If you’ve ever seen the Big Lebowski movie, you’ll be aware of The Dude. This long-haired waster wormed his way into the hearts of movie-buffs. He also struck an uncanny resemblance to a journeyman tight end called “The Dude” Dan Campbell. A year after The Dude hit the big screens in 1998, Campbell got drafted by the New York Giants. That started a decade-long career in the NFL as Campbell made stops in New York, Dallas and New Orleans. With his long hair and goatee, Campbell looked like Jeff Bridge’s character. That made his adaptation to the NFL seamless as everyone christened him, The Dude.

The moniker gave Campbell a cult-like reputation. Whenever the tight end entered the game, the whole world knew about it. Campbell played his game with insane physicality; he was a gritty, tough, blocking tight end. Teammates and fans loved him as he demonstrated how good of a team man he was. Between those stops in New York, Dallas and New Orleans, there is one that stands out. “The Dude” Dan Campbell played for the Detroit Lions between 2006 and 2008. While the Lions in that period were terrible, Campbell developed an affection for the fanbase and city. That affection got laid bare in a WWE-style promo in his debut press conference. Unlike the Big Lebowski movie, this time, The Dude means business.

Bravado, Violence and A Puffed Out Chest

Detroit Lion’s Dan Campbell (89) and quarterback Jon Kitna (8) celebrate after a first-quarter touchdown. Chicago Bears vs. Detroit Lions Ford Field (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

After impressing Shiela Ford, Chris Spielman and co. in the process, the franchise announced Campbell as the new head coach of the beleaguered Detroit Lions. Some fans were hesitant with the hire; Campbell’s lack of experience caused some concern. The Dude allayed those fears in a 90-minute, expletive dropping press conference. Detroit is a strange city; it isn’t like your big-time towns like Chicago or New York. Detroiters are insular; they’re proud of the blue-collar, never-say-die attitude that permeates through the city. They don’t care about other towns, only their town and their team.

Campbell understood that; he also understood that the Lions are the very antithesis of Detroit culture. For the last 20 years, the Lions would roll over and die in big games, they’d give fans nothing to stick their chests out, and they indeed weren’t blue-collar. Campbell came into his press conference to throw all that out of the window. He didn’t wish to provide coach speak; Lions fans hate coach speak. He spoke about being violently physical, biting kneecaps off and smiling at the opponent. Detroiters don’t like getting stepped on; for the last two decades, the NFL stepped on the Detroit Lions. Through all the head coaches that coached in Detroit, none of them got that. It took a dude to cut a Stone Cold Steve Austin promo to change that.

Connection to The Motor City

Downtown Detroit (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

All of a sudden, Lions fans looked at a guy who portrayed confidence, belief and pride. Suddenly, Detroit Lions fans stuck out their chest because they finally got a head coach who got it. The Lions don’t hope to become a pretty football team; no fan wants that either. Lions fans wish for road teams to come to Detroit so that they can take a physical beatdown. Detroit is America’s ultimate underdog city; it continually rises up to metaphorically punch the critics in the mouth. Dan Campbell wants his team to do that as well.

The Dude Can Hire Good Coaches

One of the critical tests that Campbell must pass is the people he appoints around him. The former player is an inexperienced head coach. He requires experience around him. In the introductory press conference, team president Rod Wood noted that Saints GM Mickey Loomis told him that coaches would run to Detroit to work for Campbell. Aaron Glenn turned down the Chicago Bears to follow Campbell to Detroit. Anthony Lynn got pushed out by the Chargers; most pundits expected him to take a year out. Instead, he arrives as offensive coordinator for Detroit. Then there is Duce Staley; the former running back comes from Philadelphia after the team rejected his head coach application. That trio own extensive playing history in the NFL, unlike other coaches. That is pivotal when attempting to connect with players. Campbell passed this test.

Hey Critics, Keep On Criticizing

In the aftermath of the press conference, the usual talking heads quickly condemned the Detroit Lions for hiring Campbell. Dan Patrick labelled the new head coach as goofy. Mike Freeman, Colin Cowherd and Stephen A Smith were others that placed a highly critical take on the hire. Some tried to race-bait the Lions as Eric Bienemy didn’t get the job. It was shoddy journalism as the ignorant attempted to kick the Lions. Dan Campbell played for the Lions; he’s head coached before and can clearly lead a locker room. Campbell doesn’t care if some call him a meathead. Why should he? Football is a physical game; players must tackle human freight-trains every Sunday. The takes from some of the NFL ‘experts’ embarrassed only themselves and nobody else.

Did those goons watch the Super Bowl? That game where the Bucs physically dominated the Chiefs. News flash, talking heads, playing in the NFL isn’t pattycake or cornhole. In a division where the Lions are the last at the table, they need to rip someone’s kneecap off. The fanbase endured enough beatdowns to last a lifetime. Detroit hit rock bottom in 2020, Matt Stafford is gone, and a rebuild is underway. It is a time when fans don’t want to get back up; Campbell inspired an entire city to get up. So, to the critics, keep doing what you’re doing; you’re only antagonizing a whole town. The 2021 Detroit Lions won’t win the Super Bowl, and however, instead of the road team playing against 53 men, they’re playing 3.5 million people.

Get Ready

Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions (Photo Credits: Detroit Lions)

In one short month, “The Dude” Dan Campbell got an entire city ready to suit up. Lions fans were prepared to quit, willing to give up. Yet all it took was one man to reconnect a town to its team. If Dan Campbell can do that in four weeks, what could he do in the long-term?

As Jalen Rose said, the Lions died a long time ago. Maybe Dan Campbell is the Lazarus Pit the team needed. One thing is for sure, the dead Lions awakened after that press conference. The slow march of the pride begins now, at the head of the pack is the brash, aggressive, passionate dude called Dan Campbell.

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About Author

Tayyib Abu

I am a massive fan of sports and all the entertainment they can bring. I enjoy writing and have been doing it for a year now; I bring opinion, passion and insight. I am also a fan of Newcastle United, Detroit Lions and the Detroit Tigers. Therefore I am an expert on heartbreak.

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