A day after local candidate Robert Saleh was hired as the New York Jets' head coach, the Detroit Lions turned their attention to a new favorite for their own vacancy, with New Orleans Saints assistant Dan Campbell reportedly "taking a commanding lead" in the running for the Lions' head coaching job. Now, three days after the Saints' elimination from the playoffs, Detroit has officially announced Campbell as its new coach, reportedly striking a six-year deal with the 44-year-old former player.
"This is an exciting day for our organization as we introduce Dan Campbell as the new head coach of the Detroit Lions," team owner Sheila Ford Hamp said Wednesday. "With more than 20 years of experience as both a coach and player in the National Football League, Dan knows the rigors of professional football and what it takes to be successful. He will help promote the culture we want to establish across our organization, while also bringing with him high energy, a respect for the game and an identity with which everyone can align themselves."
The 44-year-old Campbell has local ties, spending the final three seasons of his NFL career with the Lions. A third-round draft pick out of Texas A&M in 1999, he played 11 seasons in the league, posting a career-high 308 receiving yards and four touchdowns in his Detroit debut and winning a Super Bowl with the Saints in 2009. He made his coaching debut a year after retiring, interning with the Miami Dolphins and then taking over as the team's tight ends coach the following year. After four years in that post, he spent most of 2015 as the Dolphins' interim head coach, overseeing a 5-7 finish after a 1-3 start under Joe Philbin.
Since then, Campbell has served as the Saints' TEs coach and assistant head coach under Sean Payton. During his time in New Orleans, the Saints have made four playoff appearances in five years, including one NFC Championship bid.
"Dan's passion for this opportunity was evident throughout our interview process," Lions president Rod Wood said Wednesday. "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."