What is the future of Jim Caldwell?
CINCINNATI — What is the future of Jim Caldwell?
That has become the prevailing question about the Detroit Lions, now that they’ve been eliminated from the playoffs. And it is one that team brass had no interest in entertaining after a 26-17 loss Sunday against lowly Cincinnati.
Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford and team president Rod Wood both declined to comment to reporters outside the visitors locker room at Paul Brown Stadium. Caldwell said after the game he has had no discussions with Ford or the front office about his future.
This is the third straight year Caldwell has faced questions about his job security, first in 2015, when the Lions started 1-7, and then again in 2016, when they lost their last four games to cough up a late two-game division lead on the final day of the season.
That’s happened twice in Caldwell’s four seasons, both times to the Packers, and the Lions’ title drought has now reached 24 seasons.
But at 35-27, Caldwell is also the winningest Lions coach in the Super Bowl era. He took Detroit to the playoffs in two of his first three seasons, and continues to command the respect of the locker room. So the Lions not only brought him back for 2017, but also signed him to an extension.
The deal is only guaranteed through 2018, though, with a team option for 2019. And that has sparked questions about whether he has done enough to retain his job for a fifth season.
“That’s not up to me,” Caldwell said. “That’s not up to me. You’ve never heard me defend myself at any point in time, and I won’t do it today.”
Caldwell has been a lightning rod among fans for years, but continued to enjoy the full confidence of the locker room. And unsurprisingly enough, he got an endorsement from many players for the job he’s done, even though they missed the playoffs.
“I think he did a great job,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “(Players) Have to go out there, make plays, score points and win games. That’s the way it goes.”
Asked if he thought it was fair that Caldwell was back on the hot seat, Stafford said, “That’s not for me to judge. We understand that’s the nature of this business. We also understand what he does behind closed doors. I have a lot of respect for him.”
Gallery: Detroit Lions at Cincinnati Bengals — Dec. 24,2017