-7 season at the time he was let go, but to the brass in Detroit that wasn’t good enough. Caldwell had a .563 percent winning percentage in his four-year tenure, which was better than any Lions coach in the last 60-plus years. He also took Detroit to the playoffs twice and won 11 games in his first season.
Since then, under Patricia and Campbell, the Lions have gone 6-10, 3-12-1, 5-11, 3-13-1, and are now 1-4. That’s 18-50-2.
When Janet Jackson used a Joni Mitchell sample in 1997 to sing about not knowing what you’ve got ’til it’s gone, she was foreshadowing the horrendous coaching decisions the Ford family would make in the future.
However, Campbell’s incompetence isn’t the only reason why he should be fired. Timing plays a big part in this, given what’s going on in the NFL, as Brian Flores’ class-action lawsuit against the league for its racist hiring practices hovers over the NFL. But, before you go thinking that I’m bringing race into the equation, I’m not. The Lions did when they moved the goalpost for Caldwell and lowered the bar for Patricia and Campbell.
A recent report from the Washington Post examined three decades of data that showed that since 1990 only 11 percent of full-time head coaches have been Black, as there have been 154 White coaches during that time frame compared to just 20 Black. It also revealed that Black coaches who win at least nine games are fired just as often as White coaches who only win at least six. Sadly, Caldwell — and numerous other competent Black coaches — makeup that stat.
Jim Caldwell — a man that’s won two Super Bowls as an assistant, and appeared in one as a head coach — is currently without a job on the sidelines in the NFL. And if the Detroit Lions truly want to stop being a joke, it means that they should start by swallowing their pride. Firing Dan Campbell and apologizing to Caldwell would be a start. Besides, asking Caldwell if he would be interested in coming back couldn’t hurt.
But if that were to happen, I hope Caldwell would ignore their call. Karma is a motherf*cker.