The Detroit Lions are coming off a 9-7 season with another first-round exit from the playoffs. The small taste of success has left a lot to be desired for a team that hasn’t won in the postseason since 1991. Current Lions coach Jim Caldwell certainly has the NFL pedigree, but history can only take him so far.
With the draft and free agency yielding a potential playoff-worthy Lions roster, the pressure falls back on a head coach who has no more excuses. So, with this all being said, is this a make-or-break season for Caldwell?
Well, let’s consider some factors as to why the fourth-year coach could stick around:
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Multiple Super Bowl appearances
Caldwell has coached as either an offensive coordinator, assistant head coach or a full head coach in three different Super Bowls. Two with the Indianapolis Colts (XLI and XLIV) and another while with the Baltimore Ravens (XLVII). His only appearance as a head coach resulted in a loss in Super Bowl XLIV.
Caldwell was fortunate enough to inherit Peyton Manning in his prime back in 2009 for his first coaching gig.
In his inaugural season as the head coach for Indianapolis Colts, he and Manning were able to win the AFC Championship and led the franchise to Super Bowl XLIV. He became the first NFL coach to win his first 14 games and just the fifth rookie head coach to reach the big game.
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Not only that, he is just one of four head coaches to generate 24 or more regular-season wins and a Super Bowl berth in their first two years.
The Lions on the other hand, have had six head coaches since 2000. It’s not like playoff-winning head coaches are in a surplus. Most times, you are forced to take a shot on a coordinator that shows promise or a head coach who fell out of favor with their respective team.
When you have a head coach who has at least been to the big game, you would be more-than-likely willing to give him an extended look.
Jeff Fisher, who was recently let go mid-season by the Los Angeles Rams, was also a Super Bowl winning coach. It’s not often a head coach can go below .500 for four straight years like he did without getting the axe (would’ve been five if he hadn’t been fired three games before the conclusion of the 2016 season).
Will Caldwell be given the same tenure due to his previous accomplishments? It seems to be the standard in the NFL.
He’s had a majority of winning seasons in Detroit
If the goal is to win regular season games, he’s had success. In his three seasons with Detroit, he’s posted an 11-5 record in 2014 and a 9-7 record in 2016. His debut 2014 season in Detroit was his third 10-win season of his coaching career. Overall, Caldwell boasts a 53-43 (.552) regular-season record in six total seasons as a head coach, 27-21 while coaching the Lions.
How could you put your coach at fault when he’s winning a majority of games? The precedent should be that if you win, you can stay.
Without a playoff win, a winning record in the regular season is somewhat arbitrary. Just ask the Cincinnati Bengals, who notoriously have had great regular seasons but have yet to win a playoff game under longtime coach, Marvin Lewis. Lewis has been the head coach with the Bengals for the past 14 years. As a fan, you would hope the Fords don’t let another 11 years drag on without a playoff win.
When coach shopping, you really have to roll the dice. You study for days who the most suitable is to coach your team. But you really cannot predict greatness, reminding everyone that Bill Belichick used to be the head coach of the Cleveland Browns and only went above .500 once in five seasons. How could someone predict he would eventually build a five-time Super Bowl-winning dynasty with the Patriots? So, as far as anyone is concerned, there isn’t an exact science to find such a coach. And when you’re considering a head coach, you really should ask yourself if there’s a better coach out there.
So, why shouldn’t the Lions keep him?
Well, the bottom line is you hire a coach with the expectation of winning championships. First-round exits don’t bode well for fans who desire more. And where there seemed to be questionable calls this season, like going for an onside kick when the Lions had all three timeouts and 2:53 left on the clock, must’ve left fans with a bad taste in their mouth. This all being said, Jim we’ll be on a short leash with Lions fans this season and you can bet that they’ll be calling for his firing if he fails to make the playoffs this season.
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