The former NFL future turned over to the NFL Network, and Steve Smith was never afraid to speak his mind. So when the file Detroit Lions And Dan Campbell has made so many headlines in the past year—often for the wrong reasons—that no one was shy about criticism.
He was even more vocal after losing the Lions’ first week to San Francisco 49ers. Specifically, Smith thought the infamous side-back interaction between cornerback Jeff Okudah and sub-coach Aubrey Pleasant was a clear indication that this new Lions regime was a “train wreck waiting to happen”, and he needed no further evidence.
“Again, I question the culture,” ‘”The nice side bang,” Smith told the Detroit Free Press. “Has she changed? Nah, he hasn’t. And maybe after this article, the coach will say, ‘I’d like Steve to come and watch. Brother, I don’t need to watch.’”
Of course, most of us knew at the time that judging the entire franchise culture based on a single in-game emotional interaction between two people they’d never met before is absurd. Smith’s comments drew further criticism when he openly admitted that he had not seen Pleasant and Okoda embrace moments later.
And sure enough, it turns out Smith needed to see more about what Lyons and Campbell had to offer. Because earlier this week on the NFL Network, Smith was singing a completely different tune.
“I was very critical of Coach Campbell, when he was chosen as coach. He went through everything he had – his first interview was very emotional. It was a bit aggressive. It was a little extra,” Smith said on the NFL Network this week. “But only when I saw what he did do I have to go back and say I really admire what he did and how he does things. You talk about a team that, yes, they were 3 and 13, but seven single-digit losses last year — the second biggest team in the NFL. It also tells me they’re close. They’re about to do some really special things.”
On the one hand, it’s refreshing to hear one critic admit that he was a bit hasty in his judgment. On the other hand, Smith should not have jumped to such conclusions in the first place. It was particularly reckless for Smith to assert that he didn’t even need a closer look. He made his decision based on a five-second interaction.
But let’s let the past be outdated.
Smith knows that some will continue to be skeptical of Detroit based on their history. But he really thinks it was Campbell who created the kind of Lions we haven’t seen in a very long time.
“Someone is going to listen to this and say, ‘You’re talking about the Detroit Lions. “That’s my point,” Smith continued. “We’ve known what the Detroit Lions have been like for a very long time, and I think Coach Campbell got them on the cusp of changing that culture. The kind of players he’s bringing in, the kind of coaches he’s bringing in, and he says it’s everything, he’s invested. And he’s giving these guys and some of these big guys. A chance to say, “Hey, can you change this culture?” And Coach Campbell does.”