Dan Campbell was not dealt an easy hand for his first NFL coaching gig. The Detroit Lions are the most talent-deficient roster in the NFL. Then the season started and the injury bug hit the team hard. Even halfway through the year the Lions were limping through games hoping to keep it close but failing more often than not.
We can acknowledge all that and hammer Campbell for being a bad coach. Because he is. It's his first gig and there's always room to grow. He has a six-year deal. But Campbell is not good in any way right now, and that was never more clear than during the Lions' marquee Thanksgiving matchup with the Chicago Bears.
Campbell took over some of the offensive play-calling duties and completely blew it on numerous occasions on Thursday. The most heinous decision was when the Lions had a third-and-32 in the second quarter from the 50-yard line. Detroit was up 7-3. Given they are winless, one would think aggressive play-calling would come naturally. You'd think wrong!
Campbell ran a draw on third-and-32. It gained almost no yards. The Lions punted.
It's egregious. You just have to throw the ball there. The worst thing that can realistically happen is they gain no yards on an incompletion, which is effectively what happened with the draw, or the Bears pick it off and their field position is changed by like 20 yards. Running the ball eliminates the possibility entirely that Jared Goff can complete a pass for 15 or so yards and get a field goal out of it. Or maybe even the Lions make someone miss and take it to the house on a busted coverage. You never know! Campbell decided he didn't want to know. So he ran it.
But Campbell's ineptitude was declared to the nation as time was winding down in the game. The Lions, somehow, were winning by one. The Bears drove into field-goal range. They were facing a third-and-9 with just under two minutes to play. The Lions had called a timeout on second down to stop the clock, the only smart decision that occurred in the last five minutes of the game from Detroit.
Then the Lions' defense was scrambling to get set and Campbell called another timeout. But you cannot call two timeouts in a row. Your uncle you only see twice a year knows that sitting on his couch. Campbell, apparently, did not. So the Lions not only lost their timeout, they were penalized five yards for the infraction.
And then, the Lions call a freaking 0-blitz on third-and-four while giving the Chicago receivers enough room to get off the line unimpeded. The Bears gained enough for the first down but not enough to score a touchdown. They ran the clock down to one second and kicked a field goal as time expired to win.
I mean... what the hell, man? How can a professional football coach, around the game his entire life, being paid millions of dollars to know things about the game, do this? How can this happen? How?!
It sucks because Campbell is a fun character and it's hard to not root for him at least a little bit. But this was just gross negligence of the art of coaching. Bill Belichick probably threw up his turkey watching this. Hell, so did every other coach not playing today. One does not need to be Belichick to play out that situation correctly. Campbell not only screwed it up, he completely butchered it. It literally could not have gone worse.
There were many, many scenarios in which the Lions win their first game of the year here. Or at least get a chance to come back and win the game. Instead, Campbell's dumb decision-making led the Lions down the only path where they didn't have even a sliver of a chance.
The Lions are bad in every area. Today showed us that the worst part might be their coaching. It takes a village, but the blame falls on Campbell's shoulders.