After leading the Detroit Lions to the playoffs two times in the last three years, Jim Caldwell will return for a fourth season as head coach.
ESPN reported this morning, citing a team official, that Caldwell's job is not in jeopardy once the season ends.
Neither Lions general manager Bob Quinn nor team president Rod Wood returned text messages this morning seeking comment, and Quinn said last week that he didn't plan to talk with reporters about the subject until after the season.
The Lions play the Seattle Seahawks in a wildcard playoff game at 8:15 p.m. Saturday at CenturyLink Field.
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Caldwell's future had been the subject of constant speculation as the Lions stumbled to three straight losses to end the regular season and failed to win their first division title in 23 years despite leading the NFC North by two games with three to play.
Caldwell is entering the final season of a contract he signed in 2014, when Martin Mayhew and Tom Lewand ran the organization, and the new Lions brass of Quinn and Wood had not backed him publicly for next fall despite repeated questions.
With a 27-21 record, Caldwell's .563 winning percentage is the best among full-time Lions coaches in the Super Bowl era. Only Gary Moeller, who went 4-3 as interim Lions head coach in 2000, has a better winning percentage than Caldwell.
Asked several questions about his job security at his news conference Tuesday, Caldwell declined to say what assurances if any he'd been given about his future.
"You know what, it’s not about me," Caldwell said. "I’m more interested in this team and that focus. In our business, our business is always skepticism and those kinds of things. It’s a challenging business. That’s what makes it fun. It’s not for the faint of heart. You better be willing to take on challenges and understand that you’re expected to win.”
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Caldwell used a golf analogy to make a case for why he should return for a fourth season despite the Lions' late-season struggles. The team finished 9-7 after after starting 9-4.
In 2014, the Lions went 11-5 and made the playoffs in Caldwell's first season as coach, and last year they rebounded from a 1-7 start to finish 7-9.
“Some of you guys probably play a little golf from time to time and it’s kind of like a golf game," Caldwell said. "You’ve got a 494-yard Par 4 and you hit it off the tee, some guys hit it right down the middle and then maybe hit a three wood to the green or a five wood in some cases. Some guys are like me, they hit it in the woods and they might have to hit it between two trees in order to get it on the green. But the fact of the matter is we’re still on in two. We’re on in regulation, everybody’s putting for birdie and that’s kind of what making the (playoffs) is, right? ... Everybody’s still got a chance, no matter how you got here.”
Caldwell has been a favorite among players during his time in Detroit, and Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford called Caldwell "an honest. guy, an up-front guy" on Tuesday.
"I think he’s a heck of a coach," Stafford said. "I enjoy playing for him. Those decisions (to bring him back or not) aren’t made by me, but I’m sure it’s something you guys love bringing up all the time."
Contact Dave Birkett: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.