Lions Jim Caldwell fired; GM Bob Quinn to hold press conference at 2 p.m.

Caldwell led team to 36-28 record over 4 seasons

ALLEN PARK — In a move that was expected, the Lions announced this morning that they have fired coach Jim Caldwell.

Caldwell, who was hired in January 2014, was under orders to win a championship. Obviously that never happened.

Lions general manager Bob Quinn will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. today (Monday).

When the Lions, who finished 9-7 this season, failed to make the postseason it seemed clear that Caldwell had run out of time to accomplish his goal.

In the regular season games, he finished 36-28 and took the Lions to the playoffs two of the four seasons (2014 and 2016) where they failed to win a game.

“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,’’ Caldwell said last week.

Two of the top candidates to fill Caldwell’s spot are considered to be Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel.

Albert Breer, senior reporter for the MMQB, reported today that the Lions have sought permission to talk to Vrabel. The Texans are not in the playoffs so that could happen immediately.

They could talk to Patricia this week since the Patriots have a bye week, but could not hire him until New England’s season is over.

A look at Caldwell’s four years in Detroit:
Caldwell’s built a record of 36-28 (.563), including a 16-8 record (.667) against NFC North opponents. He had the highest winning percentage by a Lions head coach who coached at least one full season since Buddy Parker from 1951-56 (.671). He also led the Lions to two playoff appearances in 2014 and 2016.

With a 9-7 finish in 2017, Caldwell secured his third winning season in Detroit (11-5 in 2014; 9-7 in 2016; 9-7 in 2017) and became the first Lions head coach since Parker (1951-54) to have at least three winning seasons in his first four years with the club.

Caldwell led the Lions to winning seasons in back-to-back years, the first such accomplishment by the Lions since 1994-95 (9-7 and 10-6, respectively).

Under Caldwell, the Lions accumulated a 16-8 (.667) record against NFC North teams. In his 24 NFC North games, Detroit claimed at least a .500 record against all three NFC North opponents (7-1 record vs. Chicago, 5-3 record vs. Minnesota and 4-4 record vs. Green Bay). The Lions’ 16 NFC North wins under Caldwell from 2014-17 are the most in the NFC North and the fourth-most division wins in the NFL during that period.

His overall .667 winning percentage in the NFC North is the team’s best four-year divisional winning percentage since divisional play first began in 1967.

The Lions finished 2017 with a 5-1 record against NFC North opponents, marking the second time (2014) Caldwell led the team to a 5-1 division record. It also marked the seventh time since divisional alignment first began in 1967 that the Lions won 5+ divisional games in a season and only the second time (2014) since realignment to a four-team division in 2002.

Earlier this year, Caldwell’s 14-7 win at Minnesota marked his 30th win as Lions head coach. By reaching 30 career wins with the club in 52 games, he became the fastest Lions head coach to reach 30 career wins since Parker, who recorded 30 wins in 41 games (1951-54).

The Lions finished the 2016 season with a record of 9-7 and earned the team’s second playoff berth in Caldwell’s first three seasons. The last time the Lions made the playoffs twice in a three-year span was 1997 and 1999. Caldwell joined Parker (1952, 1953) and Bobby Ross (1997, 1999) as the only coaches in Lions history to lead the team to the playoffs twice in their first three seasons with the club.

Caldwell’s 2016 season was highlighted by an NFL-record eight fourth-quarter comeback victories. This surpassed the previous record of seven set by the 2009 Indianapolis Colts, who were also coached by Caldwell.

In Caldwell’s first season with the Lions in 2014, Detroit compiled an 11-5 regular season record. Caldwell tied Potsy Clark (1931, Portsmouth Spartans) for the most wins in franchise history by a coach in his first year with the club. He became the third coach in team history to lead the Lions to the playoffs in his first year with Detroit (George Wilson in 1957; Bobby Ross in 1997).

Caldwell is the seventh coach in franchise history (since 1930) to lead the Lions to a winning record (over an entire season) in his first year with the club, and he is one of four coaches (Potsy Clark in 1931, George Wilson in 1962 and Wayne Fontes in 1991) to lead the Lions to 11+ wins in a season.

Following a 1-7 start to the 2015 season, Caldwell led the Lions to a 6-2 second-half record and in doing so, Detroit became only the fourth NFL team since 1991 to start a season with one or fewer wins in the first eight games (1-7 or 0-8 record) and finish with a 6-2 record. It marked the Lions’ best second-half finish since the team finished 7-1 in 1995.

In seven seasons as a head coach in the NFL, including three with Indianapolis (2009-11), Caldwell has compiled a 62-50 record in 112 games. He has led his team to winning records in five of his seven seasons as head coach.

Off the field, Caldwell also made an incredible impact in the Detroit community. In September 2014, The Jim and Cheryl Caldwell Foundation, in collaboration with the Detroit Lions, opened “The Project Phoenix Learning Center,” a new 21st Century computer lab and learning center at the Detroit Lions Academy. The learning center includes new computers with Promethean ActivBoards, ActivSlate, ActivExpressions, a network printer, internet accessibility and specialized interactive instructional software.

In 2014, Caldwell was honored by the Detroit Historical Society’s Black Historic Sites Committee after becoming the Lions’ first African American head coach.

Caldwell also supported the Detroit-area Midnight Golf Program that teaches under-served young adults the game of golf and important life skills, including financial literacy, college preparation and community activism.

He also served as honorary chairman for the Charlie Sanders Foundation “Have A Heart Save A Life” Celebrity Golf Outing, which provides support to Student Healthy Heart Check programs provided by Beaumont Hospital and the Henry Ford Health System.

 

Advertisements

Five reasons the Lions beat the Packers to wrap up the regular season

Detroit finishes 9-7, 5-1 in the NFC North

DETROIT — It was another slow start for the Lions, but they found a spark in the second quarter on Sunday. They wrapped up the 2017 season with a 35-11 win over the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field.

That gives Detroit a 9-7 finish, their third winning season in four years under coach Jim Caldwell.

It also gives them a sweep of the Green Bay Packers for the first time since 1991 and a 5-1 record in the NFC North. The only division loss was on Thanksgiving to the Vikings.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Still there is no way to know if it was Caldwell’s final game as the Lions coach. The win gives him a 36-28 record in four regular seasons.

He said nothing had changed and no meetings are planned with general manager Bob Quinn.

Missing the playoffs could be the key.

“I think you give us six, seven, eight plays back over 16-game season and we’re sitting here talking about, we’re maybe wearing a divisional hat, maybe we’re sitting here with a bye week with home playoff games,’’ wide receiver Golden Tate said.

Five reasons the Lions won on Sunday:

1. Matthew Stafford  completed 20 of 29 passes for 323 yards, three touchdowns for a 140.4 passer rating. He started a little slow (big surprise) but found a rhythm. And he caught the 2-point conversion in the end zone where he was wide open.

“Man, we just wanted to go out there and finish with a winning record. …  We work really hard at this to have opportunities to go out there and play. I’m proud of the way these guys showed up and played. Our coaches did a great job getting us prepared for the game. We went out there and played well,’’ Stafford said.

2. Ziggy Ansah sacked Brett Hundley three times. It was his second consecutive game with three sacks. He finished with 12 for the season which is second-best to 2015 when he had 14.5. In 2016 he had only two.

“You know, sacks come – sometimes they come, sometimes they don’t, you know? You can’t really say that you had sacks because you’re feeling better or not, but I’m just overwhelmed right now, man. I’m just grateful,’’ Ansah said. “It’s a good way to end the season with a win at home and sweeping Green Bay. We are going to be having a good New Year’s Eve.”

3. The preparation week was key. Caldwell made his point and the players listened. They wanted to end with a winning record, sweep the Packers and play to win like they do every week. They got off to a slow start, but found a rhythm offensively and cracked down defensively for the decisive win.

“We prepared the same, we had a bunch of great plays and today they timed out perfectly against the coverage or we held them up front long enough to get open or we held open the hole long enough to make big plays,’’ Tate said.

4. Detroit won the turnover battle decisively, 4-0 with two fumbles lost and interceptions by Jarrad Davis and Darius Slay. It was Slay’s eighth interception this season, a career high.

“It’s a very disappointing loss. I think obviously as  a starting point is a minus-four turnover ratio. I think, like anything in the game of football, a team, or certain teams, every team has play styles and you’re supposed to reflect about where you spend your time. The way we took care of the football today was unacceptable. It obviously had a big impact on the game,’’ Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.

5. Packers quarterback Brett Hundley is no Aaron Rodgers, not even in the same ballpark. He completed just 14 of 24 passes for 172 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions and a 59.7 quarterback rating. Hundley led the Packers to wins in three of his 10 starts since Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone in mid-October.

“You know, we just didn’t take advantage of our opportunities today. Turnovers, for one, and we just didn’t make the plays that were needed to be made,’’ Hundley said. “We had a lot of opportunities, we just stopped ourselves.”

Five things to know about the future of Lions coach Jim Caldwell

Players speak out on their love of playing for him

DETROIT — Coach Jim Caldwell was not talking about his future after the 35-11 win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

Rumors have been swirling ever since the Lions failed to make it to the playoffs that Caldwell’s time in Detroit might be done.

No official word has been released.

“Nothing at this point has changed, so still working. Just like today, still working,’’ Caldwell said after the game.

He said no meeting has been set with general manager Bob Quinn.

Five things to know about Caldwell’s future:

 

ONE He refuses to make excuses. Period. “Have you ever heard me defend or anything? Not to anybody, it’s not just to you. It’s not to anybody. I don’t make any excuses. That’s just not the way I live my life,’’ Caldwell said. “So, we go out, we do what we do, let everybody make an assessment from there. What’s real assessment is wins. Wins and losses, that’s the key.”

 

TWO Caldwell would not name what he is most proud of from his four years with the Lions . “I just think there’s some things that got done. But I’m not done yet, so we’ll see,’’ Caldwell said. When asked to explain that in further detail, he said: “Still working. I’m still working today. I’m still working. If it was something changed, I wouldn’t be standing here, right? Still working.”

 

THREE The players love him. It’s indisputable. “I think I’m pretty honest with you guys for the most part, I tell you what I believe. I don’t think personally that he’s the problem or ever has been. I’m Team Coach Caldwell until I can’t any more. I still think I know what we can do better, I’m still not going to mention it. But it’s not coach Caldwell in my opinion,’’ wide receiver Golden Tate said. “That’s not my decision. We all have got — upstairs, scouts and GMs and owners — they have a job to do and a job to keep and their job is to put us in the best situation to win games year in and year out. They’re going to make the decision on how they think this team should go forward. We’ll see what happens.’’

 

FOUR Quarterback Matthew Stafford on Caldwell: “I think everybody in that locker room really likes, loves, coach Caldwell, he’s a great guy, he teaches us a lot about football, he teaches us a lot about life, he cares about us. Love playing for him, he’s done a great job for us. I think everybody goes out there every week playing hard for him no matter what the game is, no matter what the circumstance is.’’

 

FIVE Ziggy Ansah on Caldwell: “I love Jim Caldwell, no doubt about that. He’s a great coach and he doesn’t only teach us how to be football players, he teaches us how to be responsible men, it’s not all about football. He made us understand that people go through tough times, tougher than this. People are going through tough problems … To be in the playoffs we have to be able to overcome that. Jim is a great guy and I wouldn’t trade him for nobody else.’’

No surprises among Lions inactives vs. Packers today

Another look for Detroit’s offensive line

DETROIT — Another game, another look on the offensive line for the Lions.

Center Travis Swanson was placed on injured reserve with a concussion on Friday.

So it appears the starters will be: Left tackle Taylor Decker, left guard Joe Dahl, center Graham Glasgow, right guard T.J. Lang and right tackle Rick Wagner.

The Lions (8-7) face the Green Bay Packers (7-8) at 1 p.m. at Ford Field. If the Lions win they would sweep the Packers and own a 5-1 record in the NFC North. Neither team will be in the playoffs.

It could be coach Jim Caldwell’s final game with the Lions after four seasons. No word from general manager Bob Quinn on his status.

Defensive end Anthony Zettel (groin) is in after he was listed as questionable in Friday’s report. He was limited in practice on Friday, after he had full practices on Wednesday and Thursday.

Cornerback Nevin Lawson (concussion) was ruled out on Friday.

Jack Billingsley was signed to the 53-man roster, but is inactive. He filled the spot created after Decker was placed on injured reserve.

Other Lions’ inactives: Running back Dwayne Washington, running back Zach Zenner, tackle Brian Mihalik, tight end Michael Roberts and defensive tackle Rodney Coe.

Packers inactives: WR Davante Adams, CB Damarious Randall, G Jahri Evans, RB Aaron Jones, WR Jordy Nelson, LB Chris Odom and TE Richard Rodgers.

Five things to watch as Lions wrap up the season against Packers; plus, prediction

A win would give Detroit a 5-1 record in the NFC North

Sunday’s game was supposed to be a huge NFC North divisional match-up with the Lions hosting the Packers in the regular season finale.

And then the season happened. The Lions (8-7) and Packers (7-8) aren’t going to the playoffs, but the game is on at Ford Field on Sunday. Kickoff is 1 p.m.

It is not meaningless.

“Right now, believe it or not, we’re all playing for something. Some guys are playing for their jobs, a spot on the team next year, maybe they move up the depth chart. There is something at stake here, let’s not lose track of that,’’ wide receiver Golden Tate said. “We want to go out and get a win. We want to be 5-1 in our division this year. Beat the Packers twice which has been rarely done. We’re competitive, that’s just how we’re born.’’”

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Five things to watch on Sunday

1. Of course the Lions are going to play their starters. This is the NFL — they are only guaranteed 16 games per season and they work hard all year long just for the chance to play in those 16 games. It’s crazy to think otherwise. They are not looking to 2018 and what Jake Rudock can do. They are trying to win their final game this season. Hey, it’s not like they only play veterans throughout the season. They get rookies playing time regularly.

2. The offensive line will start its 11th different lineup Sunday. Center Travis Swanson was placed on injured reserve on Friday. It looks like you’ll see Taylor Decker at left tackle, Joe Dahl at left guard, Graham Glasgow at center, T.J. Lang at right guard and Rick Wagner at right tackle. The line has struggled all season due to injuries. Of all the position groups the offensive line is one that needs to play together regularly.

“You really value playing time playing together with each other as the offensive line. You really value those guys getting reps right next to each other, being able to communicate, being able to adjust as you go during a game,’’ offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said. “These things happen in the League. Different guys play next to each other. If you were able to start the same five guys 16 games in a row in a season, you would hope some of those things would be really clean on the sideline, in-game communication, those type of things. A little bit of it’s just a factor of reps.’’

3. Matthew Stafford will start his 112th straight game. He had a down week in the loss at Cincinnati after three excellent games in which he completed more than 80 percent of his passes. Expect the best from him against the Packers. In their first meeting this season — the Lions won 30-17 at Lambeau on Nov. 6 — Stafford threw for 361 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

4. Ziggy Ansah had three sacks in Cincinnati giving him nine for the season. It is not lost on the defensive end that just one more would push him into double-digits, always a goal for a sack master.  Remember he had just two sacks in 13 games in 2016. His career high was 14.5 in 2015.

5. This could be Jim Caldwell’s final game as the Lions coach. His record in four years is 35-28 in the regular season which is impressive by Lions’ standards. Three other NFL teams came out this week to say their coaches (who were thought to be on the hotseat) will return. General manager Bob Quinn could have done the same, but remained quiet. Caldwell was hired to win a championship and after four years he failed. The players love playing for him and you won’t find a better person than Caldwell. It’s a business, though.

Prediction: Lions 27, Packers 13

For the Lions and Caldwell, here’s the question: Is close, good enough?

The Lions have been to postseason in 2 of Caldwell’s 4 seasons

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.

Lions will play starters against Packers; team doesn’t see it as meaningless game

Stafford said he works hard for opportunities to play on Sundays

ALLEN PARK — If you think Jim Caldwell would bench his starters — including Matthew Stafford — in the Lions’ season finale against the Packers, you have not been paying attention.

The Lions coach has been consistent through his four seasons in Detroit. He plays every game to win and to do that he’ll put his best players on the field.

It’s pretty simple.

“This game still for us still has significance. It’s one of our 16 games that we play, and we got to go out and we got to play it well,’’ Caldwell said on Wednesday. “It’s one of the things that I think is often times overlooked. I mean, I got a whole locker room of highly, highly competitive people, and they don’t care what you’re playing. Whether it’s Cornhole, or Ping Pong, or whatever it might be, you guys see them. They compete at every single thing they do, and they’ll be no different in this game as well.”

(Cornhole and Ping Pong are the games of choice in the Lions’ locker room.)

Stafford and his teammates work hard all year for the chance to play 16 games.

“I think the football pads are on and it’s Sunday. There’s a lot at stake. Every time we go out there and play, whatever you put on tape is who you are as a player and who you are as a team. And it’s another opportunity for us to go out there and play and get a win,’’ Stafford said on Wednesday. “There’s a chance to have a winning record. There’s a chance to be 5-1 in our division. Some opportunities to go out there and do some things that before the season you wanted to do.”

Some fans want to see backup quarterback Jake Rudock play. Don’t expect to see him unless Stafford is injured.

“I mean I’m the quarterback here. This is what I work hard for. I work hard for opportunities to go out there and play on Sundays. I don’t care what the situation is. You get your body ready. You get your mind ready to go out there and play,’’ Stafford said. “You go out there and play. And I think to think otherwise is not real smart.”

For Caldwell, it  goes back to when he was a young college coach and decided to red-shirt some talented freshmen. As he tells the story, the next year those guys were playing for another coach because Caldwell did not have success without them and was fired.

The Lions (8-7) host the Packers (7-8) on Sunday at Ford Field.