Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
I am usually one of the more optimistic Detroit Lions fans around. I guess I take the notion that “we are due” as my version of “hope springs eternal,” but for the life of me, I can’t find any positive aspects or a silver lining in the hiring of Jim Caldwell.
Who knows? It may work out, and as a devoted Lions’ fan for a quarter century, I would give anything for it to work out, but things don’t usually work out for the better in Lionsland.
Perhaps I, like many Lions’ fans, put my eggs too much in Ken Whisenhunt’s basket. The ideas swimming in my head were echoed in the talking points across Lions’ fandom.
- He resurrected the careers of Philip Rivers and Kurt Warner, imagine what he could do with Matthew Stafford?
- He helped to take a San Diego Chargers team that was dead one month before the playoffs and get them into the divisional round.
- He took the Arizona Cardinals, a team with a history even worse than that of the Lions, to the Super Bowl and nearly won it all.
We all eagerly awaited the Chargers’ eventual ouster in the playoffs so we could finally hire Whis and begin the new regime. We speculated about planes going to San Diego, sitting in Detroit, in the air, etc. etc.
All that came to a crushing blow Monday evening when it was announced Whisenhunt was taking the Tennessee job. WHAT?!
Certainly Whisenhunt isn’t perfect, but he seemed to fit the Lions’ situation perfectly. He may have been the most sought-after candidate out there and the Lions had us believing this was the “best job available.”
Yet that notion was shot down repeatedly by the top candidates.
Bill O’Brien never considered Detroit, Lovie Smith couldn’t get to Tampa fast enough and Whisenhunt felt that the Titans’ terrible offense was a better option than Stafford, Megatron, and company. If this was truly “the” job, it stands to reason we would have gotten “the” coach.
None of us should be surprised by this. Not if you’ve been a Lions’ fan for a long period of time. The Detroit Lions have had a culture of losing for 60 years. Winning players and coaches come here and the atmosphere of two generations of losing infects them. They leave here and never make an impact anywhere else and head coaches never work in that same capacity again.
As I said, Caldwell may be a great hire. Time will tell. However he already has several strikes against him. He will come in knowing he was the fourth choice. Ownership and management will likely spin it that Caldwell was “always their first choice,” but fans know better. Players will also know that their coach was the fourth choice. That could make them rally around him, but I suspect when the chips fall again (as they do every year for the Lions), the players will give up much like they did in the Jim Schwartz era.
It just seems that in two to three years, we’ll be doing this all over again. That, again, should be no surprise. After all, the Detroit Lions have such a special kind of dysfunction that it should be trademarked.
I will support Caldwell and the Lions like always, and hope for the best. After a season of such promise went so wrong, it is perhaps fitting that the Detroit Lions can even find ways to lose in the off-season.