Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell: Full text of opening statement heard 'round the world

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Kirkland Crawford, Detroit Free Press
·19 min read
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Here is the opening statement from new Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell during his introductory news conference on Thursday in Allen Park (provided by the team):

“Hello, everybody. I’m excited to be here, beyond belief. What I’m going to have to do is make sure that I contain myself, so you may get a couple things where I’m completely out of the screen because I’m moving. I’ll do my best. But I’ll say this first, just in regards to the head coach search, how I ended up here, one of the things would be that I told my agent, Rick Smith, ‘Make sure that they think I’m Matt Campbell.’ So, I think that’s how this has really worked great for me. So now that I’m in the seat, I am Dan Campbell. But I do know this, you can’t go wrong with a Campbell.

[ Campbell had the most epic introductory news conference ever ]

“Listen, I need to thank a lot of people here first. I’m excited to be here beyond belief. I’m excited. This is one of those jobs that I identified. I told my agent, ‘Whatever you have to do to get me in front of Sheila (Ford Hamp, Principal Owner and Chairman) and Rod (Wood, President & CEO), please do.’ When this became available — because I played here, I know the city. I know what it’s about. I know the people. It’s a special community, it’s a special place. I’m going to get into that more here in a minute. I have to thank a lot of people, OK? First and foremost, my wife, Holly. We’ve been married for over 20 years. She’s been my rock, man. She’s moved with me, she tells me exactly how it is — in a good way — well not always in a good way, but my point is, she’s going to let me know exactly what she thinks, and that’s a good thing. My kids, my son, Cody, my daughter, Piper — they’ve moved and acclimated and they’ve been my biggest supporters. I have to thank them first.

“I’ve been influenced by a number of people. R.C. Slocum was my college coach. He was phenomenal. I learned so many tools of the game, learned how to respect the game, situations of the game. Bill Parcells, certainly, was a huge influence on me. The way that he teaches you to dive into the game, but more importantly, what makes a player tick, how do you get the most out of a player, and I’m forever indebted to him. I had a tight end coach at the New York Giants named Mike Pope, who honestly probably taught me more about the game than anybody did at any given time. He taught me offensive football from the quarterback standpoint, all the way to the run game. (The) late, great Tony Sparano, he was my tight end coach at Dallas, and then took me under his wing in Miami as a coach. I’m forever grateful for him. Look, there’s a number of people that I’m going to miss, but I want to make sure I highlight some of these. But last but certainly not least — when you start talking about the New Orleans family that I just came from — listen, all those guys that I was on this offensive staff, man, I owe them everything because we all put in the work and we all worked together. I was the man who — I drew the lucky straw. Dan Roushar, our O-line coach, Joel Thomas, running backs coach, Pete Carmichael, the OC (offensive coordinator), Joe Lombardi, quarterback coach, ‘RC’ (Ronald Curry), my receivers coach, D.J. (Williams, offensive assistant), he’s working with quarterbacks, Declan (Doyle, offensive assistant), he was kind of under me — so all these guys, man — Brendan Nugent, O-line — we put in the work. You talk about a compatible unit, not just talking about us offensively, not to mention the defensive staff, you talk about a working environment, it was phenomenal. That’s what I want to create here. It’s just a bunch of guys, they want to better themselves, they want to learn from the game, they want to learn about the game, but they want to grow together, and one man’s strength is another man’s weakness and vice versa. We know how to cover for each other.

[ News conference has everyone ready to run through a wall ]

“Sean (Payton) is a big believer in compatibility is more important than coachability. I get it, you get it — the point is compatibility is important. It’s highly important. It doesn’t matter — you can put the best coaches in the room, and if they’re all a bunch of alphas, and they’re trying to eat each other alive, you’re never going to get anything done. I’m very conscious of those things. (Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager) Mickey Loomis was phenomenal to me. He was always a sounding board for me. He was excellent. He was a man that — he knew how to play off of Sean Payton. He did. Those two working together — that’s the model for how Brad (Holmes, Executive Vice President and General Manager) and I are going to work together, in my opinion. It’s a collaborative effort; it’s give-and-take. But listen, it’s been proven to work.

“Last but not least, Sean Payton. I owe Sean probably more than anybody in this profession. He gave me an opportunity as a player and as a coach, and nobody’s believed in me more than Sean Payton, who knew exactly what I was and what I could do. Sean was always about, give me a player that I know exactly who he is, and what he is going to be every day, and I can do something with that guy. It’s the guys who are up and down, and the ones that spike here and all of a sudden, they’re down — I don’t know what to do with those guys. I got nothing for them. But if you give me a guy that I know who he’s going to be every day and what he can do, and we can work with that guy. So I’ll never be able to thank him enough. I’ve learned more football under him as my time as a player, but now as a coach, being under him five years, about how you see the game, how you use your staff, how you hire your staff, situational football, when to go for it, when to not, when’s it time to be aggressive, when’s the time to back off. But a majority of the lessons that I have are from him, so I’ll forever be grateful for that.

“I know I’m going to miss a ton of people, and so, to all of you, all the ex-players — all those guys in that locker room, they were unbelievable. Those are the guys — there’s another reason why I’m sitting where I’m at right now, and I’m actually not sitting, I’m standing. They are the reason why. I’m talking about a great group of guys, good character, but man, you’re talking about some ballers, and guys that were willing to lay it on the line for each other, and that’s how you win games.

“So let me go back, let me start here again. I wanted this job — bad — because I felt like I knew this community. I played here. Here’s what I know, just as an overall philosophy — you’re going to say, ‘Well what’s the team going to be, what’s it not going to be?’ Here’s what I know, all right? I know that Detroit is made up of great people, some really good people. This community is strong. This place has been kicked, it’s been battered, it’s been bruised, and I can sit up here and give you coach-speak all day long. I can give you, ‘Hey, we’re going to win this many games.’ None of that matters, and you guys don’t want to hear it anyway. You’ve had enough of that shit. Excuse my language. All right, here’s what I do know, is that this team is going to take on the identity of this city. This city has been down, and it found a way to get up. It’s found a way to overcome adversity. So this team is going to be built on — we’re going to kick you in the teeth, 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. On the way up, we’re going to bite a knee cap off, all right, and we’re going to stand up, and then it’s going to take two more shots to knock us down. And on the way up, we’re going to take your other knee cap, and we’re going to get up and it’s going to take three shots to take us down. 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, darn it. We’re going to learn that any loss that we take, we’re going to make sure that we feel the full pain of it and not grow numb to it and learn from it and not to want to taste it again. We’re going to be competitive in every game. I can’t sit up here and guarantee wins and losses. I just can’t do it.

[ Lions, Campbell have one big hire left to make: Offensive coordinator ]

“I’ll guarantee you this: These guys are going to fight, and they’re going to scratch and claw, and they’re going to be something this city’s proud of because they’re going to take on the identity of this city. The ones that have to learn — it’s not always going to be roses up here. It’s not always going to be the way we wall want it to be and look perfect. But I know this, we’re going to fight. We’re going to scratch and we’re going to claw. I know that good teams find a way to get it done, and if somebody goes down, the next one steps up, and he’s expected to produce enough to help those guys next to him win. These guys are going to learn to play together, play for one another. I’m not going to ask these guys to do anything that I never had to do or never asked somebody else to do or for that matter as coaches. I’m going to find the right staff. I’m going to find a staff that’s not loaded with just a bunch of people that look good on paper. I am scouring — I was going to say the country, but even beyond the country, if you will. I’m looking for the best coaches I can find for the best spot. There’s great coaches out there, you just have to find them. But I want exactly what I said earlier about — Sean’s (Payton) comment was about, you’re looking for compatibility. Here’s the other thing that Sean always used to say when it came to the roster, but it comes with the people around you as well, and that is, it’s not about the best 53, it’s about the right 53. I think that way as a staff.

“This opportunity was given to me from Rod (Wood) and Sheila (Ford Hamp) and then the Ford family — Mrs. (Martha Firestone) Ford, Martha (Ford Morse), Bill (Clay Ford Jr.), Elizabeth (Ford Kontulis) — I got to meet them yesterday, and they all want the same thing. They just want a winner, like you guys do, and our players do. I want to help give that to them just like we all do. Listen, I didn’t know Brad (Holmes) before I got here. I did my homework, no different than he did. We had a lot of mutual contacts, and I didn’t hear one bad word about Brad. I’ve been in contact with him for a while. We left here almost midnight last night. We’ve been going through everything. I told him this, I said, ‘Listen, I’m not going to make a hire without you approving it.’ And I don’t have to do that, and he’s basically said the same thing to me. I could find the best coach in the world and feel great about it, and if I go to Brad, and Brad’s like, ‘There’s just something about this guy, I don’t know.’ He’s going to make me think twice about doing it because that’s how I want it to be. He and I are tied to the hip. This guy — he’s unbelievable. You want to talk about vision? We see the game very much the same way. We see players very much the same way. Last night we were talking — I don’t know. We finished each other’s sentences twice, one of them was about vision. More importantly, we’re not in the business of just stacking players. Let’s find a vision for this guy because when you find a vision for a guy, now you know how to play him and how to put him in your system. It could be the most athletic guy in the world, but if you don’t have a vision for him, what are you going to do with him? So, I think that’s important. Our relationship, man, up to this point, has been outstanding.

MITCH ALBOM: Lions fans need more than empty words from owner on coach, GM hires

“(Special assistant to president/CEO and chairperson) Chris Spielman — I know there’s been a lot of — what is Chris, what’s Chris doing. Chris has been an outstanding resource for me and for Brad and for everybody. He’s been — even yesterday he came in, he (said), ‘Dan, listen. This is your show. What can I do? Can I help you? Is there somebody I could run down for you? Is there a coach you want me to call just to vet?’ It’s been nothing but a working relationship. He’s been a resource. He’s played in this league. He was an excellent player, and he has excellent instincts, as well. He’s a resource, that’s what he is. You want to talk about a team guy? He’s in the same mold as we are. You want to change the culture of the team that gets thrown around? It starts at the top. Sheila (Ford) Hamp — that’s where it starts. I was sold within 10 minutes of my interview with her. She is a genuine soul. She wants to win. She is heartfelt, she is humble, and all I want to do is give her success. That’s what I want to do, I want her to succeed. I don’t want to let her down, no different than anyone here.

“(Vice president of football administration) Mike Disner has been excellent. He’s been working (salary) cap and doing these things and helping us with, you know, working through coaches and talking to coaches. So the support staff here is unbelievable. Just to go back, I know I’m a little scattered here, but it starts at the top. Rod has been unbelievable. Rod has already said, ‘Listen here’s the information, Dan. Take with it what you want. It’s your decision. It’s your decision. What do you want to do with it? Nobody is dictating anything here.’ But we’re getting the best information that we can get. Here’s what I know about winning teams: When it starts at the top, and it works its way down, and it goes right into the locker room. When it’s functional up top, and it’s flowing, man, and we’re efficient and we’re moving and everybody knows there’s one voice, those guys feel it and that’s how they play. They have pride in what they’re a part of, no different than anybody in this organization. That’s why I’m here; that’s why I’m with these people — that and the fact that I put ‘Matt’ down as my name instead of Dan.

“There’s no secret, you have to get good people around you, who are all pulling in the same direction. It’s team. It’s all about team. There’s no ego. Brad and I are going to have — we both have say on the 53-man roster. We have to agree. So, we’re going to go in a room, and we’re just going to fight until one of us comes up. We’ll see what happens — no. We are going to collaborate. We are going to come up with the best answer, the best solution. What can we do with this guy — is it for the future, is it for now? That’s not even a problem — I want it that way. I want people to challenge me on an idea. I don’t want to have a bunch of people that agree with everything that I say — that’s a recipe for disaster. I don’t want a bunch of people who drink a gallon of coffee like I do in a day. You find the right mix and the right balance of people. I know this, when it starts at the top and it’s right, then it’ll go down, it’ll trickle down to where it’s supposed to. Those guys are going to have pride in where there are, who they play for, how they’re going to play. You’d say more times than not, that leads to success, and there’s only one way to do it, and it’s to do it the right way. That’s the other thing that intrigued me about Sheila, she wants to win bad, but she’s not going to sell her soul to the devil to do it, neither am I.

“I learned a lot in my time at Miami. I know these questions are going to come up, but listen, I got through the lumps of a season as a head coach. I was able to go through 12 games. You go through the game management, you have disruption on the sidelines, to when to use timeouts, what players are going in, who are the 46 that are going to be up on gameday, this coach isn’t playing this player enough, he only played 10 plays or five plays. So, you’re going through all these things I wasn’t ready for. I wasn’t because I have never been in that situation, in that role, and I’ve been through those lumps. So, I have some experience. Is it a ton? No, but I do. So at least I’m past that point and now, we can build this the way that we want it. I can start from scratch with Brad (Holmes). Last night, we looked at each other like you know what, we can do this the way that we want to do this. The right way. He came from a winning program, no different than I did. We’ve seen success, we know what it looks like. We have the right people in place here to get it done. Our facilities are outstanding. These are outstanding! Maybe I’m recruiting free agents right now, who knows, right? You never know. But I’m serious. We have top-notch facilities. They spared no expense to make sure that the players had everything that they need to have success and to recover and use anything as a resource to become better players. As a coach, that’s all you can ask for.

“My job is to make this team better, make it competitive, make it a winner. Look, I can’t guarantee wins, but I know this, man, my job is also to get this city back on its feet. I can say all I want to do — everything about — man, this is what — I get it. I don’t blame you, fans, one bit, I get it. You’ve seen — there’s no telling how many of these press conferences you’ve seen. I’m not going to stand up here and give you coach-speak. But I’m going to tell you this, this team is going to freakin’ take on your identity. There’s been enough hard times here, and you’ve always found a way back up. This team is freaking going to do the same thing. Every time we get hit; we’re going to get back up stronger — that’s what I do know. I’m going to put the right coordinators in place. I’m going to put the right staff together with those coordinators. They are going to be the right mix, the right balance, that complement who I am and know how to deliver the message. Brad and I are going to be tight at the hip. We are going to make sure that we see everything, with our coordinators, as to how we see this team looking. What is the shape of this roster? How do we see these (players)? What is the length of our outside linebackers? Where do we see our tackles, our guards, the girth? What about our speed on the outside? What about our backups? Everything is going to be in-line. We’re not going to agree on everything, but I can tell you this, just knowing this man for the time I’ve known him, and vetting him myself, he’s exactly like I am. He wants the same things I do. He’s no different than me. When things go hard, you’re going to see me stand up, when they go good, I want to just fall to the wayside. He’s no different than that.

“I wanted to be here. I think this is a special place. I think this is special because I know when we bring a winner to this city, it’s going to be something we can all be proud of. Any questions?”

Contact Kirkland Crawford: kcrawford@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @HiKirkHere.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell's news conference: Opening statement