Throughout the Browns' search for a new head coach, ClevelandBrowns.com will break down the candidates after their interview with the team is complete. It continues today with a look at Dan Campbell, who has worked closely with Saints head coach Sean Payton over the past three seasons.
1. Campbell's 11-year playing career came to an end in 2009. Four games into the 2015 season, he was a head coach, taking over on an interim basis for the fired Joe Philbin. Campbell, then the Dolphins' tight ends coach, was put in a tough spot, and it wasn't always easy, but he kept the boat afloat while leading the team to a 5-7 record under his watch. The Dolphins won their first two games under Campbell, scoring 38 points in a rout of the Titans and following it up with 44 in a win over the Texans. The most impressive effort came in the regular season finale, when the Dolphins prevented the Patriots from nabbing the No. 1 seed in the playoffs in an upset, 20-10 victory. Campbell interviewed for the full-time job, but the Dolphins opted to hire Adam Gase.
2. The experience, Campbell has said in interviews over the past three years, was invaluable. In an interview with The Palm Beach Post, Campbell detailed how the experience has changed his approach as a position coach. "As a position coach, you don't know all the ins and out and whats and whys, but when you're the head coach, you get exposed to every bit of that. It only helps you," he said. "So to come back and be a position coach for the Saints, it allows you to look at the game a different way and you want to coach to help the head coach. In your head, you can put yourself in his seat and go, 'Ah, I understand why he's doing that.' … "I don't care who you are, if you talk to any first-time head coach, they can say all they want but they don't know what they're getting into. There's little things always popping up. I bet half of them didn't realize you have to worry about the seating chart on the plane. You know what I mean?"
3. In his three seasons with the Saints, Campbell has led a position group that has seen a different player emerge as the full-time starter each year. This season, veteran Ben Watson led the way with 35 catches for 400 yards and two touchdowns. Campbell played a pivotal role in the development of another Saints tight end, Dan Arnold, who was a previously undrafted wide receiver out of Wisconsin-Platteville. Arnold finished the season with 12 catches for 150 yards. Arnold called Campbell "one of the best coaches in the NFL," adding "honestly, I don't think I would be here if it wasn't for Dan Campbell."
4. Campbell broke into coaching one year after his 11-year playing career came to an end. According to an NFL.com feature, Campbell visited his alma mater, Texas A&M, in spring 2010 to observe coach Mike Sherman and ultimately stayed there for a while, living in an RV off campus. Campbell initially didn't want to become a coach after his playing days came to a close, but he quickly caught the bug. "I remember at the end of my playing career, after I wasn't sure if coaching was the right choice, thinking, 'You've got your whole life ahead of you. What are you going to do with it? What do you love? And it was football,'" he said.
5. A third-round pick out of Texas A&M, Campbell began his NFL career with the Giants and appeared in all but four games in his first four seasons. Campbell, who sported long, flowing blonde hair during his playing days, made his mark as a blocker but proved to be a valuable pass-catcher when necessary. Three of his eight receptions in 2000 went for touchdowns, and he caught more than 20 passes in back-to-back seasons in 2002 and 2003. His most productive year as a receiver came in 2006 with the Lions, when he notched 21 receptions for 308 yards and four touchdowns. Campbell played for Payton in his final NFL season (2009) but did not appear in any games.