'Certainly, I can be better': Dan Campbell still finding footing as Lions playcaller

Dan Campbell took over offensive playcalling duties following the Lions' 44-6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Halloween. AP Photo/Paul Sancya

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell took over offensive playcalling duties following Detroit’s 44-6 Halloween loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

“Offensively, we are very anemic,” Campbell told reporters after the defeat, which dropped Detroit to 0-8 on the season.

He wasn’t wrong. After eight games, the Lions ranked 27th in the league in points per game, last in offensive efficiency, 29th in expected points added, last in total QBR, 27th in yards per play, 29th in third-down conversion percentage, and 30th in red zone efficiency.

Since taking over for offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, Campbell’s offense hasn’t fared much better. Beginning with their 16-16 tie against the Steelers on Nov. 14, Detroit is 0-2-1 and ranks 28th in points per game, 28th in offensive efficiency, and last in QBR over that span.

Initially, Lynn admitted that being in the coaches’ booth and not having full playcalling duties was “different,” but he understood Campbell’s need to change things up.

“I don’t see it as a demotion,” Lynn said after the Pittsburgh tie. “I’ve been in Dan’s shoes, and if I was 0-8 and I needed to spark my team, then as an offensive guy, I probably would’ve done the same thing to be honest with you, and I have. I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t agree with what he did.”

Campbell cited being able to chat with quarterback Jared Goff during the game as a reason for the switch in responsibilities.

“Sometimes, I think when you're able to get in the flow of the game when you're the guy who's calling it, it just helps to know exactly where to go,” said Campbell, who is expected to call the plays for the remainder of the season.

One change to the offense under Campbell’s leadership has been an improved run game which has jumped to 157.7 yards per game compared to 93.1 yards per game over the first eight games, per ESPN TruMedia.

But that improvement has come at the expense of the pass offense, with the Lions’ passing yards per game dropping from 228 to 105.7. For the season, the Lions are averaging 5.9 air yards per attempt, which is the fewest in the NFL, and the fewest by any team since the 2014 Kansas City Chiefs (5.89), according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Another big change is Campbell’s demeanor as a playcaller, which Goff describes as “very chill.”

“Very calm, and that’s kind of how you like it as a quarterback,” Goff said. “Obviously, with his personality you never know what you’re going to get, but on game days he is calm.”

Goff feels that Campbell is growing more comfortable as a playcaller.

“I’ve never been a part of a switch midseason, so I don’t know," Goff said. "But, it’s been pretty smooth so far.”

Campbell feels that he’s doing what’s best for the team, and he insists it’s not about him or his ego, but more so just trying to shake things up.

He knows he can be better, though, so he’s leaned on his coaching staff to help with the offensive game plan, such as tight ends coach Ben Johnson, who has started helping with the pass game while Lynn continues to deal with the run game and protections.

“Certainly, I can be better, and there are things that -- now it’s been three games and all three of those games there are three calls I wish I could have back. So, you learn as you go, you grow and then ... look, I’m not going to lie, there are things about it between learning to be a head coach and a playcaller that are all -- it’s stuff that I’m working through right now, that I can get better at. I look at all of it and I think about how do I prepare myself as best as I can and how do I improve on what I’ve done to help these guys.”