The Detroit Lions finished the season with a winning record, but firing head coach Jim Caldwell sends a message that expectations are much higher.
The season for the Detroit Lions technically ended this weekend with a 35-11 win and season sweep of the Green Bay Packers – the team’s first sweep since 1991. But their season’s fate was sealed a week earlier with a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Coincidentally, Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell’s fate was sealed after last week’s loss as well. It officially knocked the team out of the playoffs and ensured a season with single-digit victories. Of note, it cemented the season outcome as mediocre.
Going back to the offseason, Detroit Lions team president Rod Wood said of playoff banners, “I’m certainly setting my sights on winning divisions and championships, not just making the playoffs.” Goal set. Expectations conveyed. Results…not attained.
"“Caldwell has the highest regular-season winning percentage (.563) of any Lions coach in the Super Bowl era,” Birkett wrote. “But he has failed to win several meaningful late-season games since Quinn took over as general manager in January of 2016.”"
Wood and Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn confirmed that those higher expectations still exist and sent a consistent message by relieving Caldwell of his duties on Monday. Just barely delivering a winning season isn’t enough. It used to be a great season for the Lions if they had more victories than losses and were on the playoff bubble. Not anymore.
Caldwell may be a great person with a smart football mind. He may have been a part of multiple Super Bowl teams as a coordinator and head coach. But he hasn’t taken this Lions team over the hump. He’s accomplished something great for this team; he brought them out of the perennial losing seasons without playoff appearances.
Four years of being on the cusp of making noise in the playoffs may be a great improvement when compared to the previous 25 years for this franchise. But now the expectations are higher. Just a winning season isn’t enough. And it’s great to be able to say that.
Thank you, Caldwell, for your contributions and for helping to get this team past the continual losing seasons. Thank you to Lions owner Martha Ford for changing the direction of this team in 2015 by changing general managers and bringing in Quinn. Thank you to Wood for verbalizing those expectations this past offseason.
It has been a season with ups and downs. One where the Lions have failed to perform to their full capabilities and potential. The ownership and leadership can see this as well. The team’s next coach will be hired to push them over the hump to win the division, a playoff game, a Super Bowl. The Lions chances to achieve those goals are getting more and more realistic.