Lions passing game coordinator Tanner Engstrand offers a telling quote on the new philosophy in Detroit

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·2 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

These are not Matt Patricia’s Detroit Lions anymore. And a great, insightful quote from one of the few coaching holdovers from Patricia’s regime into the Dan Campbell era illustrates why the sordid past is dead.

Lions passing game coordinator and tight ends coach Tanner Engstrand met with the media during OTAs earlier this week. Engstrand was an offensive assistant for the team in 2020, Patricia’s final year. He carried over when Campbell believed enough in his ability to keep him in Detroit.

It’s easy to see why. This answer Engstrand provided when asked about what his role with the Lions entails is straight out of Dan Campbell Philosophy 101.

Engstrand’s final line here is the critical point,

“Finding what the guys do best and really trying to focus in on those types of things.”

Sounds pretty self-obvious and simple, right? Yet it is not something that every coaching staff embraces or even acknowledges. Think back to 2018-2020 in Detroit, where the coaching staff had to have players who fit very precise roles they predetermined. Even very skilled veterans who didn’t fit that precast mold (think Darius Slay, Golden Tate, Quandre Diggs) weren’t given the leverage to play to their personal strengths.

As Engstrand carefully pointed out, that’s the antithesis of the Dan Campbell philosophy. It’s something new offensive coordinator Ben Johnson has talked about extensively in his offseason work with quarterback Jared Goff, too.

“One thing that we’ve done is included him a lot in what we’re trying to do schematically, and so we spent some time this offseason watching more of the stuff he did a few years ago in LA and how we can incorporate some of that, while also challenging him to take the next step in some areas of improvement for him as a player as well,” Johnson said during the Lions recent minicamp.

Imagine the audacity of seeking out reasons to play to the strengths of the players who proved good enough to make the NFL!

In all seriousness, this is where Campbell’s years as a player are a major asset. Most of his assistants played in the NFL too, though Engstrand–a college QB at San Diego State–is not one of them. The ex-players understand the dynamics of talent diversity and individuality, something Campbell clearly stresses in his coaching style.

Campbell loves to use the phrase “cut from the same cloth” when talking about his relationship with GM Brad Holmes but also in what he looks for in both players and assistant coaches. Engstrand might have predated Campbell in Detroit but it’s clear the same seamstress wove his coaching philosophy.