Six thoughts from Lions QB Matthew Stafford on Jim Caldwell’s firing

If QB had vote he would want Jim Bob Cooter to stay

ALLEN PARK — It was a tough New Year’s morning at the Detroit Lions facility after Jim Caldwell was fired.

The coach made a huge impact on the players on and off the field, although he failed in his mission to bring a championship to Detroit.

“Obviously anytime something like that happens, it’s disappointing and tough, a guy you worked really closely with for four years and you know the amount of work he put in and the kind of person he was,. It’s tough to have it end that way,’’ quarterback Matthew Stafford said on locker clean-out day.

Six other thoughts from Stafford on Caldwell and the future of the offense:

1. Caldwell worked with Peyton Manning with the Indianapolis Colts starting off as his quarterbacks coach. When he was hired he said he didn’t think Stafford was broken but thought there were ways he could improve. That happened during Caldwell’s four-year tenure.

“He’s been great, he’s as level-headed of a guy as I’ve ever been around, he understands the position of quarterback really well and was great for me and great for a lot of guys on offense just to bounce ideas off of,’’ Stafford said. “So I have a ton of respect for him, just the way he carried himself, the way he coached us, the way he treated everybody, he’s a great guy and a great coach.’’

2. There’s a chance the Lions will retain offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter when they bring in a new coach. They also fired offensive line coach Ron Prince on Monday. If Stafford had a vote — and he might — he would like Cooter to stay.

“Jim Bob and I have a great relationship. Ever since he’s had the opportunity to take the reins this offense has moved in the right direction, in my opinion,’’ Stafford said. “I feel like I’m playing some of the best football in my career. I would love the opportunity to keep working with him. He’s been great for us and great for me.’’

3.  Ever since he arrived the players have respected Caldwell on and off the field. That never changed. “Myself included, he provided a great example for guys. I think a lot of guys in this locker room, we had a lot of young guys on this team that came into the NFL not knowing ‘Hey what’s this all about?’ For their first taste as a head coach to be a guy who is as good of a person as coach Caldwell was,’’ Stafford said. “It’s a great treat for those guys to come in and have a coach who cares about his players as much as coach Caldwell did and set as good of an example as he did not only on the field but on the field is a huge positive for a lot of guys’ careers.’’

4. Even though Caldwell is gone he will have a lasting impact on the quarterback (and likely most of the players on the roster.) “There’s so many things, I spent a lot of time with him. His demeanor, as calm as he was, I think had a lot of impact on how we played. No matter what the situation of the game was, not matter what the situation of the season was, we went out there and attacked our job and tried to do the best we could,’’ Stafford said. “That’s what he preached daily — you can’t worry about all the other stuff you’ve got to go out there and no matter what the situation is go out there and play. I think we did that.’’

5. Stafford had plenty of late-game and fourth-quarter comebacks before Caldwell arrived in Detroit but he was more successful in that aspect with Caldwell. Stafford and the Lions had eight of them in the 2016 season and four this season. There’s a good reason for that.

“They were situations we practiced over and over and over again. They showed up in games and we executed. You look at a lot of teams and a lot of games in the NFL that are decided in those situations and some teams execute them well and some teams don’t,’’ Stafford said. “For the most part I think we did a pretty darned good job with those and he had a lot to do with that.”

6. Stafford was invited by former general manager Martin Mayhew to be involved in the process when Jim Caldwell was hired. Stafford is willing but does not know if he will be involved in the search process with GM Bob Quinn.

“We’ll see, haven’t been a part of a head coaching search with this front office before Obviously got to sit down with some of the guys the last time, appreciated that opportunity. Don’t know if it will happen again,’’ Stafford said. “If they want to make them available to me I’d absolutely be all for it, I know it’s going to be their decision and go from there.

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Three top candidates for Lions have no head coaching experience

That’s Matt Patricia wearing Goodell clown T-shirt

ALLEN PARK — After firing Jim Caldwell on Monday, Lions general manager Bob Quinn begins the process of replacing him.

Quinn’s background with the Patriots, makes it a natural assumption that he will look at New England’s defensive coordinator Matt Patricia.

The Lions have requested to talk to Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Vrabel would be available immediately since the Texans are not in the playoffs.

A request has also been submitted to talk to Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, per Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.

None of the three have served as an NFL head coach.

Quinn will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. on Monday.

Here’s a look at three of the top candidates.

— Patricia, 43, is a three-time Super Bowl champion with the Patriots where he has worked since 2004. He started as an offensive assistant and has served as defensive coordinator since 2012. In the 2017 season, the Patriots defense was ranked 29th in the NFL, allowing 366.0 yards per game. Patricia apparently is not a huge fan of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.  After the Patriots won Super Bowl LI, Patricia wore a shirt that featured Goodell with a red clown nose. He wore the shirt while deplaning at Logan International Airport in Boston. (See photo above, courtesy of NBC Boston.)

— Vrabel, 42, played defensive end at Ohio State. He spent 2017 as Houston Texans defensive coordinator after working as the Texans linebackers coach from 2014 to 2016. The Texans finished the 2017 regular season with the 20th ranked NFL defense, allowing 346.6 yards per game.  He coached at Ohio State from 2011-2013.

— Wilks, 48, started coaching in the college ranks and moved to the NFL in 2006 where he served as the Chicago Bears defensive backs coach until 2008. He had the same position with the San Diego Chargers from 2009-2011. Wilks joined the Panthers in 2012 as defensive backs coach and served as defensive coordinator in the 2017 season. The Panthers are the NFL’s seventh best defensive team allowing just 317.1 yards per game.

Lions owner Martha Ford issues statement on the firing of Jim Caldwell

Coach fired after four years in Detroit

Statement from Detroit Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford on the firing of coach Jim Caldwell:

“On behalf of my family and the Lions organization I would like to thank Jim Caldwell for his exemplary leadership and service to our team and our community over the past four years.

“I believe Jim is one of the finest leaders we’ve ever had as our head coach. Not only did he guide us on the field to three winning seasons, but he also set a standard of excellence off the field that had a tremendous impact on everyone in our organization and our entire community.

“As many of our players have already said, his influence on them transcended the game of football and will positively serve them throughout their lives.

“Our organization is better because of Jim, and we are forever grateful. We wish Jim, his wife Cheryl and the entire Caldwell family all the best that life can offer.”

 

 

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.

 

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.