YOSHONIS: Caldwell’s firing marks new era in Lions history — thankfully

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The clock struck midnight as expected, the ball came down in Times Square as expected and Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell was fired as expected.

But a closer look at that firing reveals something unexpected, and provides a ray of hope for fans of barely arguable the most infuriating franchise in American professional sports.

Caldwell leaves the Lions after a 9-7 season in which he swept the season series with Green Bay, indeed went 5-1 in the NFC North, and was a close loss or two away from a special season.

Caldwell has also been hailed as a man of exemplary character, as well liked in the locker room as in the community, and his team played with class and discipline. Off-field incidents were rare if they happened at all, and there were no Ndamukong Suh-like temper tantrums on the field from these Lions.

In the past, that would have been good enough. Remember Darryl Rogers’ famous line, uttered when he was Lions head coach?

“What does a guy have to do to get fired around here?”

That was a symptom of the disease we around this state know as, Same Old Lions.

Martha Firestone Ford has already proven in two years to be a better owner than her late husband, William Clay Ford was in five decades, and the reason why boils down to this: She is out to destroy the Same Old Lions.

That was the mandate when she hired Bob Quinn as general manager, and nothing less. He will be judged on whether or not the culture of the team, from top to bottom, has changed and the hope of the Detroit Lions playing in a Super Bowl becomes something other than a wistful dream at best or a sad joke at worst.

And the message sent by Caldwell’s firing is that 9-7 and out of the playoffs is simply not good enough.

Despite the season just ended, and the lackluster way that the Lions seemed to consistently underachieve during it, I still believe that Caldwell was not necessarily the problem.

But I am convinced that his firing can be part of the solution.

I still believe that not enough is made of the inadequacy all season of the Lions’ offensive line, which was due in large part to injuries. In 16 games, the Lions had 10 different starting O-line combinations, which is not conducive to success.

That was not the only issue. Even when healthy, the five starters were inconsistent and have a lot to answer for individually. Part of that we can lay at Caldwell’s feet, for sure.

Even an average, decent NFL-caliber O-Line would have meant 2-3 more wins this season, I believe, and the coaching conversation right now would be very, very different.

But it isn’t. As I’ve said before, calling for a coach’s head after a bad season is usually too easy, a knee-jerk reaction born of frustration rather than cold logic, and rarely well thought out by those doing the calling.

One can easily imagine William Clay Ford giving Caldwell another chance, and the idea is even somewhat defensible. That would have been so Same Old Lions.

For Quinn to fulfill his mandate he needs to make bold moves, and they have to work out. The guy he chooses will place the target squarely in his back. This will be his team, with his coach, and the responsibility for winning will be on his shoulders.

For that reason, to Quinn, 9-7 is not good enough. Caldwell’s .563 winning percentage, the best of any full-time Lions head coach in the Super-Bowl era, is not good enough.

For the first time in recent memory, Same Old Lions in not good enough.

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Posted by Scott Yoshonis

Scott is the sports editor of the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach him at (231) 398-3112 or syoshonis@pioneergroup.com.

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