Billick: Stafford issue may be end of Lions' Caldwell
Jim Caldwell's decision to bench Matthew Stafford early in the third quarter of last weekend's blowout loss to the Arizona Cardinals could spell the end of Caldwell's tenure as coach of the Detroit Lions, one prominent NFL analyst said today.
Speaking on the "Mike & Mike" radio program, the NFL Network's Brian Billick said if the Lions have to make a choice at the end of the season, they're sure to choose Stafford over Caldwell.
"Well, follow the money," Billick said. "OK, if we gave Matthew Stafford, what, $80 (million), $100 million? Ah, nah, I don't think he's going anywhere. And you're right about Jim Caldwell. When he came in, he took ownership of Matthew Stafford, obviously. He was brought in to get Matthew Stafford kind of sorted out. ... Caldwell, he's embedded with Stafford, so to speak, because if he can't get that sorted out, that's what he was hired for."
The Lions hired Caldwell in January 2014, after a brief coaching search that primarily featured candidates with offensive backgrounds.
Stafford had just signed a three-year extension with the team -- giving him five years and $76.5 million total on his deal -- and the Lions were determined to iron out some of his inconsistencies and build through their offense.
They drafted Eric Ebron in the first round last year, Ameer Abdullah in the second round this year, and have rebuilt the offensive line with high draft picks including Laken Tomlinson and Travis Swanson.
But the Lions have struggled offensively most of the last two seasons, and Stafford has regressed this year, throwing eight interceptions, including three against Arizona.
Both Stafford and Caldwell addressed their relationship Wednesday, with Stafford insisting he's "moving on' from his benching and playing with the same confidence he always has had.
Billick, who was head coach of the Baltimore Ravens in 1999-2007 and won a Super Bowl, said he has been a part of quarterback changes before -- most of his tenure in Baltimore was marred by uncertainty at the position -- and they usually end badly for the coach.
"When you pull a quarterback in the NFL, you're going down a path you can't go back on," Billick said. "And I know Jim Caldwell. I've done that, been there, and what do you do immediately afterward, 'No, no, it was a moment, and he's our guy, and we're going forward.' That's hard to do. ...
"You pull a quarterback like Matthew Stafford, intentionally or unintentionally, you have put him and your relationship with him and your organization on a path that rarely, if ever, ends well."
Contact Dave Birkett at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.
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