The Detroit Lions had strong interest in hiring Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell as the new head coach in Detroit this offseason. That’s not fresh news, but just how close they came and how much the Lions pursued Campbell is coming to light. A report this week from SI’s Albert Breer sheds more light on how heavily the Lions pursued Campbell and how close he came to biting on the interest.
Here’s what Breer wrote in this week’s MMQB at Sports Illustrated,
But in January, he did at least give the Detroit job some thought. He and Lions special assistant to the owner Chris Spielman have a strong relationship—the two are both from the football-mad city of Massillon, Ohio—and, as such, Campbell spoke with the Lions brass a couple times about the job opening as the NFL hiring cycle got revved up. And Detroit was preparing to fly out to visit with Campbell just before Campbell pulled his name out of the running
The connection with Spielman is important here. It’s something I’ve discussed repeatedly on the Detroit Lions Podcast as a driving force behind the entire Matt Campbell dalliance in Detroit. It’s a big factor in why Matt Campbell had such strong odds to succeed Matt Patricia early in the process, too.
Breer also reinforces the notion that the Lions were not the only team coveting Campbell this offseason. He notes,
But as we’ve been saying in this space for some time, power brokers in the league are well aware of how good he is. And it’s fair to assume that will manifest in more opportunities down the line. As for right now? I don’t know if the Lions’ getting on that plane and visiting Campbell would have led, eventually, to an offer being made. What I do know is that one wasn’t made. And, again, that Detroit’s not alone in its interest in the Cyclones coach.
One key piece of information there is that the Lions did not make a formal offer to Campbell. That verifies a report from Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press from last week, too. A wild report from CBS Sports listed actual figures in the discussion, but it’s now clear the talks never progressed to that stage. Campbell didn’t allow it to get that far.
The Lions quickly hired Dan Campbell, a much different style and path despite a similar surname.