The Lions on Monday fired coach Jim Caldwell, who was 36-28 over four seasons, including a pair of 9-7 finishes from 2016-17. Caldwell was the first Lions' coach to sweep the rival Packers and register consecutive winning seasons since Wayne Fontes pulled otff the feats in 1991 and 1994-95, respectively.
Caldwell, though, was unable to win a playoff game in two appearances (2014 and 2016) and couldn't parlay an 8-6 start this year into the postseason, one year after Detroit lost its final five games and best opportunity for a division title in more than two decades, following a 9-4 start.
Caldwell was beloved by many of his players, yet, ironically, struggled to get them ready for the Lions' biggest games. Detroit fell behind frequently this season, including in the unofficial NFC North title game — a 30-23 home loss to the Vikings on Thanksgiving — and was plagued by some bad penalties and conservatism in the most inopportune times.
The Lions failed to field even a single 100-yard rusher in 66 games under Caldwell, including the latter half with ascending offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, whom Caldwell promoted in 2015 after firing Joe Lombardi. The move to Cooter coincided with the best play of Matthew Stafford's career, yet the Lions still struggled to score and play sound situational football, including routinely failing to convert short-yardage and goal-line situations in game-changing spots this season.
General manager Bob Quinn, a Bill Belichick disciple who inherited Caldwell upon replacing Martin Mayhew in 2016, signed the coach to an extension last offseason on the heels of a 9-7, wild-card campaign. But it was reportedly guaranteed only through 2018. Reports from NFL Media indicate Quinn has already lined up interviews with former colleague and Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.
The Lions do have two potential in-house head-coach candidates in Cooter and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, who has interviewed for head vacancies the past few offseasons and is scheduled to interview in Detroit on Tuesday, according to ESPN's Josina Anderson.
Along with Stafford, who signed the NFL's richest contract in August and is in the prime of his career as he concludes his age-29 campaign, the Lions have a young franchise left tackle and middle linebacker and pair of Pro Bowl defensive backs helping make them an attractive destination.