Remembering Marion Campbell: The Swamp Fox

When word came down that former Falcons head coach Marion Campbell had passed away I couldn't help but flashback to the late 80's when I was lucky enough to help produce "Swampy's" weekly coaches show. He was a joy to work with, even if he wasn't joyful about sitting in front of the cameras every Friday afternoon at the Falcons Suwanee training facility to tape the Marion Campbell Show. Marion didn't care much for anything that took away from coaching the game he loved. The extra responsibilities that came with the head coaching gig just didn't matter much to him. He was famous for saying, "Guys, don't make it too tough on me" as we started to tape the show--that is--after he threw out his chewing gum.

Marion Campbell was a throwback. I can't imagine him coaching today. Surface notebooks on the sidelines?-no thanks- Marion would prefer Polaroids and fishing string to review the previous series. Fancy headsets with their own digital frequencies? Nope-Marion would rather yell out the play.  When he was pacing the sidelines during his first stint as head man in Atlanta back in the 70's, NFL staffs rarely had more than a handful of assistant coaches. Now the assistants’ assistants have assistants. And even though he only won 17 games in parts of six years at the helm in Atlanta, Marion Campbell was a very good football coach. Let's face it---he didn't have much to work with under the Smiths. He had a guy named Molly running the ball in 1974. It didn't get much better in the 80's when the team was aging, while young talents like Chris Miller had yet to find their mojo.

Marion doesn't get much credit for grooming young talent. Why not? He helped develop the "Fearsome Foursome" in LA, but not before helping Norm Van Brocklin coach up Gary Larsen, Carl Eller and Jim Marshall in Minnesota. The "Purple People Eaters" wouldn't have swallowed quite as many quarterbacks if it weren't for coach Campbell. Falcons Hall-of-Fame defensive end Claude Humphrey spent a good portion of his induction speech thanking the man who taught him how to play the game, using techniques like the "head slap". Retired Falcons trainer Jerry Rhea told us that Campbell was a pioneer of the concussive slap since outlawed by the league.

"He was a good techniques coach." Rhea said. "He and Claude were good friends. Claude had hands the size of a phone book, so that technique (head slap) worked well for him. I hate to see Marion go. He was a good coach, good man and a good person."

Marion Campbell was a good person. I can attest to that. Who couldn't love a guy that passed out jellybeans to the office staff before the start of every day? Or a guy who thought that coaching was important, but not as important as spending time with his wife and kids? Maybe that's one of the reasons his son Scott, now with the Redskins, is one of the most successful pro player personnel men in the NFL. The Swamp Fox did things the right way and the NFL is better for it today.