Packers Head Coach Candidate: Dan Campbell


It would be somewhat fitting for the Packers to hire New Orleans assistant Dan Campbell to be the team’s next head coach. Campbell served as the interim head coach for the Dolphins in 2015 – taking over after the team fired Joe Philbin.

Campbell getting his second opportunity to be a head coach, and having both opportunities come when a team moved on from Philbin would be quite the coincidence.

The former tight end in the 2000s and now-Saints tight ends coach is a name certain to be connected to Green Bay, and he warrants a closer look.

The details on Dan Campbell

Most recent job: Assistant Head Coach/Tight Ends Coach, New Orleans Saints (2016-present)
Record as a head coach: 5-7 (2015)
First job: Coaching Intern, Miami Dolphins (2010)
Packers connection: Served as interim head coach in Miami after Joe Philbin was fired after four games in 2015. Played with former Packers WR Terry Glenn for three years in Dallas (2003-2005).

The background on Dan Campbell

When Joe Philbin was fired as the head coach in Miami four games into the 2015 season, Dan Campbell took over and guided the Dolphins to back-to-back wins. Campbell’s Dolphins finished 5-7 under his watch, and the consensus was that he had served the team well as interim head coach.

Because Campbell had three-fourths of the season to work with, he made some significant changes throughout the year as interim head coach:

  • Fired defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor.

  • Changed the arrangement of player lockers to better promote camaraderie.

  • Emphasized competition with tug-of-war and full-contact Oklahoma drills.

  • Practiced the front-line offensive and defensive players against each other rather than the scout team.

At 39-years-old, Campbell was the youngest coach in the NFL that season. He had played in the league in the early 2000s and credits Bill Parcells as one of his coaching mentors.

When the 2015 season ended, no head coach opportunities came Campbell’s way. He took the post as tight ends coach with the Saints that offseason – the same job he had with Miami before becoming interim head coach. He’s been in New Orleans since.

Campbell interviewed for the head coaching gig in Indianapolis after Josh McDaniels pulled out of the running and impressed the Colts. Indianapolis ultimately hired Frank Reich, but it’s believed Campbell was a strong consideration.

Dan Campbell’s biggest moment

The Dolphins promoted Campbell to interim head coach after four games, and he took over a squad going nowhere fast. Miami had been losing by ten or more points in each of their first four games, and lacked discipline as a team.

Things quickly changed with Campbell at the helm. His introductory press conference still holds up three years later as an all-timer.

There’s no question that he was going to shake things up – and he did by firing both offensive and defensive coordinators by season’s end – and the team won five of twelve as a result.

In Dan Campbell’s own words

There’s a classic scene in Seinfeld where George claims it’s unfair that former baseball players get jobs as color commentators based on their experience. Similarly, the majority of coaches in professional football seem to be former players.

Dan Campbell had an interesting insight into the challenge of being a former player and transitioning to coach.

“One of the hardest things for ex-players who are coaches is for them to really drive their players,” Campbell said. “They’ve been in their shoes. They know how hard it is and how bad some of this stuff sucks and the grind of it. And they somewhat feel sorry or empathy for those players they’re coaching. That’s the worst thing that you can do. It really is. I think that gets a lot of coaches who are not hard enough on them.”

What are the chances Dan Campbell is the next Packers head coach?

Jon’s Rating: 0/5

I understand the appeal of Dan Campbell, at least as a thought exercise. He bears a passing physical resemblance to Mike Pettine and his hard-nosed talk furthers the comparison.

But while Pettine is a thoughtful, adaptive coach, parts of Campbell’s MO seem outdated. The Oklahoma drills and full-contact practices outlined above a short-term, “rah-rah” solutions to team morale, but they’re hard to build a team around. Campbell seems better suited to a support role, and I’m not sure he has the chops to take sell the Packers on his skills as a head coach.

Gary’s Rating: 1/5

Dan Campbell is a leader more than he is a coordinator. After retiring from the NFL after the 2009 season, he immediately joined the coaching ranks in 2010. Eight seasons later, Campbell has been a position coach for seven and one-fourth seasons. If you’re looking for high-flying innovation on the offensive or defensive side, he’s not your man.

That said, the connection to Parcells (who has influenced the Packers organization more than you probably are willing to acknowledge), his tenure under a high-powered Saints offense and the glowing reviews warrant him close consideration. If Mark Murphy is inclined to interview and hire Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald, then Campbell appears to be the NFL’s version.