Detroit Lions: Where things stand with Jim Caldwell's job status

Dave Birkett
Detroit Free Press
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Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell.

The Detroit Lions made the playoffs and lost a division title on Sunday, but neither of those outcomes did anything to answer perhaps the biggest question facing the team this off-season: What becomes of Jim Caldwell as head coach?

Caldwell is now 27-21 in three seasons as Lions coach with two playoff trips to his credit, a resume unmatched by any Lions coach in the Super Bowl era. But he's also entering the final year of his contract while working for a general manager who didn't hire him and coming off three straight losses to close the regular season.

If the Lions lose Saturday in their wildcard game against the Seattle Seahawks, they'll finish on a four-game losing streak for the first time since 2013 (when that fate did in Jim Schwartz as coach) and with a far different vibe then the one Caldwell enjoyed when he went 6-2 down the stretch to save his job last year.

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Caldwell had no interest in discussing his job security last week. He said he understands that "job questions come no matter what in our business," but declining to say what assurances the organization has given him for 2017 and beyond.

Lions general manager Bob Quinn, upon being reminded that there were questions lingering about Caldwell's future as he made his way to his private box at Ford Field before Sunday's 31-24 loss to the Green Bay Packers, told the Free Press that he doesn't plan to speak with reporters until after the season.

While the case for Caldwell returning for a fourth season with the Lions would certainly seem to be bolstered by a playoff win, the Lions might also be hamstrung by NFL rules should they desire to make a change after the wildcard round.


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NFL rules permit teams to interview assistant coaches on teams with a first-round bye only during their bye week at the start of the playoffs. For teams like the Lions that play in the wildcard round, their assistant coaches can interview for head-coaching jobs next week and then not again until their season is done.

That means top coaching candidates like the New England Patriots duo of Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia - both of whom Quinn knows well from his days with the Patriots - and Kyle Shanahan of the Atlanta Falcons have through this weekend to interview and then are off limits until after their teams are eliminated from the postseason.

For one or all of those candidates - they all reportedly already have interviews lined up - that could be after Super Bowl LI on Feb. 5.

As things stand now, Caldwell's future remains the topic of much speculation - Do the Lions need to extend him? Would he return as a lame-duck coach? Does Quinn want him back? - and it's unlikely to cease until someone from the organization addresses it head on.

Contact Dave Birkett: Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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