Life is cruel.
The Detroit Lions and their head coach Jim Caldwell surely know this. Three shaky (at best) calls in the last calendar year have gone against the Lions and had a direct impact on the outcome.
Lions got hosed by officials in Seattle. And now this. Feel your pain, Jim Caldwell.— Mike Chappell (@mchappell51) December 4, 2015
Let's not forget one prematurely ended the 2014 season. Yet Caldwell's eventual dismissal isn't about those unfortunate flags, but rather the calls that were within his control.
Refusal to React
This has nothing to do with Caldwell's sideline demeanor. Histrionics aren't for every coach and often aren't needed to get a message across, especially with professionals.
This has everything, however, to do with Caldwell's refusal to make adjustments when circumstances call for it.
For instance, take his refusal to address the offense and maintain that the team was close to turning it around. Perhaps he spent more time in offensive meetings or had a bigger hand in the offensive game-planning than he's let on, but there isn't a shred of evidence to back that up.
Until Caldwell got the nerve—or the authority—to fire former offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, the unit worked about as well as band aids made of sandpaper. Jim Bob Cooter's version salted away over seven-and-a-half minutes to lock up a victory over the Oakland Raiders.
So why again did it take so long to make the switch?
Yet not every offensive decision has been made with an eye toward victory.
Think back to that heartbreaking loss to the Green Bay Packers. The Lions had the ball on their own 47 with a touch over two minutes to go. They ran the ball three straight times with Joique Bell.
To be fair, this line of thinking has some merit. The Packers were out of timeouts, which meant Aaron Rodgers would only have 23 seconds left if Detroit didn't pick up a first down.
But playing not to lose can get you beat.
The Lions could have used Ameer Abdullah instead of Bell. The former averaged over five yards per carry. The latter had more carries than yards.
And what about trusting Stafford to either make a smart throw if it's there or take a sack if not? Alas, this wasn't even the weirdest decision Caldwell and his staff had made this year with the game on the line.
Down 7 with 3 minutes left, 4th and 4 on Chicago's 15 yard line, Detroit kicks a FG? Caldwell should be fired on the spot.— Jeff Schwarze (@JeffSchwarze) October 18, 2015
There was no defense for Caldwell's decision to kick the field goal. If the Lions had been down two scores, then there's nothing wrong with knocking one item off of the list, but taking the three points shouldn't have even been an option that was even discussed at that point.
The Big Gaffe
Actually, the no-defense line should have been saved for one last visit down memory lane to Green Bay's Hail Mary.
As you've likely seen by now, the Lions kept two defenders about 20 yards off the line of scrimmage. They never made it anywhere near the end zone and were basically held out of the play.
What was Caldwell's defense of that tactic?
Jim Caldwell: We anticipated a lateral play, not Hail Mary https://t.co/wtTqNmFzY6— Around The NFL (@AroundTheNFL) December 4, 2015
Unfortunately for him, that doesn't make any sense. If Green Bay had opted to go the lateral route, the defenders could have come forward from a further back position to make the game-ending tackle.
That also doesn't excuse keeping Calvin Johnson on the bench for the final play.
Two years generally isn't enough time for a coach, barring a catastrophic season. The Lions have slowly risen from the dead and have a decent chance of finishing the season with a .500 record, so that might not come into play here.
What will, however, is a new front office that doesn't have to honor the decisions of a past regime or live with the decisions of Caldwell.