Beware Jim Caldwell, if history is condemned to repeat itself, the Detroit Lions will be your last stop as an NFL head coach.
The last Lions head coach to receive another chance as a NFL head coach was George Wilson, who finished his time in Detroit in 1964. Wilson later went on to coach the Miami Dolphins from 1966 to 1969. Fifty years later, the fraternity of Lions head coaches is not an impressive one. The only coach who ended his career in Detroit with a winning record since Wilson was Joe Schmidt, who left the team in 1973 with a 43-35-7 record and the declaration that “coaching isn’t fun anymore” after dealing with Lions owner William Clay Ford’s antics throughout a tough season.
The only disclaimers that come with this pertain to two interim coaches. Dick Jauron, who later went on to coach the Buffalo Bills after going 1-4 in 2005, and Gary Moeller, who never again was an NFL head coach, but did manage a 4-3 record after replacing Bobby Ross midseason. Moeller’s Lions missed the playoffs after Stoney Case managed to botch their last game of the season against the rival Chicago Bears. It is an easily forgettable moment, as it ushered in the Matt Millen era in Detroit, a name that sends shivers down the spine of any Lions fan.
Wayne Fontes was arguably the most successful of the coaches since Schmidt or Wilson, and even he started as interim coach to finish off the infamous Darryl Rogers era. Rogers was probably best known for saying “What does a coach have to do around here to get fired?” Needless to say, he wasn’t highly regarded in the motor city either.
Is it a matter of hiring the wrong coach as in Marty Mornhinweg, Rod Marinelli or Jim Schwartz, all of whom had no experience as the leader of a NFL team? Well, that doesn’t seem to be the case as Steve Mariucci and Bobby Ross came here highly regarded and on the heels of recent coaching success.
Can Caldwell end this legacy of ineptitude? He comes from the category of Ross and Mariucci having achieved success and reaching a super bowl with Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. Caldwell also was offensive co-ordinator for the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens in the 2012 season, but if you are going to give him credit for that, you also have to acknowledge how truly dismal the Ravens offense was in 2013.
Caldwell is charged with making sure the Lions make the playoffs in 2014. He declared it, Martin Mayhew declared it, the team believes it is playoff bound. He has celebrated offensive weapons at his disposal with Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush and Matt Stafford on board. This offense is more loaded with talent than it has been since Fontes was in charge and had Barry Sanders, Herman Moore, Brett Perriman and Johnny Morton on his side.
The question is, is he set up for success or failure? For a team that has not won an NFL championship since 1957, has a grand total of one playoff win in the super bowl era, one playoff appearance in this millennium(2011)and has never won an NFC north divison title, I’d have to say I don’t like his odds.