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
Jim Caldwell walks on the sideline in the second half of the Lions’ 44-20 loss to the Ravens on Sunday in Baltimore.(Photo: Gail Burton, AP)
There’s a scenario that would almost require the Lions to fire coach Jim Caldwell after this week’s game at Tampa Bay.
If the Lions lose by a blowout for the second straight week — this time to the 4-8 Buccaneers — owner Martha Ford and general manager Bob Quinn should fire Caldwell.
If this seems rash — because the Lions might not be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs even with a loss — ask yourself how you felt after the Lions were blown out Sunday at Baltimore, 44-20. Now take that feeling and double it.
After the Ravens loss, the mood was dour among the Lions. Players were down in the locker room. Quinn and team president Rod Wood barely looked up from their feet as they walked through the press box — and that was at halftime.
Imagine what the mood and the scene would be like Sunday in Tampa if the Lions lost a third straight game, let alone by a blowout. They would fall to 6-7 with practically no shot at the postseason.
Let’s be straight about something: I’m not suggesting the Lions fire Caldwell based on one or two games. I’m not even basing it on one season. This is about Caldwell’s four-year tenure and the way he has managed to do little more than tread water and make the playoffs twice without a postseason win or a division title.
And let’s not forget two very important things that should affect the way Caldwell’s tenure is viewed. One is what he said at his introductory press conference Jan. 15, 2014: “… I think there is a reason why I’m here. I think, without question, that is to win a championship.” Yeah. And how is that championship coming, coach?
Jim Caldwell on the sideline during the second quarter of the Lions' 44-20 loss to the Ravens on Sunday. (Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press)
The other is the very thing that we can’t view at Ford Field anymore: banners of the Lions’ playoff appearances. When Wood decided to take down those banners this off-season, it was a clear message that simply making the playoffs wasn’t good enough. The Lions were lowering meaningless banners and finally raising expectations.
If you’re going to let Caldwell blow one of the Lions’ best chances to win the division, when every other starting NFC North quarterback has missed almost the whole season, and still allow him to keep his job, then lowering those banners was an empty gesture and nothing more than a publicity stunt.
Caldwell and the players are backed into a corner right now. They really don’t have any moves left to make. They can only keep doing more of the same and hope they get a better result without a run game or a pass rush. They have a banged-up offensive line and a quarterback with a bruised throwing hand.
“Yeah, we’re always tinkering with things, but also the season’s not over yet, all right?” Caldwell told reporters Monday. “I mean, you guys are talking as if all is lost and that kind of thing.”
Caldwell’s job is to be optimistic and dogged about striving to improve, no matter what the odds say. That’s a coach’s mission. I understand that. But my job is to be skeptical and consider realities and probabilities.
Firing Caldwell comes down to two sides and which one you’re on. If the only thing that matters to you is the simply making the playoffs, then you should root for the Lions to hold on to Caldwell as long as they’re not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.
For now, it’s still possible they can win the division.
The other side is if you believe you’ve seen enough from nearly four years of Caldwell’s tenure to think he’s not going to live up to his promise of bringing a championship to the Lions, then you should want him fired as soon as possible.
On Monday, the New York Giants fired coach Ben McAdoo and already some of the usual suspects, like both New England Patriots coordinators, are being floated as top candidates. The faster the Lions fire Caldwell, the better head start they would get on snagging their top choice for his successor.
If the Lions lose Sunday, it could be Ford and Quinn’s chance to make a strong, declarative statement about what they will tolerate and where they want this franchise to go. After all, this season marks the 60th anniversary of the Lions’ last championship, in 1957. Wouldn’t this kind of bold decision from Ford and Quinn, after six decades of futility, be something truly worth celebrating?
Carlos Monarrez: cmonarrez. Follow him on Twitter .
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