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Jim Caldwell Retained as Lions HC: Latest Comments and Reaction

Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell is seen during an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals at Ford Field in Detroit, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)
Rick Osentoski/Associated Press
Tyler ConwayFeatured ColumnistJanuary 15, 2016

A year after leading the Detroit Lions to a playoff berth, head coach Jim Caldwell looked to be out of a job halfway through the 2015 campaign. But a midseason turnaround apparently saved him.

The Lions announced they retained Caldwell as the team's head coach Friday morning, following a 7-9 season that included a 6-2 finish, according to NFL Network's Albert Breer.

"After spending a significant amount of time together, it is clear that our football philosophies are very similar," new Lions general manager Bob Quinn said, per Breer.

Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press passed along a statement from Caldwell:

Caldwell, 60, has gone 18-14 in his two seasons as the Lions coach. Taking over a 7-9 outfit in 2014, Caldwell led Detroit to an 11-5 record and a wild-card berth in his first season before things fell apart in his second go-around. The Lions opened 2015 with five straight losses, which included a brief benching of quarterback Matthew Stafford and allegations that Caldwell had lost the team.

"I think Coach Caldwell's far from losing us," receiver Golden Tate said in October, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. "I know he still has my attention and the respect that we give him. In the meeting today and last week and the week before and all year, we trust in Coach Caldwell."

Unfortunately, that trust didn't result in improvements on the scoreboard. The team fired offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and offensive line coaches Jeremiah Washburn and Terry Heffernan following Week 7 in a last-ditch effort to see a change.

Those changes apparently created a spark, as Detroit went 6-3 from that point.

"It's clear to me that this team believes in him and responds positively to his leadership," Quinn said, per Breer.

Stafford passed for 4,262 yards and threw 32 touchdowns against 13 interceptions. Calvin Johnson and Tate saw their stats take a step back in some areas, but they still finished with solid campaigns. The running game was largely nonexistent, as rookie Ameer Abdullah and veteran Joique Bell failed to impress.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport noted Stafford stands to benefit from Quinn's decision to retain Caldwell: 

Yahoo Sports' Frank Schwab explained Detroit's offense is in good hands moving forward:

Defensively, the Lions' regression was to be expected. They were left to pick up the pieces after both Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley left in free agency.

A trade for longtime Baltimore Raven Haloti Ngata understandably did not mitigate the pass-rushing loss. While third-year defensive end Ezekiel Ansah racked up 14.5 sacks, he was the exception, not the rule, and opponents were able to pick apart an already weak secondary.

Caldwell's tenure is not unlike his run in Indianapolis. He lasted three seasons with the Colts, peaking with a Super Bowl appearance in his first season before things started falling apart. It's at least fair to say Caldwell does much better as a placeholder rather than a long-term solution. He is 25-7 in his first season as an NFL head coach and 19-29 in all others. Each of his second campaigns saw a win drop of at least four.

However, it's worth noting the Lions were essentially one miraculous Aaron Rodgers touchdown toss away from finishing 8-8. And with six wins over their final eight games, the Lions looked rejuvenated down the stretch as they topped the Green Bay Packers, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Bears, among others. 

There's evidently loads of room for improvement, but with a developing offense replete with weapons and a stingy defense touting tremendous young pass-rushing talent, the Lions could emerge as a formidable NFC foe in 2016. 

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) on Twitter.

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