By: Will Burchfield
In theory, Jim Caldwell received bad information from a member of his coaching staff prior to his misguided challenge on Sunday.
But Caldwell wouldn’t attribute the mistake to anyone else.
“It’s just me, plain and simple. I shouldn’t have thrown the flag,” said Caldwell.
On the play in question, a fourth-and-one from Cleveland’s 44 midway through the second quarter, Browns running back Duke Johnson plowed his way for a first down. Video replays showed he clearly gained the necessary yardage — if anything, the officials shorted him a few feet — and the Lions had time to consult these videos before deciding to challenge.
That responsibility typically falls on a team of spotters in the booth, who call down to Caldwell with intel and advice. If one of his replay assistants erroneously said Johnson was short of the line to gain, Caldwell wasn’t going to throw him under the bus.
“I threw the flag, it’s a challenge. That’s all you have to know, that’s all that counts. I make all those decisions, those things come through me, by me. That was my fault, it was a problem.”
At the time, the Lions were trailing 10-3 and the Browns were putting together another strong drive. But Caldwell dismissed the idea that he challenged in hopes of changing momentum or sparking his team.
Whatever the case, his decision wasn’t costly. Consecutive holding penalties backed the Browns up 20 yards and they were forced to punt from midfield.
The Lions scored on their ensuing drive and came back to win, 38-24.
Caldwell is 9 for 13 on challenges in three and a half seasons as the Lions head coach. Still, his most recent is one he likely wants back.
Asked what exactly his coaches told him before he threw the red flag, Caldwell said, “No, I did a very poor job of that. Plain and simple.”