NOVEMBER 17: It certainly appears Texas A&M did make an inquiry, with Campbell indicating the SEC program “maybe” reached out in the wake of Fisher’s firing. “That’s my alma mater; I want to do anything I can to help them but coach for them,” Campbell said (via The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman). Campbell’s Lions contract runs through 2025. Even if Campbell is not interested, being high on Texas A&M’s list illustrates how high his stock has climbed during the Lions’ rise.
NOVEMBER 16: Dan Campbell made the unexpected rise from Saints tight ends coach to successful Lions leader, jumping the ladder despite having never held an NFL coordinator role. With Year 3 of the Lions’ rebuild producing one of the most promising seasons in modern Lions history, the popular HC’s stock has skyrocketed since his New Orleans days and 2015 stint as Dolphins interim HC.
When Texas A&M fired Jimbo Fisher, Campbell’s name came up. Prior to entering the coaching profession, Campbell turned his Texas A&M college career into a third-round draft slot and an 11-year run as an NFL tight end. Considering the Aggies’ sudden need at their highest-profile coaching job, CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd reports the program reached out about the gig.
While Dodd describes this as a backchannel effort to gauge Campbell’s interest in returning to his alma mater, the third-year Lions coach is not interested in the position. Campbell, 47, is a Texas native who trekked to College Station in the late 1990s from the Dallas area.
Moving directly from a head NFL job to a college leadership role has taken place, of course. Jim Harbaugh famously left the 49ers for Michigan after the 2014 season, his fourth with the team. Though, a conflict with GM Trent Baalke contributed to Harbaugh’s NFL exit. Bobby Petrino bolted late in his first Falcons season, returning to the college game for the Arkansas job. Pete Carroll‘s USC stint began a year after the Patriots fired him. Chip Kelly returned to the college ranks a year after the 49ers canned him.
This is also not the most stable time for the college game, with conference changes accompanying the transfer portal and NIL ruling as major developments that have altered the Division I-FBS landscape. For as much pressure as the NFL provides, complications on that level do not exist. As evidenced by the record-setting buyout Fisher will receive, Texas A&M could certainly make Campbell a monster offer that would be worth considering. But it would be shocking to see the well-respected HC leave his Detroit post while the team is on this level. Adding to that, Campbell has never coached in college. He transition from reserve tight end to assistant coach in 2010.
The Lions have not won a division championship since 1993, nine years before the NFC North existed. Detroit’s two NFC Central titles in the 1990s — the other coming in 1991, when the franchise last won a playoff game — represent two of the organization’s three division crowns in the post-merger era (the other came in 1983). The Lions are rarely on this level, but the Campbell-Brad Holmes regime has elevated the once-downtrodden franchise to a rare place. While the Lions have won division titles in the distant past, they have never earned home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs. Entering Week 11, this is also in play for the 7-2 team.
Campbell remains attached to the six-year contract the Lions gave him to oversee this rebuild. If the Lions secure an NFC North title and snap their 32-year playoff win drought, it would certainly not surprise if the franchise rewarded him with an extension.