If it hasn’t been said before, I’m just going to say that I don’t believe Jim Caldwell is a very good coach. Quite the contrary in fact, as I think he’s probably the worst coach in the NFL now that Jim Tomsula and Joe Philbin were fired. The Detroit Lions players, however, would disagree with me as would newly hired general manager Bob Quinn. The anti-Lions media members would, of course, chalk this up as either mismanagement by the Detroit Lions or meddling by the owners (Sell the team now! They’ll cry). Personally, I’m disappointed with the hire, but after watching the head coaching market take shape, I understand it. Frustrated with it, but understanding of it, like getting an expensive speeding ticket when I know I was going 100 in a 70.
Like the season Jim Caldwell was hired in the first place, the head coaching market was dry right from the get go. Sure, there were a couple of lively candidates, but for the most part it was internal hires or fashionable offensive coaching hires. Not a single college coach was brought up to coach in the NFL this season, in fact I can’t even remember seeing one interview. It’s a bad year to need a head coach is what I’m saying. So while it’s frustrating to see Jim Caldwell returning to the Detroit Lions for what will likely be another year of muddling through games the talent on the roster should steamroll, I get it.
Fans quickly grew frustrated as Black Monday passed and Caldwell was still employed. Then there was interview after interview for other teams. Teryl Austin, Detroit’s rising defensive coordinator, was invited to interview for five teams. This was terrifying for Detroit Lions fans, who saw Jim Caldwell hire a bad special teams coach and terrible offensive coordinator during his tenure and would hate to see him take another crack on the defensive side of the ball. Still, Teryl Austin remains a coordinator only and not a head coach, which may have played a part in Jim Caldwell’s retention.
It was a mistake to retain Jim Caldwell. I find myself agreeing with such literary luminaries as Drewsh on that front, though the reasoning is completely different for me. Keeping Caldwell is a mistake because pretty much anyone would probably be better, but it’s a safe mistake because nobody out there is definitely better. The biggest name on the market was Hue Jackson, known as much for his Schwartz like collapse in his single season as Raiders head coach as he was for leading them to .500. After him? Washed out Josh McDaniels (Who has only generated interest from one other team) and Matt Patricia, who is a personal favorite but generated almost no buzz from teams as being ready.
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So why did Bob Quinn make this mistake? Well, many fans were upset to learn that he had spoken with the embattled head coach a whole four times over the past week and not fired him. For me, this was simply a sign of due diligence, and a good sign that things are changing in Allen Park. The new general manager is setting a philosophy in place, taking real steps to build a team, and part of that is ensuring your head coach is on board. He could hire a new coach from a barren market, but without a huge stroke of luck does it really help the team? I’m doubtful that Bob Quinn is seriously considering Jim Caldwell the coach that will bring the Detroit Lions to the promised land, but it’s possible he’s simply interviewing him knowing that that coach isn’t out there and he needs someone to to act as a foreman while building the foundation for the team.
I doubt there are many that would argue that Jim Caldwell would fit that role. He’s loved by ownership, but more importantly he’s idolized by his players. Not just the occasional fringe player (Like backup QB Dan Orlovsky), but by premiere players, veterans, free agents, and rookies alike. If Bob Quinn is actually implementing a new philosophy for the team, he’ll need the players and coaches alike to buy in. Having a coach that already has the locker room could go a long way to paving the way for Quinn’s philosophy.
As someone who isn’t thrilled to see Jim Caldwell return, I can at least see the hiring for what it is. It’s a tactical risk to keep the locker room engaged and shift their loyalties from their coach alone to their coach by extension of their team’s goals. Fire Jim Caldwell now, for some lower tier coach in a poor market, along with the coaching staff churning that comes with it, and you risk having players sell on your team. It isn’t about keeping Calvin Johnson, he’s going to make his choice regardless of what the team does, it’s about keeping Ezekiel Ansah, Darius Slay, Larry Warford, and other core players bought into the team and ready to extend. It’s about building on the momentum your roster helped create to end out 2015, making good on the development on your still a few years removed from 30 quarterback. It’s about building a winning team, not today, unfortunately not 2016, but consistently. Every year. Forever. And it is really, really going to be painful and frustrating until it takes. Prepare for patience, Lions fans.
What are your thoughts of the Detroit Lions retaining Jim Caldwell? Do you agree with me that it’s a mistake, but and understandable one? Are you glad they brought him back? Or have you already burned pictures of him in effigy while researching Jacksonville Jaguar jersies? Let us know in the comments or get ahold of me on Twitter @MathBomb or contact us @SideLionReport!