ALLEN PARK — No question, playoff expectations for the Lions have risen since Jim Caldwell arrived in Detroit in 2014.
It’s not good enough for Caldwell.
“I think, my job when I came here was not playoff talk. My job when I came here was to win it all. That’s what every coach is in it to do. And anything short of that is unacceptable, plain and simple,’’ Caldwell said on Thursday. “So, you keep trying to work at it, and try to get at that point to get it done. But there’s only one happy team at the end of the year, and that’s it in this league. Like I mentioned before, there are no bowl games. So, we just got to keep getting better.”
Caldwell has won two Super Bowl rings as an assistant — one with the Colts, the other with the Ravens. He also made it to the Super Bowl as head coach (his first year as an NFL head coach) with the Colts for the 2009 season, but lost to the Saints.
He was hired in Detroit to win a championship not to start a rebuilding process.
“Yesterday is not soon enough in our league. I mean, whether it’s one year or — my first year I went, so how many does it take? It depends. But the job, the object is to get it done and you better get it done as quickly as you can. That’s the key in our league.”
Golden Tate also knows what it takes to win a Super Bowl.
In February 2014, a month before he signed as a free agent, he won Super Bowl XLVIII as a member of the Seattle Seahawks.
The wide receiver is wrapping his fourth season in Detroit. The Lions play the Packers at Ford Field. A win will give them a 9-7 winning record for the season but no chance of a trip to the playoffs.
“Although records and playoff wins haven’t changed, it feels different around here, it feels different. I think we are moving in the right direction, I think we are closer,’’ Tate said. “You look back specifically at this year. This season is totally different if you give us a dozen plays back, we’re right there, we’re close we’re also what the record is. This is a great sports town we’re going to get it together hopefully sooner rather than later. We could do worse, we could be 2-14.’’
Tate was signed a few months after Jim Caldwell was named head coach. He sees the Lions being closer to Super Bowl contention now than they were when he first joined the team.
“I think we have, to me, a great coaching staff, the ownership is fantastic, Bob Quinn is coming in and making some great moves to give us a shot,’’ Tate said. “You just look at, we aren’t getting blown out every week, I feel like we’re pretty close, there are some minor things we need to get a little bit better.’’
After 15 games, the Lions own the NFL’s worst rushing attack averaging just 78 yards per game and the sixth-best passing game with 258.5 yards per game.
They’ve been to the postseason two of the past three seasons, but still have not won a playoff game since the 1991 season.
It’s a big jump from having playoff expectations every season to actually making it to the postseason and winning.
“At the end of the day this is the NFL, the best athletes in the world, we have some of the best coaches in the world, we’re all getting paid to do a job,’’ Tate said. “I don’t think it’s ever going to be easy. We have to keep chugging away, keep working hard, keep bringing in great draft picks. keep bringing in people who know how to win, who expect to win, the environment it is changing, it’s going to change.’’
Sounds good but if Quinn and the Ford family have run out of patience, then Caldwell could be coaching his final game with the Lions on Sunday.