By: Will Burchfield
The speculation surrounding Jim Caldwell can be put to rest — for the next few months, anyway.
Per Adam Schefter, the Lions’ embattled head coach will return in 2017 for the final season of his four-year contract.
Caldwell’s job security has been a hot topic throughout the past two seasons. Since leading the Lions to an 11-5 record in his first year on the sideline, he has gone an even .500: 7-9 in 2015, 9-7 in 2016.
Many fans wanted Caldwell axed when last year’s team started 1-7, but a 6-2 finish seemed to earn him some wiggle room under rookie general manager Bob Quinn. He came under fire yet again when this year’s squad lost three of its first four games, only to subdue his critics by guiding the Lions back to the playoffs.
Detroit has made the postseason in two of Caldwell’s first three seasons. In 2014, they lost a 24-20 heartbreaker to Dallas in the Wild Card round. They travel to Seattle to take on the Seahawks on Saturday night.
It had been suggested that Caldwell’s future with the team could be decided by the outcome of that game. As it turns outs, the coach is apparently safe no matter what.
For all the flak Caldwell takes from the fans, there’s little doubt that he has the support of the players. That has been evident numerous times in the past two seasons, most recently on Tuesday when both Darius Slay and Matthew Stafford vouched for their coach.
“I think everybody in our locker room enjoys playing for him,” said Stafford. “He’s an honest guy, an upfront guy.”
“I think he’s a heck of a coach,” he added.
Slay went so far as to say Caldwell has made him a better person.
“I love playing for him,” Slay smiled, closing his eyes and tilting his head toward the ceiling. “He’s the best coach. I love him.”
Caldwell deflected questions on Tuesday about his future with the organization, preferring to keep the focus on the Lions’ upcoming game against Seattle.
“You know what, it’s not about me. I’m more interested in this team and that focus,” he said. “Our business is always skepticism and those kinds of things. It’s a challenging business, that’s what makes it fun. It’s not for the faint of heart. You better be willing to take on challenges and understand that you’re expected to win.”
Asked later if the Lions had given him any assurances about the future, Caldwell replied, “I wouldn’t tell you if they did because I’m not focused in on that.”
Caldwell’s .563 winning percentage in Detroit is the best among full-time Lions coaches in the Super Bowl era.