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NFL Notebook

Detroit names former Lions player and Saints assistant Dan Campbell as coach

Dan Campbell went 5-7 as interim head coach of the Dolphins to finish the 2015 season, his only head coaching experience.
Dan Campbell went 5-7 as interim head coach of the Dolphins to finish the 2015 season, his only head coaching experience.Mark Zaleski

The Detroit Lions landed the coach they say they coveted from the start of their search, agreeing to terms with Dan Campbell.

The Lions announced the agreement with the New Orleans Saints tight ends coach on Wednesday, one day after formally introducing Brad Holmes as their general manager. Campbell signed a six-year contract, according to a person familiar with the situation who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because terms of the deal were not released.

“With more than 20 years of experience as both a coach and player in the National Football League, Dan knows the rigors of professional football and what it takes to be successful,” team owner Sheila Ford Hamp said in a statement. “He will help promote the culture we want to establish across our organization, while also bringing with him high energy, a respect for the game and an identity with which everyone can align themselves.”

While Detroit did make Holmes one of four Black general managers in the NFL and team president Rod Wood thanked Rod Graves of the Fritz Pollard Alliance on Tuesday, the franchise followed a league-wide trend of hiring white head coaches. The Lions were one of seven teams looking for a head coach during this hiring cycle and so far only the New York Jets did not pick a white man. The Jets hired Robert Saleh, the son of Lebanese parents.

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Philadelphia and Houston, meanwhile, still have an opening for a head coach. The NFL has just four minority coaches: Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin, Washington’s Ron Rivera, Miami’s Brian Flores, and Saleh, who is the first Muslim American coach in the league.

“The issue is not in the sufficiency of numbers; the problem is in the limited number of leadership opportunities given,” said Graves, executive director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which champions diversity in the NFL. “The disparity in opportunities is mind-boggling. It is unfortunate that the performances of coordinators like Eric Bieniemy, Todd Bowles, Byron Leftwich, Leslie Frasier, and Joe Woods may not meet what appears as ‘ever-evolving standards’ for becoming a Black head coach in the NFL.”

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The 44-year-old Campbell, who also had the title of assistant head coach with the Saints, has 11 years of experience in the NFL as a coach and 11 as a player. He was 5-7 as interim coach of the Miami Dolphins in 2015.

Campbell, who played for the Lions from 2006 to 2008, is the first former player to lead the franchise since Hall of Famer and two-time NFL champion Joe Schmidt was Detroit’s coach from 1967-72.

“Dan’s passion for this opportunity was evident throughout our interview process,” Wood said. “When we began the search for a head coach, it was imperative that we find the right leader who values our commitment to building a winning culture based on organizational alignment and collaboration. The leadership Dan has exemplified throughout his football career has prepared him for this next step, and we are excited to support him as our new head coach.”

Hamp fired general manager Bob Quinn and coach Matt Patricia in November. Patricia, a former New England defensive coordinator, was 13-29-1 in two-plus seasons as a first-time NFL head coach. The Lions finished 5-11 last season — their 13th season with double-digit losses this century — and have only one playoff victory since winning the 1957 NFL title.

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Harbaugh: Ravens will stay grounded

Ravens coach John Harbaugh had a message for critics of Baltimore’s offense: the run-heavy attack built around Lamar Jackson is here to stay, and the team wants to lock up its star quarterback for many years to come.

“It goes back to the same criticism we’ve heard the last three years about not being the type of an offense or the type of a quarterback that some people want to see,” Harbaugh said during an end-of-season news conference. “They’re just going to have to live with it, because Lamar Jackson has won a lot of football games here and our offense has won us a lot of football games here, and we’re not apologizing for that for one second.”

Lamar Jackson remains a dynamic offensive presence.
Lamar Jackson remains a dynamic offensive presence.Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

Harbaugh, coming off his 13th season as the Ravens’ head coach and second with Jackson as the full-time quarterback, specifically cited criticism from NFL Network analysts Steve Smith, a former Baltimore wide receiver, and Kurt Warner, a Hall of Fame quarterback.

After Baltimore scored just three points in a divisional round playoff loss Saturday to the Buffalo Bills, Smith ripped the Ravens’ wide receiver route combinations as “elementary school” and said the team needed to move on from offensive coordinator Greg Roman. A couple of days before the game, Warner posted a video chiding the “simplicity” of the Ravens’ passing scheme for not doing enough to help Jackson.

“I disagree with Kurt and Steve on that,” said Harbaugh, who indicated at another point that Roman was set to return. “We have every route in football, and we have every route concept in football.”

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In two playoff games this season, including a 20-13 win over the Tennessee Titans, Jackson threw for a total of 341 yards, with no passing touchdowns and two interceptions, the second of which was returned 101 yards for a game-changing Buffalo touchdown in Baltimore’s 17-3 loss.

“We throw it less than most teams do because we run so well,” Harbaugh said. “Kurt would probably love to see us being a drop-back passing team that gets the ball out on time in a West-Coast type style or the ‘Greatest Show on Turf’-type style, but that’s not the offense that we run. And we’re not going to change our offense because it doesn’t fit his eye.”

What’s next for Mayfield?

Baker Mayfield checked every box for the Browns this season: he matured as a player, took them back to the playoffs, solidified himself as a leader. Cleveland’s long search for a franchise quarterback appears to be over.

“We’re very, very pleased with him,” general manager Andrew Berry said.

However, while praising Mayfield’s improvement and growth in his third season, Berry wouldn’t publicly comment on the team’s future plans with the 25-year-old. The Browns can pick up Mayfield’s fifth-year option this offseason and possibly sign him to a long-term extension.

“I don’t think that this is really the appropriate forum to really talk about those decisions,” Berry said during a Zoom call wrapping up the Browns’ season, which ended Sunday with a 22-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round. “That’s something that’s a little more personal to me, the player, and the agent.

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What does the future hold for Baker Mayfield?
What does the future hold for Baker Mayfield?Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

“What I can tell you is really I’d echo the comments I had last week with Baker. He did an excellent job this year, right? He led us to the first playoff appearance in eons. He got 12 wins, played winning football all year, developed a really strong relationship with [coach] Kevin [Stefanski] and the offensive staff and really grew before our eyes on a week-to-week basis both on and off the field. Look, we wouldn’t be where we were at the end of the season without his performance. He had a really strong season.”

The Browns have until May to pick up Mayfield’s fifth-year option, which is expected to be around $20 million and will be guaranteed under the collective bargaining agreement reached last year.

Mahomes’s condition improving

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes remained in the NFL’s concussion protocol, but practiced in a limited capacity, raising hopes that the reigning Super Bowl MVP can play in Sunday’s AFC title game against Buffalo. The Chiefs typically breeze through their midweek practice with little contact before ramping things up with their longest workout Thursday, and coach Andy Reid said afterward that fit perfectly with what Mahomes was able to do. “He looked good,” Reid said. “He’s in the protocol so there’s only certain things he can do, but he took all the snaps and he feels good. So, I mean, we’re just going to follow this protocol as close as we possibly can.” If all goes well, that could mean the Chiefs’ quarterback is cleared to participate more fully in practice Thursday or Friday … Buccaneers defensive tackle Vita Vea may be able to return for Sunday’s NFC Championship Game. Coach Bruce Arians said Vea, who’s been out with a fractured ankle since Week 5, looked good after participating in a walk-through. Vea was designated to return from injured reserve on Monday. Arians said it’s too early to tell if receiver Antonio Brown (knee) will play against the Packers. Brown is listed as day to day and did not practice Wednesday.