Detroit Lions to Jim Caldwell: 9-7 is no longer the goal

Detroit Lions. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Detroit Lions. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

By parting ways with their head coach after two consecutive winning seasons, one thing is certain: the Detroit Lions are now setting their sights higher.

Sometime during the Lions’ season-ending win over Green Bay on Sunday, I received the following text from my older brother:

"“Who would have thought the Lions would ever be in position to fire a coach who went 9-7?”"

It’s hard to always read into the tone of a text message, but I think he sent it with equal parts snark and genuine astonishment. The termination of Jim Caldwell’s tenure in Detroit definitely has a different feel than that of previously-fired Lions coaches in my lifetime.

  • Jim Schwartz’s final Lions team blew fourth quarter leads in six of his last seven games in charge.
  • Rod Marinelli had to go 0-16 before getting the axe at the end of 2008.
  • Marty Mornhinweg was shown the door after winning only five games in two years.
  • Steve Mariucci had fewer wins in his best season than Caldwell in his worst.
  • Wayne Fontes’s late-season magic eventually ran out, culminating in a 5-11 record (and a pink slip) in 1996.

On Monday, the Lions fired Jim Caldwell after two consecutive winning seasons.

Having never seen the Lions win a playoff game (I was too young in 91/92), this is an unfamiliar message for me to hear, but an encouraging one. With this move, Bob Quinn is sending a very clear message to the Detroit Lions and their fans. 9-7 is no longer the goal. We’re better than this. 

For the past two decades, sneaking into the playoffs with nine or ten wins has been the best case scenario. Bob Quinn is staking his legacy in Detroit under the presumption that this is no longer true. Nine wins now qualifies as a disappointment.

Caldwell’s contributions, Quinn’s vision

Jim Caldwell deserves a lot of credit for the current position of relative stability that the franchise enjoys. He posted a winning record in three of his four years in Detroit, along with two playoff appearances. The 11 win season in 2014 is the team’s high-water mark for the past twenty five years.

Under Caldwell’s watch, Matthew Stafford has evolved from a talented but streaky gunslinger. He’s become a borderline Top 5 quarterback in the league (yes, Top 5. Right now, I’d only take Brady, Rodgers, Brees, and Wilson over him), and is only now entering his prime. This is even more impressive considering how bad the rushing attack has been.

To fire a coach with Caldwell’s track record, Bob Quinn is saying he thinks it can be much better, and soon. The implicit message: We’re good enough to win 11 or 12 games and compete for banners and rings. Immediately. 

That’s a bold statement, but one that has to excite Lions fans moving forward.

Next: Why Derrius Guice is the perfect fit for the Motor City

Best parts about the season finale

  • Season sweep over Green Bay. I’ll admit it, that was easily the worst lineup that Green Bay has sent out against the Lions in my lifetime. Doesn’t matter, going 2-0 against the Packers has been rare.
  • Kenny GolladayThis guy is a future star. Yet another 40+ yard touchdown reception, and yet another gorgeous catch along the sidelines. Golladay’s greatness came in explosive bursts this year, and he still has a TON of room to improve. This guy is going to be something to watch.
  • The 2 Point Conversion to StaffordI know it had no bearing on the outcome of the game or the season, but that was awesome.
  • Sending Caldwell out with a win. Caldwell definitely deserved to finish out on a high note, so it was fitting that the players stayed motivated and put on a show in his last game.