By: Eric Thomas
The Lions have a new head coach. He seems like a nice guy. He says he can make Matthew Stafford a better quarterback. He says the team will be more disciplined and humble. He has a 30 day plan. We only have to wait almost an entire baseball season before we can see the results.
Admit it: Lions 2013 was, at a minimum, eventful. We’ve been hanging on every word out of Allen Park for months now. Sure the season for fans was an awful, embarrassing, feckless, fetid, ignominious disgrace, but at least it was exciting! We bellyached every day, but there was certainly a lot to go on! The Lions went from 6-3 in November, a place of peace and comfort, where we were wondering if this was finally the year they’d win a playoff game—and then immediately pitched to an impossible angle and went screaming to the ground.
You couldn’t call it a collapse because a collapse is a free fall, the Lions cranked and gassed a jet engine and pointed the nose at the ground. Lions losses usually mount with a back-slapping sense of humor, but this was an amazing display of violence that sent Jim Schwartz packing and the Lions front office to the microphones so they could explain themselves.
Many Lions fans have looked at Jim Caldwell’s hiring as a letdown, which doesn’t make any sense, considering his resume. Have you ever, in your history of watching professional football, heard anyone say “Other than the Super Bowls, what has he really done?” or “He’s not that great of a coach if you ignore the championships.”
Some say: “What ‘bout his record at Wake Forest?” If that disqualifies Caldwell for you, fine. Caldwell was a lousy head coach 14 years ago in college. He’s won two rings since. Super Bowl rings outweigh his record in the ACC from 14 years ago, right? If anything, Caldwell has learned from his mistakes. He had an awful record in college and then went on to go 14-2 in his first year as head coach in the NFL. As Abraham Lincoln said, “I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.” By the way, Marv Levy went 8-29 as a head coach when he was at Cal and he did okay in the NFL.
Others proclaim: “The Ravens were going to fire him?!” That was blog speculation, not confirmed by anyone. Twitter trolls who’ve deigned themselves journalists have a tough time discerning fact from rumor. That’s a rumor, here’s the fact: they didn’t fire him. They had plenty of time to do so. The Ravens missed the playoffs and since the end of the season plenty of coaches have been fired. The names of people fired since the end of the season include: Mike Shanahan, Greg Schiano, Leslie Frazier, Rob Chudzinski, Jim Schwartz, Mike Sherman…you get the point. Lots of people were fired. Caldwell wasn’t, and it’s hard to imagine that one NFL team was just being nice and waiting for another one to make up its mind before they could get on with their offseason. So the Ravens were just wasting time? At a minimum, doesn’t that show the Ravens had enough respect for Caldwell to wait?
What gives with all this? The only obvious answer is that Lions fans and the media are still sobering from the understandable adrenaline from the seasons cacophonous crash. How could you not?
Since some time in December, the Lions have been top of our minds. The news has come blaring at us hard and fast: “WILL THEY MAKE THE PLAYOFFS?!” “WILL THEY HAVE A CHANCE TO MAKE THE PLAYOFFS?!” “WILL JIM SCHWARTZ KEEP HIS JOB?!” “WILL THEY GET KEN WHISENHUNT?!” “WAIT, TONY DUNGY?!” “NO, NOT TONY DUNGY, BUT KEN WHISENHUNT!” “KEN WHISENHUNT CALLED A BAD GAME AGAINST DENVER, DO YOU STILL WANT KEN WHISENHUNT?!” “KEN WHISENHUNT COULD BE SIGNED TODAY!” Caldwell walked into a bar fight worthy of the 80s movie Roadhouse: we’re all standing with broken bottles pointed at each others’ necks, about to punch the person standing next to us for no reason whatsoever, a chair was just thrown into the glasses at the bar, they announce Jim Caldwell is the next head coach and it’s over. We’re still panting, blood in our foreheads, catching our breath, looking around at the room where we were fighting only moments ago. It’s gonna take a minute before we can all sit down and get back to criticizing the Tigers.
It’s not Jim Caldwell you’re mad at. You’re confusing him with the Lions organization, which of course deserve every ounce of criticism levied at them. You can say that Matt Stafford hasn’t lived up to his first overall selection and you’d be right. You could point out that Tom Brady can seemingly bring in any ham and egger off the street and take them to the playoffs and Matt Stafford needs to be surrounded with superstar talent before he turns in a tolerable performance. Those criticisms are fair (though we need to give it a minute, because the lack of discipline with this team was on both sides of the ball and not just the quarterback—it’s entirely possible that Jim Schwartz was really bad and we need some time to find out) but they have absolutely nothing to do with Caldwell. He’s a seemingly nice man who has done you no harm. He says he has a plan. It costs you nothing to give him a chance. The schedule isn’t even announced until April.
Have some warm milk. Get a massage. Grab your favorite adult beverage. Take a bath, use your girlfriend’s bath salts (don’t smoke them no matter how tempting). You’ve had a crazy couple of months and no one is judging you for that. We’ve been screaming at the top of our lungs for several months now. We can calm down for a little while. Turn off the Twitter trolls; they don’t know the difference between opinion and fact anyway. (Example: “YOU THINK CALDWELL? YOU’RE AN IDIOT!!)
Let’s lower our hands for a minute, check our anger at the door and watch all the other playoff teams. The Super Bowl is coming soon! Pete Carroll or Jim Harbaugh are guaranteed to be in it, and yes that’s bad, but you like the commercials, don’t you? There will be some nice Olympic hockey coming soon, you can watch that. The Pistons…well…you can watch some nice Olympic hockey. You can criticize Brad Ausmus in a few months, and we know that makes you happy.
Just calm down. It’s a long time before the Lions get going again. You can put away the anger and frustration for a few months. Don’t worry; you can visit it again in the spring when the draft happens.