“Do You Think the Lions Will Fire Campbell?”

I overheard someone ask this question about the Detroit Lions’ Head Coach the morning after the NFC Championship game. My first thought was, ” are you freaking crazy!?!?”

I am not a Lions fan, nor do I claim a specific NFL team but I felt the need to dig a little into why it evoked an emotional response from me as well as why I thought he was even asking the question in the first place.

Professional and elite level sports (major colleges) are more competitive than ever and can generate massive amounts of money for owners, schools, or investors.  Because of this, there is less of an appetite for exercising patience or playing the “long game” when it comes to winning.  I completely understand this as it relates to business and agree with the fact that you must do what is necessary to compete and end up on top.  If this means shaking things up, upsetting the status quo, or making unpopular decisions then so be it.

All that said, let’s get back to this guy’s comment. I am confident that the person who said it has no power or influence over the situation and is likely just making harmless conversation, but it still bothered me.

That 3-legged, one-eyed hamster powering my little brain started to get to work and find out why he said it in the first place and why it fired me up.

Do You Think the Lions Will Fire Campbell

Building a culture for a team or business is not something that happens overnight and takes consistency and dedication to a mission or purpose greater than just money and growth.

When a business owner or leader is great at communicating and conveying a clear vision of the future and how their team can get there, it’s an ideal situation.  Clear core values, operating frameworks, and exploiting unique strategic advantages establish the foundation for how the company will pursue their mission and come out on top over their competition.  I don’t claim to be an expert on the NFL nor the Detroit Lions, but questioning Campbell on his decisions is easy to do when they didn’t work out in the moment.  When you compare them to the decisions he made throughout a very successful season, however, they didn’t stray from the core strategy.  Had he made calls that were out of character or varied from what had propelled them to the NFC Championship game, I would feel differently about the comment I overheard today. You can replace the backstory with one of a basketball coach, soccer coach, or CEO of a startup and come to the same conclusion….following the playbook and strategy that the leader and their team has proven to work and has bought into is the right decision.

Here is a breakdown of my thoughts, issues, and insights that ran through my head after hearing this one person’s comment along with more details and personal anecdotes that could be relatable:

  • We were less than 24 hours following the result of the game. The body is still warm, and there are people creating expectations that “something has to be done!” There seems to be a growing desire for immediate action just to appease emotions and feelings rather than a call for critical thinking and data driven decisions. Emotions should be worked through and set aside to make room for effective and strategic decision making. Sometimes that requires taking time.
  • The Lions had not won a playoff game in 32 years and made it within 1 game (1/2 a game actually) from going to the Superbowl. The strategies, systems, and strengths that got the Lions to the NFC Championship did not get thrown out the window for one game.  They did exactly what they did in the regular season and stayed true to their strategy and culture.  Ultimately it came down to execution and they didn’t do it as well as they could in the final 30 minutes.  (dropping passes when you’re wide open doesn’t help) In business or sports, you can stick with a strategy that doesn’t produce results for too long, but consider the opposite to be true as well. That you can cut ties with a potential winner too early.  Consider the fact that they’ve had 30+ years of disappointment (Detroit!), but then makes it to the NFC championship with multiple positives going into next season. Don’t make a rash decision and abandon ship too early.
  • Prior to the game, Fox was sharing plenty of praise and testimonials for Coach Campbell from Lions players and others in the organization/NFL. To consider there is potential for a Coach to have such a successful season, achieve more than what was expected, and also be held in high esteem by many around him for the culture he’s developed only to be fired for one bad quarter of football would amaze me.  Yes, it was a pretty freaking critical quarter in a game that meant a trip to the Superbowl, but it shouldn’t warrant him losing his job and chance to get there next season.

  • Those who haven’t done it themselves seem to have strong opinions as to how it should be done.
    This may come across more of a generalization so take it for what it’s worth, but we’ve all encountered people who want to judge others for attempting to do something that they themselves have never done.  Not just the Monday morning Quarterback, but how about when your in-laws tell you how they would “do it” when comes to managing your child’s screen time or exposure to social media?  Newsflash… screens were a little different when I was a kid, and I definitely didn’t have to navigate social media when I was younger, so it’s not the same playing field.  (disclosure: My in-laws or parents have never shared their opinions on this….but I’ve heard others who have and it’s a fun analogy, so just go with it!) I struggle when I hear people weigh in on things they know nothing about with more confidence than I have on subjects within my expertise. This is probably more my issue than theirs, but it’s still frustrating!  Like the parents screaming for a foul at a middle school basketball game, yet they didn’t play basketball, nor do they have a clue about the rules.  Or the business coach to a startup founder who has only held positions within big corporations and have never run their own company recommending to invest $50k in additional consulting services rather than focusing on customer acquisition.  I am not saying that in order to coach football you must have played and been a successful football player.  There are many examples of great coaches, journalists, or industry leading voices that weren’t amazing players or performers.  They did, however, have a deep and thorough knowledge about a subject along with the respect of colleagues and others around them.  I was watching my son’s flag football game and asking other dads why we were not rushing the other team’s QB.  I didn’t just start yelling, “we gotta rush that QB….come on coach, get in the game!!”  There were others around me that have more knowledge about the game than me, so I chose to gather information that would either confirm or dispute my belief that we should be rushing.  (update…..Our 8 year olds definitely should have rushed that little dude!). My point is, take time to get informed by asking those who have experience and knowledge about a particular subject. Yes, there are situations where entrenched and legacy knowledge could be a hindrance to change and growth, but I prefer to lean on experience over emotions more often.

Building a winning team, whether it’s in football or in business, isn’t like flipping a switch. It takes time, patience, and sticking to your game plan, even when you encounter setbacks and challenges. I am likely making this into a bigger issue than it is and the person that asked the original question was simply filling space with words, but it sparked a conversation in my head nonetheless. Avoid rash or emotional decisions when possible and utilize available information, data, and experience. Good luck to the 49ers and Chiefs and maybe we’ll look up in 2025 to see the Lions going for it on 4th down to secure a win. I know that I wouldn’t be surprised to see that.