Could The Lions Fire Caldwell And Turn The Season Around?
For the second year in a row under Martha Ford’s direction, the Lions franchise finds itself in dire straits just a few games into the season. Detroit dropped to 1-3 this past Sunday after falling to a dismal and injury-riddled Bears squad, 17-14.
This loss stung in a lot of ways. It broke a six-game winning streak the Lions held over their divisional rival and marked the first time they lost to Chicago in the Jim Caldwell era, which can now safely be qualified as ‘ill-fated.’
It was the third loss of what has been a frustrating and disappointing 2016 campaign and it was a thoroughly embarrassing effort. It came at the hands of a team that was previously winless on the year; a team that had dropped seven of its last eight games, dating back to Week 13 of the 2015 season.
Caldwell’s Apathy On The Sidelines
Elsewhere in the league, Patriots owner Robert Kraft issued a snide remark about Bills coach Rex Ryan. Kraft was asked about a pregame scuffle involving Buffalo and New England, which Buffalo players allegedly instigated, and said, “I think if you are less-than-disciplined in your personal approach, your team will take on the attitude of the coach.” Kraft was obviously talking about Ryan’s flair for the obnoxious, but he just as easily could have been talking about Caldwell’s apathy.
Long known as a stoic sideline personality, Caldwell’s listlessness has spread like cancer among his players. Matthew Stafford (and God bless Matthew Stafford, by the way) seems to be the only one who cares whether the team wins or loses. The evidence was all over the field Sunday afternoon, but it was perhaps best epitomized by the valiant effort of Eric Ebron on a 2nd & 10 run in the third quarter.
Ebron halfheartedly tried to block a Bears defender on a Theo Riddick run, before turning his back to the play. Holding his hands akimbo and hanging his head he stood in the middle of the field while his teammate desperately tried to evade a second wave of defenders. This pitiful effort, coupled with the pouting shortly thereafter, has been symbolic of the Lions’ season thus far.
Not only have they been ill-prepared and lethargic, but they quickly wilt as soon as something goes wrong. They have been penalized (occasionally incorrectly, but largely appropriately) frequently.
Receiver Marvin Jones was quoted after the game as saying that the team was too talented to be playing this poorly. Golden Tate, veteran Pro Bowler whose effort on Sunday was marginal at best, said the team was tired of being ‘the same old Lions.’
This is a narrative the team’s fans are all too familiar with, and it starts with the culture. A culture that Bob Quinn was brought in to replace. Quinn emphasized building a championship culture in Detroit and he took several steps towards achieving that goal during the off-season.
Unfortunately, Quinn left intact the biggest contributor to last year’s losing culture – Jim Caldwell. Caldwell’s poor game management, conservative decision-making, inability to adapt, and general lack of emotion have been a recipe for disaster in Detroit the past year and a half. It’s beginning to take a toll on the players. Hell, it’s even bled into the coaching staff, as Teryl Austin has gone from a head coaching candidate and a defensive wunderkind to a stubborn, blathering idiot in a very short amount of time.
If The Lions Fire Caldwell, It Will Help The Team
Often coaches are fired to preserve a GM’s job, or to satisfy the bloodlust of angry fans, but Caldwell is no sacrificial lamb. He’s proven now, twice, that he is incapable of leading a football team.
A coach is somebody a team can rally around, and he is anything but. An emotional and strategic amoeba, Caldwell’s continued employment is a disservice to the players who play for him. At 1-3, the Lions only have a 15% chance of making the playoffs now and that’s before taking into consideration the fact that they face a 3-0 Eagles team coming off a bye week.
In all likelihood, the Lions 2016 campaign is over before it even started. It is time to fire Caldwell. There is no point in allowing him to coach another game in Detroit, lest the cancer that is his philosophy spread any further.
Last season, the team responded well following the ouster of former offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi by finishing the year 6-2 after the bye week. If Caldwell has to be burned at the stake to light a fire under the team, so be it. Clearly, the Caldwell experiment hasn’t worked in Detroit, so there’s no point in drawing it out any further. Promote a coordinator to interim, and see if they have the chops to lead the team. That way, we can at least see if we need to go outside the team to hire in 2017 (spoiler alert: we do).
What’s the worst that can happen if they fire Caldwell? We field yet another abysmal team and log a losing season, securing a high draft pick? Best case scenario, Caldwell’s demise springboards the team into a decent season in a manner reminiscent of the Lombardi firing, and we make a playoff push.
Firing Caldwell is not only a win-win, but it’s a no-brainer. The writing on the wall is there; it’s not a matter of if, but when. And, for the Detroit Lions, it can’t come soon enough.