With no question, the Lions 2021-22 season was far from perfect. The ups and downs endured were characteristic of a true rebuild that the franchise has needed to make. Regardless of those ups and downs, the Lions found a way to end the season on a good note, beating NFC North rivals and the conference leading Green Bay Packers 37-30. In that win, positives were evident and a new foundation felt tangible. The team, including the staff, will look different next season and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Dan Campbell began his final press conference of the season confirming reports that the Lions are parting ways with offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn.
“I just think it didn’t – it just wasn’t a fit. You want it to be, but I think it just – we never found our groove or our rhythm if you will and it’s hard to really, truly pinpoint. It just – sometimes it just doesn’t work out the way you want. That’s really the best answer I can give you.”
Both Campbell and Jared Goff said that Lynn was an absolute pro all season, despite his play-calling duties being taken away and the challenges that a lackluster offense presented.
"He came here, took a leap of faith with us under the impression that he would be calling the plays. And so, it was not going to go that direction," said Campbell. "Again, that’s not fair to him either. I wish him the best. He’s been a true pro, he works his tail off and he gave us everything he had. So, I appreciate him for that. He is, he’s a pro."
"I want to thank Coach Lynn for everything he did and his hard work. It doesn’t go unnoticed," said Jared Goff. "I hope I get to talk to him sometime soon and let him know that the way he handled himself the whole season is remarkable and truly professional. We really do appreciate it because he could, if he wanted to, have a bad attitude and he didn’t, and it was really cool to see from him."
In the end, Campbell said that it really came down to Lynn not being a good fit. Despite the falling out, both Goff and Campbell preached that there’s plenty of optimism surrounding this offense.
"We beat a really good team yesterday," said Goff about signs of optimism." Granted I know they took their guys out at halftime or some of them, but still they’ve got 13 wins with anyone playing and we beat them. We beat the Cardinals, we beat Minnesota, and those all happened in the last handful of weeks and those give us reason for optimism that those kind of know how to do it now, know how to win. We still have a lot of room to improve and a lot of things to happen, but this spring, summertime for us is going to be really fun and really important.”
"The fact that these guys have continued to bang away and never lost hope and gave their best effort, best foot forward and they believed in every game that we could win," said Campbell. "They really didn’t believe that we were going to go in and we didn’t have a chance to win a game and it didn’t matter who we were playing and I think that was important. And so, because of that, we were able to finish out on a win yesterday and I think that belief and the knowing of that and knowing that everything to this point, we bring in more competition and we’ll only be better because of it. It should give us a springboard, and now we’ll be a year into it, us as coaches, the players that are here. We’ll be better. We’ll be better for it.”
On the defensive side of the ball, that optimism about the future was shown against the Packers, as the Lions preached the importance of complimentary football. As told by members of the defense, that optimism is a result of a mantra that the Lions took on after the bye week. Amani Oruwariye came to the final media session of the season with a physical lock that said "Lock The Gates." Oruwariye said that it was a mantra the defense came up with before the Pittsburgh game. Even though that game ended in a tie, the new mindset created a tangible shift in the second half of the year.
Amani Oruwariye came to final media session w/ a lock that said "LOCK THE GATES" on it. It's a mantra the D came up w/ before Pittsburgh that caused a culture shift. Aaron Glenn gave the locks to the guys to keep w/ them while their "blood boils" as other teams play in playoffs. pic.twitter.com/QgFBLuTYGe— Jeanna Trotman (@JeannaTrotmanTV) January 10, 2022
It was a shift that the defense embodied as the Lions went 3-3 in their final six games, including the impressive win against the Packers. The momentum and mantra created is one they’ll carry into next season.
The sense in Allen Park and the sense at Ford Field after the final win embodied optimism. The brand of football that Dan Campbell is trying to build in his first year and in the Lions rebuild has been set. The players say that they can feel it. If the team can continue to grow that foundation, with the pieces from this year and the new members added over the offseason, the rebuild and sense of change that Detroit has been dying to see could be well on its way.