Detroit Lions: Jim Caldwell might be safe
By Mike Payton
If you would have asked me a few weeks ago if I thought Jim Caldwell had a chance to remain the Detroit Lions head coach, my answer would have been a resounding no.
Even on Christmas day as I talked to my brother about the situation, my answer was still a no. After the Lions win over the San Francisco 49ers this past Sunday, I took a real hard look at things and now I’m not so sure anymore. This isn’t a case of the same old Lions and their unyielding loyalty to head coaches and front office personnel, It goes much deeper than that.
The fact of the matter is that the 2015 season is a lost one in terms of playoff hopes and championship dreams. But there is an awful lot to take away from this year. After a 1-7 start that included embarrassing losses to the Cardinals, Vikings and Chiefs, all was lost. The players had clearly given up on the season and a waiting game began for the termination of Jim Caldwell and the entire front office.
Out of nowhere the Lions turned things around in a way that’s actually quite shocking. A few things stood out to me. These few things I speak of are the basis to why Caldwell and company may not be going anywhere.
New GM’s decision
For weeks I’ve had it in my head that the Lions would dismiss Caldwell first thing on the morning of January 4th. I’ve said that on the air, in print and to just about everyone that’s asked me. This morning Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press put out an article that stated that the Lions would let their new GM make the call on Caldwell once they’ve appointed one.
This is good news for Jim Caldwell as he will have a chance to be heard and make a case for his job. A winning record over the course of two seasons and a playoff berth may be all he needs to say. Of course things could go in a completely different direction and the new GM could already have a plan in mind and simply drop Caldwell without a hearing.
But here’s something Caldwell can bring to the bank with him if he gets a sit down.
Second half turnaround
The season is over. So in the end none of this matters in the grand scheme unless you use words like momentum. Since coming home from London the Lions have been one of the hottest teams around. I know it seems weird to say that, But it’s partly true. Especially when you consider that the Lions have the best second half record in the NFC North at 5-2 since week 10.
In that time the Lions have knocked off the Packers in Green Bay for the first time since 1991, won big on Thanksgiving day and even won in the Superdome for the first time since the 90’s. Of course there was the hail mary and whatever that game against the Rams was. But all in all, it was a pretty impressive stretch by the Lions.
Caldwell’s coordinators may also be what keeps him from falling on his own sword.
Cooter and Austin
Oct 28, 2015; Chandler
Why did the Lions do better than their NFC North counter parts in the second half of the season? It’s because of these two guys.
Jim Bob Cooter has drastically changed this offense into something the Lions can build on in the future. Just take a look at the numbers that Stafford has put up.
There’s definitely a clear improvement there. Under Lombardi the narrative was “are the Lions planning on trading Stafford?” Under Cooter it’s turned into “Stafford is having a great year.” What stands out the most about these numbers is that they tower over the numbers of all three of the other NFC North QB’s in that time period. Take a look.
That’s not bad. Altogether the Lions offense has gone from averaging 19.8 points per game under Lombardi to 26.4 points per game under Cooter. The Lions also have the leagues number one red zone offense. If anything, old Jim Bob has made a pretty good case for himself to stay. Even if Caldwell doesn’t.
Austin didn’t get out to such a great start after leading the Lions to the leagues second ranked defense only a year ago. But what Austin has managed to do is turn things around drastically in the second half of the season. Going into week ten, the Lions were allowing a staggering 30.6 points per game. There was no way that Austin was going to get a head coaching job anymore. Still probably won’t.
But in the second half of the season all of that changed. The Lions have taken that 30.6 and turned it into a healthy 19.2 points allowed per game. Which is the best in the NFC North in front of the Packers 19.4, the Bears 19.8 and the Vikings 21.4.
The rapport that Austin has with rising stars like DeAndre Levy, Darius Slay and Ezekiel Ansah plus the turnaround makes a pretty good case for Austin to stay. Like Cooter, even if Caldwell is gone.
The team wants him to stay
By all accounts it appears the team wants this whole staff to stay if at all possible. You must commend Caldwell for getting this team to buy back into the culture after they had so clearly given up after such a horrible start. The team trusts Caldwell and believes in his message. They also believe in the coordinators and have publicly said they hope they stick around.
This may be the only reference Caldwell needs to keep his job. It’s certainly the most glowing of them all. Only time will tell from here. If the Detroit Lions go ahead and end the season with a three game winning streak and a win on the road against an NFC North rival, there’s a good chance Caldwell is here to stay.
What do you think Lions fans?