Anthony Lynn’s departure from the Detroit Lions at the end of the season was a foregone conclusion. The Lions’ offensive coordinator had lost play-calling duties halfway through the season, and that was the sticking point for him in having the job in the first place. Now, with hires being made left and right heading into this offseason, the Lions still have a vacancy at offensive coordinator. Is Dan Campbell holding up the process by not making one critical decision?
At the end of the regular season, Campbell was mum on whether or not he would keep calling plays in 2022. That was understandable immediately after the 2021 season. He needed time to evaluate everything. Now the clock is really ticking. If trying to read the tea leaves is our only possible recourse, Campbell has talked about how comfortable he was with the role.
“I know that I’m getting a lot more comfortable and I feel like this is something that I do believe I can do and be good at,” Campbell said. “But I’m not ready to commit to what I’m doing next year yet. I got to sit down and process this at the right time.”
“It’s been a process, but I can tell you this, I’m miles ahead of where I was three or four weeks ago. I feel that way. I’m so much more comfortable now. I do, I’m starting to figure it out. It doesn’t mean I’m perfect by any means, but I do feel a lot more comfortable.”
That was an appropriate answer at the time, but now Detroit needs answers. Campbell is down in Mobile, Ala., for the Senior Bowl. When he talked to a group of reporters, he mentioned that the search for a new offensive coordinator is underway.
“I’ve started the process this week,” Campbell said. “So I’ll have interviewed — I’m not going to give you names — but at least a couple by the time we leave Mobile.”
There are in-house candidates like Ben Johnson, who seems like a perfect fit if they go that route. He’s getting a trial run at the Senior Bowl serving in that role. Campbell is getting a chance to evaluate how he fits in the spot during this trial run of sorts with the Lions’ coaching staff running the show at the event. Still, there’s the one big, lingering question that all the candidates will want to know.
Who’s calling the plays in 2022?
In the NFC North alone, one instance just played out that had serious implications on play-calling duties.
After Nathaniel Hackett left for the Denver Broncos, Luke Getsy was a top candidate to take over as the Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator. Getsy had been with the Packers since Matt LaFleur took over in 2019. He served in various roles on the team’s offense from 2014 to 2017. The caveat was that even if he were promoted to the offensive coordinator in Green Bay, LaFleur would still be calling the plays. It was no different when Hackett was the offensive coordinator. So Getsy got offered the offensive coordinator gig with the Chicago Bears on Matt Eberflus’ staff and took it for one big reason: He will be the play-caller. The candidates for the Detroit job deserve to know that answer, and it could certainly influence their decision.
It’s hard to imagine that some of the candidates will remain interested if Campbell decides to retain the play-calling duties himself. It’s the nature of the beast. Some, like Lynn, don’t just want the title. They want all the responsibilities that come with the job. Others could see this similar to the Hackett route, who still ended up with a head coaching job in Denver despite never calling plays in Green Bay. Either way, it’s the first logical decision that Campbell needs to make before deciding who will get offered the spot.
Detroit’s offense had a little more edge when Campbell took over calling plays for Lynn. The aggressiveness was there from the get-go. But after a couple of weeks of extreme conservativeness right after Campbell took over, he dialed up a more modern scheme. A few wins followed, including victories over playoff teams in the Packers and Arizona Cardinals.
By not deciding whether he’ll call plays in 2022, Campbell is holding up the process of getting a new offensive coordinator. If he continues to waffle on the decision, it could have Detroit leaning towards hiring an in-house candidate, so there isn’t a huge adjustment period. Still, even those guys deserve to know what exactly the role will entail.
It’s great that Campbell is starting the interviewing process, but he needs to make up his mind about who will call plays next year first.