By: Will Burchfield
The Lions won a number of games under Jim Caldwell.
But they rarely won the big ones, a big reason why Caldwell was fired on Monday after accumulating a 36-28 record over four seasons.
When it came time to measure up, Caldwell and the Lions almost always came up short.
“I just think that when you look at our record over the last couple of years since I’ve been here, we didn’t beat the really good teams,” general manager Bob Quinn said Monday afternoon. “Our record was above average — 9-7 the last two years — but our record against the better teams in the league has not been that good.”
In Quinn’s two seasons paired with Caldwell, the Lions went 1-10 against playoff teams. But Caldwell’s woes against top competition go deeper than that. During his four-year tenure in Detroit, the Lions’ record against playoff teams was 3-21 (excluding their two playoff losses).
Caldwell took the Lions from mediocre to respectable, but it was clear he wasn’t going to take them much further. He couldn’t pierce the NFL’s upper echelon.
“At the end of the day, it’s wanting to take this team to the next level,” Quinn said. “To me, that’s winning championships, that’s winning playoff games and that’s winning the Super Bowl.”
Of the Lions’ three wins against playoff teams under Caldwell, not one came against a non-divisional opponent. Without two chances and the benefit of familiarity, they were toast against the NFL’s best. And as well as they fared against bottom-tier teams, they rarely did so in convincing fashion.
Asked if he felt his teams were capable of more than a 9-7 record each of the past two seasons, Quinn said flatly, “Yes.”
He added, “I definitely could have done a better job (acquiring talent). Unless we win every game, I didn’t do my job well enough. I’m the first one to stand up and admit to that…but I think we have more than a competitive team to be competing for championships.”
Quinn gave Caldwell a chance to prove his worth. He stuck with him in 2016 and kept him on board in 2017 following the Lions’ playoff berth. But Caldwell continued to come up short in the games that meant the most, and Quinn realized he needed a new coach to form a championship-caliber team.
“We didn’t get there. We worked at it for two years and we didn’t get there, so that’s the decision I came to,” Quinn said.