By: Will Burchfield
The Lions fired Jim Caldwell on Monday believing he had reached his ceiling as the team’s head coach.
They’ll turn to someone else to try to break into the NFL’s elite.
“Looking to get to the next level,” said a source close with the team.
It’s reminiscent of the firing of Jim Schwartz in 2013 after he had pulled Detroit out of the NFL cellar. Schwartz was better than his predecessor, Rod Marinelli, and Caldwell was better than Schwartz.
The 62-year-old coach brought the Lions from mediocre to respectable, going 36-28 and making the playoffs twice in four seasons, but his progress had stalled. And he didn’t do enough in 2017 to keep his job.
“He basically needed to do better than last year,” the source said.
The Lions went 9-7 for the second consecutive season, but failed to sneak into the playoffs as they did in 2016. They also let a very winnable NFC North slip away.
Their loss to the lowly Bengals on Christmas Eve essentially spelled the end for Caldwell. Not only did it knock the Lions out of playoff contention, but it negated the possibility of year-over-year improvement.
The source suggested a 10-6 finish without a playoff berth still might not have been enough for Caldwell to retain his job. He was under contract through 2018 with team options beyond that.
Looking ahead, Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is considered a “leading candidate” to replace Caldwell. Patricia worked with Lions GM Bob Quinn in New England for more than a decade.
The Lions have also reportedly requested interviews with Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel, a former Patriots linebacker, and Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks.
Quinn is prepared to address the media on Monday afternoon.