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Saturday open thread: Was Jim Caldwell’s time in Detroit a success?

Three years later, how will Jim Caldwell’s time in Detroit be remembered?

Green Bay Packers v Detroit Lions Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

On Thursday night, former Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell spent over 70 minutes chatting with retired safety Glover Quin on his YouTube channel. Topic involved an update on his health, his personal and coaching philosophies, and going over his time in Detroit.

No matter what your thoughts were on the guy when he was in Detroit, it was nice to catch up with Coach Caldwell, seeing as most perceive him as a very good man.

Of course, hearing from Caldwell—especially as the Lions try to dig themselves out of the cavern of the NFL—brought up a lot of talk about his legacy. Were the Lions wrong to fire him? Did Caldwell need one more year? Or is this all a matter of revisionist history, simply because things are so bad right now?

So let’s take a minute to chat it out. Today’s Question of the Day is:

What are your thoughts on Jim Caldwell’s time in Detroit? Was it a success?

My answer: I’ll get to the success part in a minute, but let me share my overall thoughts on Caldwell’s reign as Lions head coach first.

I’m on record as saying I believe Caldwell deserved one more year in Detroit. That 2017 team that he took to a 9-7 record just wasn’t very talented. Offensively they were fine—and they scored the seventh-most points in the NFL that year—but that defensive roster was pretty bad. Here’s there starting front seven: Anthony Zettel, A’Shawn Robinson, Akeem Spence, Ezekiel Ansah, Tahir Whitehead, Jarrad Davis (rookie), and Paul Worrilow. Taylor Decker missed the first half of the season, while Haloti Ngata basically missed the entire year.

Now, Caldwell came with many faults, too. Like the Lions’ current head coach Matt Patricia, he was too risk averse. The Lions rarely blew anyone out, because Caldwell refused to put the pedal to the metal, and while in a rare year he was oddly aggressive, that was not the norm for him. But I will always remember the Cowboys playoff game for his decision not to go for it after the picked up flag. Fourth-and-1 from the Cowboys’ 46-yard line is a fairly low-risk, extremely high-reward situation. Convert and we wouldn’t have had to talk about Brandon Pettigrew or Anthony Hitchens ever again.

Caldwell was also a bit too loyal to the coaches he trusted. Detroit stuck with Ron Prince for far too long as their offensive line coach and it showed. Caldwell has always seemed to run a team’s rushing attack into the ground wherever he goes, and that was certainly the case in Detroit.

But for all those bad things, I think it’s close to undeniable that the Lions overperformed with Caldwell as a head coach. They went 38-26 over four season, which was the 12th-best record in the NFL over that time. Though they didn’t win a playoff game, they both came damn close and at least made the postseason twice. Hell, they played for their first NFC North title in two Week 17s under Caldwell.

And perhaps just as importantly, it was easy to be proud of Caldwell as the leader of the team. He is an extremely respectable person and one hell of a leader for young men. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the response from former players after Quin posted a quote from his interview on Instagram:

Say what you will about Quandre Diggs, but his comment sticks out the most here, “Taught us way more than ball!!”

In my opinion, Caldwell was a good coach, but a great leader. Players continue to gush about how he treated them as men and taught them how to be both better players and better people.

He made the Lions competitive and entertaining for four years, and he gave us a stretch of success we haven’t seen from this franchise in quite some time. I know there are a generous portion of fans that believe if you didn’t win a Super Bowl, you’re a complete failure, but I’m not one of those people. Jim Caldwell succeeded in bringing interest, relevancy, and entertainment to Detroit football, and I’m thankful to him for that.

Your turn.


What are your thoughts on Jim Caldwell’s time in Detroit?

This poll is closed

  • 46%
    I loved him, I miss him
    (310 votes)
  • 34%
    He was what the Lions needed, but they were right to move on
    (234 votes)
  • 16%
    He was okay, but nothing special
    (114 votes)
  • 2%
    He was awful
    (15 votes)
673 votes total Vote Now