Why Lions extended Dan Campbell and GM Brad Holmes

Dan Campbell, GM Brad Holmes earn contract extensions for Lions (0:42)

Coach Dan Campbell and GM Brad Holmes earn new contracts after leading the Lions to the NFC Championship Game. (0:42)

DETROIT -- Dan Campbell and Brad Holmes have transformed the Detroit Lions from laughingstock franchise to Super Bowl contenders in just three seasons.

That's how well Detroit's coach and general manager have worked together. And Thursday, amid the yearly free agency rush, they were rewarded with contract extensions that will keep them together through the 2027 season.

Under their leadership, the Lions' turnaround has been remarkable, culminating, so far, last season when Detroit claimed its first division title in three decades and won its first postseason games since 1991 before falling one game shy of reaching the franchise's first-ever Super Bowl.

The Lions, who began Campbell and Holmes' tenure with a 3-13-1 record in 2021, last season won two playoff games in a single postseason for the first time since 1957 and tied the franchise record for most wins in a season with 12 (12-5).

Despite the team's success, Holmes said he and Campbell are only getting started, and that they are focused on building a perennial contender in Detroit.

"I don't want anybody to think that this was a one-shot, Cinderella, magical journey that just happened," Holmes said at his end-of-season press conference.

"No, it's real. This is exactly what was supposed to happen, and I understand that based on history, from what's happened in the past. I understand if you have a season like this, it's easy to feel like this was kind of a one-shot, magical, lucky, cute story. Which I'm tired of hearing. It was none of that."

Why did Detroit do the deals now?

Both men have earned their extensions. There was no reason to wait.

The extensions show Lions ownership is pleased with the jobs Campbell and Holmes are doing and remains committed to their vision of sustaining long-term success in Detroit.

"We are thrilled to have Brad and Dan under contract for the next four seasons," Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp said in a statement. "They have been the driving force behind the rebuild of our football team and the success that we have enjoyed. The continuity they provide for our football program will continue to be the key to our future success on the field."

Holmes' original deal took him through the 2025 season. Campbell's contract was set to expire after 2026.

"I think it really speaks to the stability and how much confidence Sheila has in Dan and Brad," Lions special teams ace and new NFL Players' Association president Jalen Reeves-Maybin said. "I think it's dope for sure that they get a little bit richer."

What do these extensions mean for Campbell, Holmes and the Lions?

They mean their partnership will continue, and they give the Lions stability at the most important leadership positions.

Under Campbell and Holmes, the Lions have gone from a 3-13-1 record in 2021, to 9-8 in 2022, to 12-5 last season. With them in place, the hope is that the Lions will continue their upward trajectory.

"Every move that me and Dan make, it has been made to sustain what we are building," Holmes said during his end-of-the-year press conference. "Every single move. And I will say every single move we make and every single move we do not make, is to sustain what we have been building.

"That's why we're here. We're bringing this to normalize what this is right now, especially put all the efforts into normalizing this. But we love where we're at. This was to be expected. It's the standard. We love the window that we're in. We just got finished with Year 3. We're still building. We'll stick to our plan."

Before they were hired days apart from each other, Campbell and Holmes did not know each other personally, but one phone call immediately bonded them. Since then, they have been an aligned unit.

"We're very similar in the way that we view players, view a team, how we want to build it," Campbell said of Holmes in January. "And I have things and I have a certain vision and Brad has helped me by the type of players we acquire and what we look for, I mean he's given me that. He's helped me. The GM and head coach have to have a healthy relationship and it starts with ownership, but then that's the next most important by far. And if you don't have that, you just can't sustain success."

Where have Campbell and Holmes been most successful?

Campbell has earned the respect and trust of his team. An 11-year pro himself, he understands what his players go through -- physically and mentally -- throughout the course of a grueling season. Campbell's intelligence, preparation and ability to teach and motivate are also characteristics that have resonated with his players.

"We all respect him because he tells us how it is and he's sat in our seats before and understands on day 15 of training camp that we're tired and it's hard and we know he gets it, but at the same time he's going to push us," Lions QB Jared Goff said of Campbell in January. "And when a guy that knows it is still pushing you, you kind of trust that a bit more. And yeah, it's a good way to be as a head coach and it helps us."

That trust ensures even through a number of questionable in-game decisions Campbell has made as coach, most notably on key fourth downs in the Lions' NFC Championship Game defeat to the San Francisco 49ers. Campbell became a national punching bag after Detroit blew a 17-point lead to lose. But players like All-Pro offensive lineman Penei Sewell came to his defense, telling ESPN in February that he has Campbell's back "til' the end" and that "if he tells me to jump off a cliff with him, I'm right next to him."

Holmes has been the brains identifying the foundational pieces on the Lions' roster. He has an eye for finding young talent, notably through the draft, and has hit big on key picks such as Sewell (selected 7th overall in 2021), Amon-Ra St. Brown (fourth-round selection in 2021), Alim McNeill (third-round selection in 2021), Aidan Hutchinson (second overall pick in 2022), Sam LaPorta (second-round pick in 2023), Jahmyr Gibbs (12th overall pick in 2023), Jameson Williams (drafted 12th overall in 2022) and Brian Branch (second-round pick in 2023), who have been important contributors to the team's turnaround.

St. Brown and Sewell became the first two Lions offensive players to make AP First-Team All-Pro since 1997, while Gibbs and LaPorta were both AP award finalists for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Holmes is also responsible for bringing Goff to Detroit. Holmes, who played a pivotal role in drafting Goff during his time as director of scouting with the Los Angeles Rams, traded with LA to acquire the 2016 No. 1 overall pick in exchange for longtime Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. Though Stafford led the Rams to a Super Bowl in Year 1, Goff has revitalized his career in Detroit and last season became the third quarterback in Lions history to record multiple playoff wins.

What are the biggest challenges ahead?

Historically, the Lions have not spent much time in the national spotlight. But that could change after last season's success, which has heightened the expectations in and for Detroit. How Campbell and Holmes will deal with the pressure of being one of the hunted teams in the NFL will be interesting to watch.

Holmes must also continue to find players to improve a developing defense that had the sixth-worst pass rush win rate and the second-worst run stop win rate in the NFL. Campbell also must make better late-game coaching decisions, particularly in critical fourth-down situations. In the NFC Championship Game against San Francisco, where the Lions lost 34-31, he went for two failed attempts on fourth down in the second half.

The long-term challenge will be for Detroit to keep improving and not to just have one good season.