The Detroit Lions worked hard to change plenty of notions about their franchise during the 2022 season, and finally it is starting to pay dividends in the court of public opinion.
Instead of simply discounting the Lions, folks have started paying better attention to the team as one to take seriously in the future. That much is true listening to the national media speak in the past few months.
Now, a few NFL Hall of Famers within the national media have begun to join the chorus of those cheering not only the team, but it’s players and coaches as well as their future together.
At the Super Bowl, Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com caught up with Michael Strahan of Fox Sports and discussed rookie star defensive end Aidan Hutchinson. As the former New York Giants star said, he sees a good future for the Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate in Detroit that he’s excited about.
“I just think he’s going to be a future star. He made a lot of plays that stars make in his rookie year. The future is really, really bright. I’m excited,” Strahan told Twentyman in the piece of Hutchinson.
As if that endorsement wasn’t enough, fellow Hall of Famer Howie Long seemed to agree with Strahan about Hutchinson. As he said in Twentyman’s piece, he liked Hutchinson’s fit with the city and the team, and appreciated how he played hard.
“I really loved him (in the draft). You know, it’s a big transition. He’s a hometown guy. It’s interesting because I think the pick fit them. I think it fits the head coach. I think it fits the town. And as the season went on, it started off a little slow, maybe he had some numbers but the things that I look at, the things that Michael (Strahan) looks at, the things you want to see you started to see as the year kind of progressed and I think he’s going to be a big building block for them. I love his energy. I love the way he plays,” Long said to Twentyman.
If there’s two people who would know about elite play on defense, and specifically the defensive line, it’s Strahan and Long. The former collected 141.5 sacks in the league and was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2001 and also claimed Super Bowl 42. The latter put up 84 career sacks and won Super Bowl 18 with the Los Angeles Raiders.
Both see the kind of traits and abilities that will make Hutchinson a consistent success in the league after his rookie year. Given what each accomplished, this is very notable for Hutchinson and Lions fans.
Jimmy Johnson: Dan Campbell ‘Impressive’
Hutchinson wasn’t alone in drawing praise from a Hall of Famer. Lions head coach Dan Campbell was also cheered by one when Twentyman spoke with the Fox Sports team.
As former two-time Super Bowl champion head coach Jimmy Johnson pointed out to Twentyman in a piece, since Campbell started in 2021, he has noticed how hard and tough the team has become under his leadership. As a result, the coach sees the tide beginning to shift for the team.
“I think Dan Campbell has been impressive because early with Dan you saw the team play extremely hard and they were a very physical team. In fact, I made the comment on FOX NFL Sunday, I said, ‘Man, they play hard, they are well coached, but they don’t win.’ Well, all of the sudden that hard work and that effort started paying dividends and they started winning games,” Johnson said in Twentyman’s piece.
Campbell has yet to win a playoff game in Detroit or achieve measurable success, but has already succeeded in changing the conversation about the Lions much like Johnson did early in his career with Dallas, when he overcame a 1-15 first season in 1989. Should the team eventually become winners, Campbell may get even more credit for the job he is doing. That’s especially true after the coach started 3-13-1 in 2021 himself.
Johnson seems to understand the value of what Campbell has done already in terms of laying a foundation for the franchise.
Hutchinson, Campbell Offer Lions Building Blocks
Hearing the praise from personalities like Strahan, Long and Johnson is notable for the Lions, because it proves that a pair of their most important personalities on the team could be here to stay.
In Hutchinson, the team has who they hope is not only a building block for the defense, but a future star in the league as well. The Lions have sorely needed that, and in his first year, Hutchinson delivered.
Hutchinson collected 9.5 sacks, most for a rookie player in the league. He also has three interceptions to his credit as well as 52 total tackles. Most of the year, he was a menace to opposing passers, much as he was in the season finale in Week 18 when he sacked Aaron Rodgers:
With regards to Campbell, the Lions have what they hope is the right coach after years of trying and failing to land the proper boss to run the team. At 17-28-1, Campbell might not have an elite record yet, but he has rallied the team and embodies the city of Detroit well. As a result, he has become embraced in a major way.
With heavy praise from these three legends, the Lions seem to be on their way in terms of having the right ingredients to potentially build a winner. This trio of champions seems excited by the direction the franchise could be heading.