Lions mailbag: If Caldwell's not coaching for job, team should say so

Dave Birkett
Detroit Free Press
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Dec 26, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Lions coach Jim Caldwell reacts to a call in the 42-21 loss to the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.

Every week during the Detroit Lions season we’ll do a Twitter mailbag. Use the social media site to send your questions to Lions beat writer Dave Birkett at @davebirkett.

Why do Lions fans always seem to want to fire their coach, when clearly the best teams ride with a coaches ups and downs? - @patricktsawyer

I’ve gotten plenty of questions this week about Jim Caldwell’s job status and what Sunday’s game means to his future, so let’s start here.

First, the answer to this question is easy. Lions fans always seem to want to fire their coach because, historically speaking, the Lions always seem to be losing. You can’t fault a passionate fan base for demanding more from its leaders, and when the organization is clearly heading in the wrong direction that should mean a change is in order.

Now, that’s not case here, which I’m sure is what Patrick is getting at. Jim Caldwell led the Lions to the playoffs in 2014, and after a down year last year the team is one win away from reaching the postseason again. By any measure, the Lions have improved from last season.

A lot of the fan frustration with Caldwell is related to his in-game decision making. How he uses timeouts. Which plays he does or doesn’t challenge. How he manages the clock. Things that are easy both to see and dispute. Caldwell has certainly made his share of mistakes in those areas, but he’s also excelled at some things – juggling egos, for example – that aren’t as identifiable to the naked eye.

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I don’t think the best teams ride with coaches no matter the circumstance, but I do believe continuity is important because of the time it takes to build a winning program.

Whether the Lions will maintain continuity on their coaching staff is another story. On one hand, Caldwell deserves credit for what most people agree is an overachieving team. On the other, a three-game losing streak (if it happens) to end the season and squander a playoff bid would be soul crushing, especially in the first year under a new GM.

If Caldwell’s job isn’t on the line this week, the Lions and general manager Bob Quinn should come out and say so. They certainly have been given the opportunity to do just that. Until that happens, or until they have a playoff spot locked up, the questions will surely continue.

Any news on Abdullah? – @jrob3939

And now the second most popular question, not just of this week but of the past month. Ameer Abdullah remains on injured reserve rehabbing from September foot surgery. He received positive news in a checkup with his doctor last month, but hasn’t been cleared to return to practice by the Lions.

At this point, it looks like the Lions won’t use their IR-return spot at all this year. There’s at most a month left in the season, and figure any player coming back from an injury now would need a few weeks of practice. Beyond that, there have been no indications from the club that Abdullah is in the plans for this year.

Last week's mailbag:

Detroit Lions mailbag: On Pro Bowl snubs and 'Die Hard' at Christmas

Will the Lions still go with just two RB's if Riddick can't play? Why have Bell if you are not going to use him? - @MichiganMike67

Well, we won’t the game designations until about 7 p.m. Sunday night, but I personally have no problem with the Lions’ decision last week to keep just two running backs active in Zach Zenner and Dwayne Washington. The Lions don’t run the ball enough that this is a real issue, Joique Bell isn’t taking carries from either Zenner or Washington, and if they run into an injury situation, fullback Mike Burton can play running back.

Bell has had a fine career, better than most anyone expected coming out of Wayne State, but two teams have now seen fit to give him a total of three carries this year (all against the Lions for a total of 6 yards). He’s an insurance marker, not a player who’s going to make a substantial impact on offense.

Friday's injury report:

Travis Swanson still limited at Detroit Lions practice

Will the public have a chance to buy playoff tickets from the lions? Where do the extra tickets go. Not that many season holders - @RDerenzy

Playoff tickets can’t officially go on sale until the minute the Lions have clinched a home game, though season-ticket holders were afforded the opportunity to reserve seats weeks ago when that possible first looked real weeks ago. The general public should have an opportunity to buy from the allotment of leftover tickets. Here’s what Lions president Rod Wood told me when I asked about the process:

“We have already sent out some email blasts to all the season-ticket holders about reserving their season tickets once it became possible that we could have a game, and then if a game is assured it’ll ramp up immediately thereafter for the rest of the tickets to be sold. So there’s a process.”

Contact Dave Birkett: Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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2016 year in review:

See ya, 2016: Our Michigan sports year in review

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