The Detroit Lions have a brand new culture and attitude which has been a couple of years in the making, and it’s easy to see where things are going right according to players.
Coming off the Matt Patricia experience, Dan Campbell didn’t have to work hard to figure out the guys on his roster loved the game and were already tough. There was, however, a little bit of fine tuning that had to go on with the messaging the new coach and his staff sent.
Tight end T.J. Hockenson recently talked about that. As he explained on the Bussin’ With The Boys podcast, he never had a problem with Patricia personally, but his style and message were more harsh with the team during football-related meetings.
“I was his pick. Dude liked me. He didn’t talk to me a ton outside of the meeting or anything like that. Dude outside of that was cool. But then when he got into the meeting, it was like he tried to be (Bill) Belichick. It’s just like ‘alright man, this is what we have to do today, the hard way is the right way.’ That is true, it really is,” Hockenson said on the show.
Still, there was a major difference with Patricia’s communication skills, and it seemed to be his obsession with that toughness that seemed to harken back to his mentor.
As Hockenson would go on to admit, things have changed in a big way with Campbell now in the mix.
Hockenson: Campbell Understands Players Well
Perhaps the biggest reason for Campbell’s success with the roster so far? He played in the NFL, so there is a natural understanding with players that can only come from suiting up on the field.
As Hockenson explained, it has been his biggest connection point with the roster thus far over Patricia, especially when it comes to taking care of his players as people.
“On the same hand, there’s a player vibe with Campbell. Like, dude has played. Dude understands what it is,” Hockenson said. “Still, hard way is the right way. We’re going to practice hard, we’re going to do a lot of hard things, but on the same hand, he’s going to take care of us in certain situations. Because he knows what it is.”
Being in the league battles would seem to be a huge advantage for Campbell over Patricia, and as Hockenson seems to know, it might be the biggest difference in terms of both of the head coaches he has known while in the NFL.
Patricia’s Culture Felt Like Lions’ Top Downfall
It wasn’t that the Lions lacked talent under Patricia. In some ways their roster was deficient and mistakes were made with regard to team building, but culture was the biggest failure.
Patricia not being able to connect with his players in a deeper way seems his biggest mistake. Had he been able to reach out and show some of the same interpersonal skills Campbell seems to have, things may have turned out better for the Lions. Instead, it seemed the team quit on the staff by the end and had given up.
With Detroit’s new-look culture, Campbell has everyone pulling in the same direction, and it shows. Patricia never was able to have that camaraderie, and the biggest reason may have been a failure to understand players as players as well as people.
As Hockenson seems to hint, the Lions might now be in a much better place as a result of this small but significant detail.
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