Lions retain Jim Caldwell as coach: 3 things to know

The Detroit Lions decided to retain Jim Caldwell as their head coach, new GM Bob Quinn announced through the team Friday morning.

Caldwell was considered a possible candidate to be replaced by a new general manager, but Quinn said their "football philosophies are very similar" and Caldwell is the "right man" to lead the Lions going forward. 

“As I stated Monday, I was looking forward to the opportunity to get to know Jim,” Quinn said in a statement released by the team. “After spending a significant amount of time together, it is clear that our football philosophies are very similar. Consequently, I am convinced he is the right man to lead our football team moving forward.”

“Jim’s entire body of work is impressive. Not only did he lead the Lions to the playoffs his first season here, but when you look at how the players responded the second half of last season, under difficult circumstances, it’s clear to me that this team believes in him and responds positively to his leadership."

“Our entire focus now is on the offseason and all that it entails.”

1. Strong stretch run: After a blowout loss to the Chiefs in London, the Lions were 1-7 and looking like the worst team in football. They promptly fired Joe Lombardi, hired Jim Bob Cooter and went 6-2 down the stretch, including a win at Lambeau Field, a win in New Orleans on a Monday night, a win in Soldier Field to close out the season and a near sweep of the Packers, save for Aaron Rodgers now-famous Hail Mary.

Pretty strong close to the season for Caldwell who might’ve made the playoffs if the Lions were hosed by the refs in Week 4 (the batted ball by the Seahawks) and burnt by Rodgers in Week 13. It’s not unreasonable to call those potential wins, so it’s not unreasonable to look at the Lions as a slightly worse version of the Chiefs or Texans — they could’ve been 9-7 without a pair of brutal breaks.

2. Cooter critical: Part of the large reason for keeping Caldwell means you keep offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. And the reason you want Cooter around is the performance of Matthew Stafford down the stretch.

In Detroit’s final 8 games of the season, Stafford completed just a shade under 70 percent of his passes (69.97%), threw 19 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions, while averaging 272 yards passing per game. (He had 13 touchdowns and 11 picks in his first 8 games.) 

Maybe the schedule was easier (Denver, Seattle, Arizona, Minnesota twice in the first eight games) but there’s no question Stafford looked like a different quarterback. Getting rid of Caldwell meant likely struggling to bring Cooter back which meant more inconsistency for Stafford. 

3. Rocking the boat: The other thing for Quinn to consider here is what it looks like to roll in and blow everything up. Quinn’s a young GM, and it might not be the best look in the world to show up and fire an entire staff, particularly without any sure-fire candidate out there. (CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reported Thursday night Quinn was unlikely to hire either of his former colleagues from the Patriots, Josh McDaniels or Matt Patricia, if he did make a move. 

Owner Martha Ford is also fond of Caldwell, meaning Quinn can keep his boss happy and get a year of being a GM under his belt while evaluating someone from a previous regime. If the Lions flop next year it’s easy to move on from Caldwell. 

Jim Caldwell is sticking around with the Lions. (USATSI)
CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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