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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Robert Zeglinski

Ranking the 13 greatest quotes from the Lions’ Dan Campbell, including a line on NFL prospects ‘in pajamas’

Dan Campbell usually wears his heart on his sleeve. That’s probably why we’ve grown to love him so much.

With Campbell’s Detroit Lions on the rise as an NFC power, we thought it fair to rank the many hilarious soundbites and moments he’s delivered in just over two years as a head coach. Provided the Lions continue to gain prominence, those who love a coach with some personality can rest assured Campbell will be in the spotlight time and time again.

One thing’s for sure as you peruse this list: Campbell has a rather colorful way of describing many different situations. It’s almost like he has a gift.

A LOT of caffeine

It’s further down the list because, quite frankly, it’s not necessarily a “buzz-worthy” quote, but I don’t want to forget about how much caffeine Campbell consumes.

As Charles Curtis wrote in 2021, Campbell’s usual morning Starbucks order amounts to roughly 820 milligrams of caffeine. Uh, that’s a lot:

Lions are apex predators and ... oh, you get it

Heading into a pivotal 2022 for the Lions — one where they were also the featured subject of Hard Knocks — Campbell played up a competitive “predator” aspect a lot.

In fact, the coach literally used a metaphor about lions being kings of the jungle in the preseason. And yes, you guessed it, Detroit’s opponents are “hyenas”:


No one lazy, no turds

When talking up the organization former GM Bob Quinn and former head coach Matt Patricia left in August 2021, Campbell had an … eloquent way of describing the situation.

Via, Campbell appreciated that Quinn and Patricia didn’t leave behind any “turds”:

“I think we’re fortunate because I do believe we have some talented players on this team that have grit, and that’s a good thing, you know?” Campbell said, per the site. “I said this when I walked in — there’s a number of guys that were here, and I think (Matt) Patricia and (Bob) Quinn did a great job of, there’s no turds here. There’s no bad guys. These guys work now. We don’t have lazy (guys). We don’t have those (lazy) guys, and that’s a good thing.”

That’s certainly one way to describe lazy people!

He's not a fan of the Scouting Combine

Surprise, surprise: an NFL head coach doesn’t like the potentially misleading evaluations from the Scouting Combine.

At the latest edition of the combine, Campbell likened players running around the field in shorts and shirts to running around in their “pajamas.”

So, yeah, he prefers the tape. And I get it, too.

Being distracted by the wave

Last year, the Lions cemented a huge win over the Vikings by passing the ball to OT Penei Sewell on a clutch third-and-long.

When asked about the play later on The Pat MacAfee Show, Campbell claimed he didn’t know the call to Sewell was coming thanks to a round of the wave at Ford Field.

Yeah. Sure. The head coach didn’t know a tackle was getting the ball.

(Note: NSFW language in the clip below)

Carrying toilet paper

Campbell is more well-known for the opening remarks he made to the press, but some of the first few words he said to Lions players were arguably just as hilarious. And they were also connected to poop.

While trying to clean up the mess of a 5-11 squad, Campbell told the Lions he won’t carry their “toilet paper,” and they’ll have to wipe their own butts.

Where does he get this gold?

The remorse over cutting a player on their birthday

Every new head coach wants to instill their vision for their team. That’s partly what Campbell did when he cut long-time Lions long-snapper Don Muhlbach (18 years!). Oh, sorry, Campbell cut Muhlbach on his 40th birthday right after he got finished celebrating with his teammates.

Did Campbell acknowledge it was part of the business? Yes.

Did he still feel terrible for doing it? Also, yes, and with an appropriate expletive. It’s easy to see why Campbell’s players love him so much with these kinds of passionate moments:

(Note: NSFW language in the clip below)

"You don't want that for them"

Roughly a quarter’s way through the 2021 season, the Lions were winless and without a paddle. But they had an opportunity to upset the rival Minnesota Vikings after rallying back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit.

After taking a late one-point lead (where Campbell went for a gutsy two-point attempt), the Lions couldn’t hold on and would lose 19-17. Campbell was in tears in his post-game press conference, saying, “you don’t want that for them,” in reference to the Lions leaving it all on the field.

What a leader:

A well-earned moment of celebration

When the previously winless Lions finally beat the Vikings in December 2021, Campbell was jubilant. The organization had won its first game in 364 days.

“OF COURSE” he was happy — on the sideline and at the mic:

A "butt cheek and three" what???

Another of the weirder analogies Campbell’s ever made concerns how he’d keep his players accountable.

On Hard Knocks, the coach professed to the Lions that he doesn’t play favorites — even if they have “one [butt] cheek and three toes.”

(Note: NSFW language in the clip below)

That "last bit of losing" and dirty pants

When the Lions suffered a tough Week 1 preseason loss to the Atlanta Falcons last August, Campbell broke out the big, er, pants?

He came into Detroit’s meeting room with pants caked in dirt. As he sent a message to his players about getting the “losing” out of them, Campbell shook the dirt off the pants.

So, the Lions were the pants in this metaphor, right? Just making sure.

Campbell won't forget a reporter

In training camp last summer, Campbell was trying to talk about the tone he wanted to set with the Lions. As he discussed his background with the Miami Dolphins, The Athletic’s Colton Pouncy had an unfortunately-timed mishap — an alarm went off on his phone.

While laughing, Campbell jokingly told Pouncy he’d “remember” him:

The biting of the kneecaps

At the time, many people in the football world understandably made fun of Dan Campbell’s introductory press conference in Detroit. Saying his team would “bite a kneecap” off opponents seemed to veer too much into Football Guy territory.

With the Lions now respectable, it’s evident Campbell was talking about the mentality his team would have. Still, this is the classic moment that kicked everything off:

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