At some point during the time that the Detroit Lions are on “Hard Knocks,” we had better get to see Dan Campbell at Starbucks.
The man claimed last season that he drinks two 20 oz. pike coffees with double espresso shots in each one. The media gasped at hearing this, and there needs to be a payoff at some point. The HBO cameras need to film him drinking every last drop of those coffees and also how he functions for the rest of the day afterward.
In the first episode, Campbell doubled down on his intense introductory press conference from 2021. He said that he doesn’t care if his opponent has three fingers and one asscheek; he’s still going to kick that person’s ass. After hearing that, nothing in his personality would make me believe that he’s lying about the coffee, but I still want to see it.
That, and maybe a little more Jared Goff, is all that I would’ve changed in the first episode. We got assistant head coach Duce Staley talking about not being ashamed of loving defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, and them both talking trash to each other all throughout practice after that scene. Rookie Aidan Hutchinson somehow knows more words to “Billie Jean” than I do even though I rented “The Making of Thriller” from Blockbuster and he’s too young to remember the premiere of the “You Rock my World” video. Running back Jamaal Williams actually cried breaking down the huddle after a full contact practice.
I will forever believe that the 2010 New York Jets’ “Hard Knocks” season will never be topped. Gang Green was coming off of an appearance in the AFC Championship Game and then-head coach Rex Ryan is the best character in the history of the series. While I respect how genuine Campbell is, Ryan cursing out his team in a meeting for eating cheeseburgers on the field before a scrimmage, and then ending it by emphatically telling them it’s time to have a team snack is poetry that should be taught in creative writing classes across the country.
Campbell isn’t nearly as funny as Ryan, but he loves him some football. Last season a clip went viral of him doing up-downs alongside the players. He did it again in front of the HBO cameras this season but the 46-year-old was actually hurt. Campbell said in the episode that injured his wrist at home, but he still looked much better for the premium cable cameras executing the drill than he did last season.
With the word GRIT plastered all over the facility, and football cliches every few minutes, I’m all in on the Lions’ “Hard Knocks.” The last time they were moderately relevant was when they lost a home wild-card game to the Dallas Cowboys in 2015 following that terrible reversal of a third-down pass-interference penalty against Anthony Hitchens. Hall of Fame wide receiver Calvin Johnson would only play one more season, and the Lions sunk back into the irrelevance that has engulfed the team in most years that did not include Barry Sanders.
Campbell has been a character since the “Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz” gave him the nickname “Man Campbell” during his time as the Miami Dolphins interim coach in 2015. It certainly fits. His introductory press conference with the Lions in 2021 about biting kneecaps was a lot, but the man has proven to be sincere. He cried during a press conference after the Lions lost on a late 50-plus yard field goal for the second time that season — the first being at the hands longest successful kick in NFL history — and when they finally pulled out some wins Campbell heaped all the praise on his players in the locker room.
I was pretty sure Campbell’s personality wasn’t an act, and after one episode of “Hard Knocks” he may have amped up a bit for the camera — and also got in better shape for those up-downs — but his intentions are good. He wants to win, and is happy to see his players succeed. I’m here for that energy. However, my entire opinion of Campbell changes if at some point this August I don’t get to see him down those coffees.