Campbell replaces Matt Patricia, who was fired two days after a Thanksgiving loss to the Houston Texans. Darrell Bevell was named interim head coach and finished a 5-11 season. Campbell is the former interim head coach of the Miami Dolphins, having gone 5-7 in a 12-game stint in 2015.
The Lions also interviewed Bevell, former Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and offensive coordinators Eric Bieniemy of the Kansas City Chiefs and Arthur Smith of the Tennessee Titans.
Saleh was hired as head coach of the New York Jets. Smith had a second interview scheduled with the Lions before accepting the Atlanta Falcons’ head coaching job. A scheduled interview with Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles was canceled.
“Dan’s passion for this opportunity was evident throughout our interview process,” team president Rod Wood said in a written statement. “When we began the search for a head coach, it was imperative that we find the right leader who values our commitment to building a winning culture based on organizational alignment and collaboration. The leadership Dan has exemplified throughout his football career has prepared him for this next step, and we are excited to support him as our new head coach.”
The Lions previously hired Los Angeles Rams executive Brad Holmes as their general manager to replace Bob Quinn, who was fired with Patricia. The team has not reached the playoffs since the 2016 season and last had a postseason victory in January 1992.
The hiring of Campbell by Detroit leaves two NFL teams, the Texans and Philadelphia Eagles, with head coaching vacancies.
Diversity group calls the lack of new Black NFL head coaches ‘mind-boggling’
The diversity group that works with the NFL on its minority hiring practices expressed disappointment Tuesday with the results of this leaguewide hiring cycle for teams’ head coaches and general managers.
With no Black head coaches having been hired to this point, the leader of the Fritz Pollard Alliance said the “disparity in opportunities is mind-boggling.”
The results have come even after the NFL took steps to attempt to improve its minority hiring.
“Thus far, the NFL hiring cycle of 2021 has not changed the rate of hires for Blacks as head coaches and primary football executives,” said Rod Graves, the Fritz Pollard Alliance’s executive director.
Only one minority head coach has been hired this offseason, Robert Saleh by the New York Jets. He is Arab American, having been born in Michigan to Lebanese parents. That’s after only one minority head coach was hired last offseason, Ron Rivera by the Washington Football Team. No Black head coaches were hired last offseason, and none has been hired this offseason. The NFL has two Black head coaches, Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin and Miami’s Brian Flores, and four minority head coaches, adding Saleh and Rivera.
The league has doubled its number of minority general managers this offseason from two to four. The Detroit Lions hired Los Angeles Rams executive Brad Holmes last week, and the Atlanta Falcons announced the hiring Tuesday of New Orleans Saints executive Terry Fontenot. Before this hiring cycle, the only minority GMs had been Miami’s Chris Grier and Cleveland’s Andrew Berry.
“There are many outstanding Black men and other men and women of color in the NFL,” Graves said. “The pipeline is as strong as it has ever been. The issue is not in the sufficiency of numbers; the problem is in the limited number of leadership opportunities given. The disparity in opportunities is mind-boggling.
“It is unfortunate that the performances of coordinators such as Eric Bieniemy, Todd Bowles, Byron Leftwich, Leslie [Frazier], and Joe Woods, may not meet what appears as ‘ever-evolving standards’ for becoming a Black head coach in the NFL. The prospect for second chances is proving to be even more elusive. The same applies to executives like Jerry Reese, Rick Smith, Reggie McKenzie, and others. All capable of providing the vision, leadership, and expertise to lead a championship effort.”
The Houston Texans on Monday interviewed Bieniemy, the offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs, for their head coaching vacancy after receiving special permission from the Chiefs and the NFL.
The Texans needed that permission because the interview occurred outside the usual time frame for a head coaching interview to occur with an assistant on a team still playing in the postseason. The Chiefs host the Buffalo Bills in the AFC championship game Sunday, and Bieniemy’s head coaching interviews with other teams came earlier in the playoffs, within the normal window.
“Due to the virtual nature of the interviews, and with club consent, the league made the decision to permit interviews with potential head coaching candidates still in the playoffs,” the NFL said in a statement Monday.
The Texans, Lions and Philadelphia Eagles are the only teams with head coaching vacancies. The Lions reportedly are set to hire Saints tight ends coach Dan Campbell. The Saints’ season ended Sunday with their loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in an NFC divisional-round playoff game, making Campbell eligible to be hired.
To the dismay of many in and around the league, Bieniemy has failed to land an NFL head coaching job despite the Chiefs’ success. They are the defending Super Bowl champions and are about to host the AFC championship game for the third straight season.
The Texans’ interview with Bieniemy came with them dealing with the disenchantment of quarterback Deshaun Watson, who is said to be displeased that the team promised that he would have input on the franchise’s retooling of its leadership this offseason and then failed to follow through. The Texans hired New England Patriots executive Nick Caserio as their general manager after firing Bill O’Brien during the season as head coach and GM.
The head coaches hired leaguewide this offseason are Urban Meyer by the Jacksonville Jaguars, Saleh by the Jets, Arthur Smith by the Falcons and Brandon Staley by the Los Angeles Chargers.
This story will update with the latest coach and general manager hirings across the NFL.
Falcons: The Atlanta Falcons announced the hiring Jan. 19 of New Orleans Saints executive Terry Fontenot as their general manager. He replaced Thomas Dimitroff, who was fired in October.
Chargers: The Los Angeles Chargers chose their new head coach from the staff of the team that shares SoFi Stadium with them. They announced Jan. 17 that they had agreed to a contract to hire Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley.
Falcons: The Atlanta Falcons reached an agreement with Arthur Smith to make him their new coach and take one of the more popular candidates leaguewide off the market, they announced Jan. 15. Smith succeeds Dan Quinn, who was fired in October after the team went winless in its first five games.
Jaguars: Urban Meyer returned to coaching, making the leap from college football to the NFL. The three-time national champion, most recently at Ohio State, accepted the Jacksonville Jaguars’ coaching job Jan. 14.
Jets: Robert Saleh is getting his chance to be an NFL head coach, even if it is perhaps belated. The New York Jets announced Jan. 14 they had reached an agreement in principle with Saleh, the widely respected defensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers.
Panthers: The Carolina Panthers hired Scott Fitterer as their general manager Jan. 14. He had been the vice president of football operations for the Seattle Seahawks. Fitterer replaced Marty Hurney, who was fired in December.
Lions: The Detroit Lions hired Los Angeles Rams executive Brad Holmes as their general manager Jan. 14, providing an early sign that the NFL’s diversity efforts might produce improved results this offseason.
Holmes, the Rams’ director of college scouting, became the NFL’s third minority general manager, joining Miami’s Chris Grier and Cleveland’s Andrew Berry. He was with the Rams for 18 years and oversaw their scouting operations during a period in which they drafted defensive tackle Aaron Donald, quarterback Jared Goff and running back Todd Gurley II.
Broncos: The Denver Broncos completed a deal Jan. 13 with George Paton to be their general manager.
Paton agreed to a six-year contract, according to a person familiar with the situation. He had been the assistant GM of the Minnesota Vikings. The Broncos confirmed the move. Front-office executive John Elway previously had announced plans to hire a GM to work with Coach Vic Fangio. Elway said he would remain in the team’s front office but would turn over roster decisions to the new general manager.
Texans: Nick Caserio, a key front-office figure for the New England Patriots throughout their dynastic run of Super Bowl success, reached an agreement Jan. 5 with the Houston Texans to become their general manager. The team announced the move two days later.
The Texans begin their offseason reset by reuniting Caserio with Jack Easterby, the onetime character coach for the Patriots who is now Houston’s executive vice president of football operations. Caserio replaces Bill O’Brien, who had the dual rules of coach and GM before the Texans fired him in October.