The NFL Honors saw a couple surprise winners of its awards on Thursday night, one of whom being Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski winning Coach of the Year for the second time in his career.
When the votes were counted, Stefanki beat out Houston Texans first-year head coach DeMeco Ryans by one vote. But the man in third place – a distant third place at that – was Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell, someone Lions players believe should’ve gotten the award after their historic season.
“I think he deserved it, man,” Lions star edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson told Fox News Digital while discussing his partnership with Bounty and their “Ultimate Wingman” promotion alongside his defensive teammate, Brian Branch. “We did some very historic things this year with our franchise.
“Although awards are good, he’s all of our Coach of the Year in our hearts.”
No Lions team has ever won 14 games in a single season until this year, as Campbell helped lead his squad to the NFC Championship Game, where they eventually fell to the San Francisco 49ers.
And you need to go back to 1993 to find the last time the Lions won their division. They went 12-5 this season to capture the NFC North and earn the No. 3 seed in the NFC.
While quarterback Jared Goff believes that Stefanski is a worthy recipient of the award, it’s hard not to pull for his own coach after this historic season.
“I don’t see why he wouldn’t [win],” Goff told Fox News after talking about his partnership with Jared Jewelry, where he said he’ll be gifting his entire offensive line with new Breitling watches following a great year. “I guess that award tends to go to a team that’s not expecting to, I don’t know, be as competitive. And when they are, or they have some injuries, and the coach kinda brings them through it, [he] ends up getting the award. I think we were expected to be pretty good, so it wasn’t a surprise.
“Stefanski’s a hell of a coach, but Dan’s my Coach of the Year. He’s done a hell of a job for us.”
No Lions coach has won the award since 1991, when Wayne Fontes was named Coach of the Year. It was the only other time the Lions had won 12 games in a single season.
Of course, Branch, the rookie out of Alabama, believes his first NFL head coach is the man who deserved to win it, too, but Branch gave a specific reason why.
“Just the fact that he made a promise to us. He kept his promise. We went far,” he explained. “He’s a great coach and a great human being.”
He may not have gotten the award for his efforts this season, but accolades are not something Campbell will be losing sleep over. The only trophy he wants is the Vince Lombardi, and since he took over the Lions’ job in 2021, that’s what he and GM Brad Holmes have worked tirelessly to get to with this young group of Lions.
Hutchinson felt that immediately when the team drafted him second overall in the 2022 NFL Draft, and even more so as they won a lot of games this past season.
“I just think Dan is very genuine,” he said. “What you see is what you get on TV. I think when you have that relatability of him being a player and him understanding how we’re feeling. Also, I think he attacks adversity very well. I think he’s not afraid of adversity, and that makes us fearless.”
Branch added: “He gives the same energy every day and he doesn’t switch it. That’s something you want in a head coach – they bring their best, and it makes you bring out your best.”
He may not have gotten it this year, but Campbell has the pieces in place to have another great season in 2024 – one where defending the NFC North title and trying to make another deep playoff run are atop the priority list.