It's hard to feel good about an 0-7 team. But not every team is created equal. Not every team is in the early stages of a full-blown rebuild and playing competitive football while missing nearly half its starting lineup. Not every team is aiming for tomorrow, without giving up on today. These are Dan Campbell's Lions.
"I told the team this before we ever started the season, but I’m built for adversity," Campbell said Monday after Detroit's hard-fought loss to the Rams. "This is what I do. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it. I’ve done it. I’ve been in the highest highs and the lowest lows. I’m ready for this and I’m not giving up. I’m not giving up on any of these guys. I’m not listening to the lack-of-talent talk. I don’t buy into that. We’ve got more to give as a staff, these players have more to give and we’re going to find a way to win a game.”
The lack-of-talent talk is real. It's rational. It's the very reason Campbell is here, because the head coach and GM before he and Brad Holmes arrived made a mess of the Lions' roster. Campbell doesn't buy it because a) it's an excuse and b) he sees enough talent for his team to win. It's young and raw and a little rough around the edges, but it's talent all the same. And soon enough, it's going to get the Lions on the board.
"I know that we are improving," Campbell said. "When I see guys like Alim McNeill and Jerry Jacobs and Levi Onwuzurike and (Derrick) Barnes and Jonah Jackson and D’Andre Swift, a ton of these young guys that are just getting better and better, that’s encouraging. A.J. Parker. We’re making some strides, now. They are going to pay massive dividends sooner than later.”
McNeill, Onwuzurike, Barnes, Jacobs and Parker are rookies playing key roles on defense. Jackson and Swift are second-year players playing key roles on offense, to say nothing of rookie Penei Sewell, who's coming off two of his best games at left tackle, and rookie receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown.
The Lions are undermanned most games, and Campbell would admit as much. It's why he frequently talks about their small margin for error. But they have talent coming into its own -- and so much more to add in the next two drafts. Campbell is invested in these players, who are invested in him. The dividends will follow.
“I’m frustrated like anybody would be," Campbell said. "I’m frustrated like our players are, but it also just gives me more motivation and driven anger, if you will, to want to make things right and help these guys as much as I can. That’s the way I’m cut. It makes me want to dig in more, is what it does."