Jim Caldwell Should Already Be On The Hot Seat In Detroit
By Scott McMahon
Jim Caldwell has been the Lions head coach for less than a week, so why should he be worried about losing his job?
You all know my thoughts on the matter if you read my article from Monday; some agree and some disagree with my opinions on Caldwell’s background lending itself to success as an NFL coach. But one thing that just about everyone has agreed upon throughout the offseason has been that the Lions job was far and away the best available head coaching job.
It’s not too hard to back up this claim. The offense is a second wide receiver and a quarterback with fourth quarter confidence away from being one of the best in the NFL. If the offensive line can continue to play well—specifically 2013 rookies Larry Warford and LaAdrian Waddle—Matthew Stafford won’t have too much to worry about in the pocket next season. Add in the obvious talent of Calvin Johnson and the tag team of Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, and the Lions could be among the league’s highest-scoring teams in 2014.
Defensively, the talent is there. The defensive line and linebackers are set for a while, and is coming off of a stellar 2013, in which the unit ranked in the upper quarter of NFL teams in run defense. With a couple of additions to the secondary and linebacking corps through the draft and free agency, a below-average pass defense could be a great complement to a top-tier rush defense.
With all of those pieces in place, how can Caldwell lose? A new coach hasn’t stepped into a situation as fortunate as this one since… well, Jim Caldwell with the 2009 Colts following Tony Dungy’s retirement.
So in my opinion, the Lions faithful and I shouldn’t be shocked when the team starts out strong next year, much like they did in 2013. And it shouldn’t be a surprise when the Lions clinch a playoff berth and possibly win the NFC North. The pieces are almost all there, so procuring a new coach should be the last major step toward overcoming their allergies for December and January football… right?
The answer here should be a resounding yes, and the Lions brass should expect to see these results immediately.
With Caldwell’s experience—whether or not it’s legitimate for an NFL head coaching job—and the discipline that the front office expects him to bring to the Lions, there is absolutely no reason why the Lions shouldn’t make the playoffs in 2014. If the front office saw Jim Schwartz as the responsible party in the Lions’ 2013 collapse, they clearly had the expectations—and rightfully so—that the 2013 team was ready for the playoffs, and should have easily won the division. So if Caldwell can’t do in 2014 what Schwartz failed to do in 2013 with essentially the same team, why should Caldwell be kept around?
Let me be clear: I’m not advocating firing Caldwell if the Lions fail to reach the playoffs, unless the season is so horrendously bad that shades of 2008 begin to appear. The point I am making is that the Lions front office sees the coaching staff as the biggest roadblock toward reaching the playoffs in the near future. It’s not Stafford—he just got a substantial contract extension. It would take something extraordinary to force him out of Detroit, and is probably the last thing that Lions execs would want to do at this point.
So the eyes of a franchise are upon Jim Caldwell and his staff. If he can’t bring the Lions to the playoffs in his first two seasons at the helm, he’s clearly not the right man for the job. Depending on how the season goes, that number could be down to one season.
If the head coaching position is so important to the Lions brass, then Caldwell’s leash will be short. The front office has chosen Caldwell to be the solution to their playoff quandary, and with the team that he inherits, Lions execs shouldn’t have to wait to long to see if their choice has panned out.