Is Hard Knocks Who the Lions Really Are?

We’re living in a world where it can be difficult to distinguish between reality and make-believe. Where many people are almost “online” all the time, connected to The Great Interweb or something else that attaches them to a virtual world that isn’t always true.

Television shows like HBO’s popular “Hard Knocks” are immersive, “reality” shows that are purported to give the viewer a glimpse behind the scenes, inside the meetings of the National Football League.

The Detroit Lions were the team selected for this season’s “Hard Knocks” series. But is the representation of the team we saw on the screen the real deal? Many viewers and NFL experts were enamored with the Lions after the series aired.

Does is it reality? Does it matter? Will it translate to success on the field?

The Dan Campbell Archetype

Lions coach Dan Campbell is a man’s man. He’s big, lined with muscles, and he speaks in the tough-guy, no-nonsense manner that has a tendency to excite young men wearing shoulder pads.

In “Hard Knocks,” Campbell is a major star, a central figure guiding a culture change for a franchise that’s seen more tough times than we can recount here. The Lions are not snake-bit. That would be an insult to snakes. The Lions are a deeply disturbed franchise whose fortunes have tortured their fans for decades. Decades, I say.

Campbell’s “we’re going to bite their knee caps” mantra in describing the type of football team he wants, is perfect for soundbites. But, in his first season, the Lions allowed 467 points, the second-most in professional football. They were bad against the run, they were bad against the pass. A lot of work needs to be done to fix that problem.

In Detroit’s first two games of season two in the Campbell Era, opponents have scored 38 and 27 points. The Lions managed to defeat Washington on Sunday, and the defense held up fairly well despite injuries. The D line was especially effective, recording five sacks, three by rookie Aidan Hutchinson, a team rookie record.

If Campbell is to lead the Lions to their first playoff win since the Wayne Fontes days (yes, really), he will need to translate “rah rah” into “win win.”

Aidan Hutchinson the Real Deal?

In just two NFL games, Michigan hometown hero Aidan Hutchinson is showing he’s a force. In Sunday’s win over the Washington Commanders, Hutchinson set a Lions rookie record with three sacks. He nearly had a few more. His presence on the line of scrimmage is going to force Detroit’s opponents to scheme block him, which will only make the Lions pass rush better.

Hutchinson was the breakout star of the HBO series, with his dance moves and infectious, youthful attitude. The Lions haven’t had this type of personality join the team in ages, if ever. Maybe not since the wild, crazy players that wore the Lions uniform in the 1960s.

Hutchinson jersey’s will fly off store shelves this season and in the future. The story is irresistible: Michigan kid grows up to star at U of M, takes Wolverines to college playoff championship, and is drafted in first round by Detroit. As long as this guy stays healthy, his heart and enthusiasm will combine with his crazy talent to make him the best pass rusher the Lions have seen since Robert Porcher.

Will the Lions take the hype of Hard Knocks and deliver a winning season? Or dare we dream of a playoff spot? So far, in two games this season, the team looks like a different animal. One that not even HBO could contain.