Dan Campbell’s Kneecap Rant: A Retrospective 1 Year Later

Dan Campbell

Getty Dan Campbell reacts on the field coaching the Lions in 2021 against Philadelphia.

One year ago, the Detroit Lions revealed Dan Campbell as their new head coach, and fans were caught completely off guard when the boss figuratively hit them in the face during his introductory press conference.

Typically, the first presser is chalk full of timid coach-speak. There may be some bluster here or there, but usually, there isn’t much that comes out that can galvanize an entire region or fanbase. Campbell managed to break that mold while setting the bar incredibly high for the 2022 coaching class last season by being his authentic self.

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Campbell spoke from the heart and delivered his now famous or infamous kneecap rant that reverberated all around the NFL and still continues to reverberate to this day with fans and media alike.

After being introduced, Campbell lit into a soliloquy about the city of Detroit and what his vision is for the mindset and makeup of the team. The commentary was second to none, and may have been one of the best opening statements a new coaching hire has made in quite some time.

Here’s Campbell preaching to his new city when he was revealed as the head coach:

New Lions head coach Dan Campbell: 'We're going to bite a kneecap off'"I can sit up here and give you coach-speak all day long," new Lions head coach Dan Campbell said. "𝗬𝗼𝘂'𝘃𝗲 𝗵𝗮𝗱 𝗲𝗻𝗼𝘂𝗴𝗵 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝘀𝗵𝗶𝘁." "When you knock us down, we’re gonna get up, and when we get up, we’re going to bite a kneecap off."2021-01-21T18:14:31Z

“I wanted this job bad because I felt like I knew this community. I played here,” Campbell said. “Here’s what I know just as an overall philosophy. You’re going to say, ‘well what’s this team going to be, what’s it not going to be.’ Here’s what I know. I know that Detroit’s made up of great people, some really good people. This community is strong. This place has been kicked, it’s been battered, it’s been bruised and I can sit up here and give you coach speak all day long. I can give you ‘hey we’re gonna win this many games.’ None of that matters and you guys don’t want to hear it anyway. You’ve had enough of that s*** pardon my language. Here’s what I do know is that this team is going to take on the identity of this city. This city’s been been down and it found a way to get up. It’s found a way to overcome adversity, and so this team is going to be built on, we’re going to kick you in the teeth and when you punch us back we’re going to smile at you. When you knock us down we’re going to get up, and on the way up we’re going to bite the kneecap off, and we’re going to stand up and then it’s going to take two more shots to knock us down. On the way up, we’re going to take your other kneecap, and we’re going to get up and then it’s going to take three shots to get us down. When we do get up, we’re going to take another hunk out of you. Before long, we’re going to be the last one standing.”

It’s safe to say at the time, the amazing text of this speech hit all the right notes for Lions fans, Michiganders and Detroiters. Campbell’s speech was real and from the heart, and while some might have laughed about the message or delivery, it was clear he’s serious about wanting to build a team that can win for the city and do so the right way with grit and toughness. Even such, some may have been skeptical if the speech was simply all an act or something that was sustainable.

A year later, it’s now more than clear that Campbell meant exactly what he said and was able to see both himself and his team live up to the mantras that he set forth on January 21, 2021.

Assessing Campbell’s First Season With Lions

The speech may have seemed like a joke to rival fanbases or the NFL at the time, but Campbell did live up to his promise bit by bit. The Lions were one of the toughest teams in the league during the 2021 season, even if it did not translate into immediate wins. Detroit was in nearly every game that was played and never backed down. They managed to do this in spite of multiple players being lost due to injury as well as illness outbreaks late in the season. With this in mind, it seems a minor miracle that the Lions beat Minnesota and Arizona, a pair of teams that were in playoff race as well as tying Pittsburgh, a team that ended up in the AFC postseason. In the end, it was an obvious testament to the toughness Campbell preached about on his first day.

Offensively and defensively, there is still much to work out with the roster in terms of improvements and depth, but Campbell did a decent job to managed things overall. He was an aggressive coach on fourth-down, and looks to be an innovator in terms of decision making in those moments. Campbell also rolled the dice appropriately with a multitude of fake punts and onside kicks, showing his vigorous side. When he took over play calling, the offense seemed to improve in a tangible way.

Overall, it was a solid start for Campbell as it relates to laying a foundation. Now, he will have to start building the house along with general manager Brad Holmes.

How Emotional Campbell Rallied Detroit for Present, Future

If the Lions were looking for a coach that gets the city as well as its hopes and dreams, Campbell is clearly that guy, which he proved time and time again this year. The delivery of the message at the time may have seemed wild, but as Lions fans would come to find out, that was simply who Campbell is. He is one of the most authentic and caring people in the NFL, never mind at head coach. This season, Campbell proved that fact two separate times. First, in October when Detrot was staggered by a last-second heartbreaker loss to Minnesota. After that game, Campbell proved how much he cared about his players with an emotional speech centered on how heartbroken he was for them:

Dan Campbell In Tears After Lions Last Second Lost To Minnesota VikingsDan Campbell In Tears After Lions Last Second Lost To Minnesota Vikings Subscribe to the channel for the latest NBA & NFL news. No copyright infringement was intended, all clips belong to respective owners. *Copyright Disclaimer* Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism,…2021-10-10T20:33:38Z

Following that moment, the Lions were rallied, and while more heartbreak would define their season, they ended up scoring a huge late-season win against the very same Vikings. That game was an emotional moment for the team, the city and the state as everyone was dealing with the fallout from the Oxford High School shooting. The Lions won that game thanks in-part to Campbell bringing everyone together, and he delivered the game ball to the victims afterward:

Dan Campbell dedicated the Lions’ game ball from their first win to the Oxford community2021-12-05T22:01:09Z

A year later, it’s clear Campbell has the Lions on a much better looking path than many may have imagined last January, both on the field and off. It’s safe to say he was more than Detroit fans may have thought he was, and there might be no better complement.

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