Lions' Jim Caldwell on hot seat; extension reportedly only 1 year


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When should the Lions fire head coach Jim Caldwell? Free Press sports writers Dave Birkett and Carlos Monarrez argue about the situation and process moving forward, Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, the day after a 44-20 loss in Baltimore.
Detroit Free Press

TAMPA BAY — Two straight losses and some major coaching gaffes have turned the heat up on Jim Caldwell, and now there’s more reason to believe he could be in trouble if the Detroit Lions fail to make the playoffs.

The Lions announced in September that Caldwell had signed a multiyear extension before the start of the season, but NFL Network reported Sunday that his deal was only for one guaranteed season with a team option beyond 2018.

Neither Caldwell nor the Lions have spoken at any length about the deal, with team president Rod Wood saying only that both parties agreed to keep it quiet at the time it was done.

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“It was just something that Jim and we talked about and we decided not to make an announcement at the time and now that that’s out there, behind us, you guys can ask him something else at press conferences, I guess,” Wood said.

The Lions were 2-0 when news of Caldwell’s extension first leaked, and have since lost six of their last 10 games.

More: Ex-Lion Calvin Johnson to speak at inaugural Free Press Sports Awards

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Lions reeling, clinging to faint playoff hope vs. Buccaneers

At 6-6, they are on the fringes of the playoff race and likely need to win out — starting with Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — to have any chance of making the postseason.

Caldwell has come under intense scrutiny during the Lions’ recent slide, as his team has repeatedly gotten off to slow starts and has played with fewer than 11 men on the field for key plays in each of the last two games.

Last week, the Lions had just nine men on the field when the Baltimore Ravens converted a key third-and-7 early in the fourth quarter with the Lions down just a touchdown.

Baltimore scored two plays later and went on to win in a rout, 44-20.

Both Caldwell and Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said they deserved blame for the error in personnel.

“It’s my responsibility,” Caldwell said. “I’m accountable for all that.”

Caldwell, who’s 33-29 in three-plus seasons as Lions coach, has the highest winning percentage of any full-time Lions coach in the Super Bowl era (.532%) but is working for a general manager in Bob Quinn who inherited him as head coach back in 2016.

More: Lions should fire Jim Caldwell if he loses to Bucs

Quinn has deep ties to the New England Patriots, where coordinators Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia are expected to be top coaching candidates this year. In 2016, Quinn said he thought both McDaniels and Patricia were “ready and willing to be head coaches.”

The Lions, who rank 15th in the NFL in total offense and 26th in total defense, made the playoffs in two of Caldwell’s first three seasons as coach but lost in the wildcard round both times.

Caldwell said Thursday that it was a “waste of time” for him to pay attention to fans and critics calling for his job.

“The first year I was coaching, those kinds of things were going on,” he said. “I mean, that’s just kind of the nature of the business, plain and simple. And if you can’t handle it, you ought to get into another line of work. I’ve been at it awhile, so I’m fairly accustomed to that kind of stuff.”

After Sunday’s game against the 4-8 Bucs, the Lions close the season at home against the Chicago Bears, at the Cincinnati Bengals, and versus the Green Bay Packers.

None of those teams currently has a winning record.

More: Lions’ woes fall on GM Bob Quinn just as much as Jim Caldwell

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Contact Dave Birkett: dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. Download our Lions Xtra app for free on Apple and Android!

 

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