Monarrez: Detroit Lions making a mistake by keeping Jim Caldwell

Carlos Monarrez
Detroit Free Press
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Ford Motor Company executive chairman Bill Ford, right, talks to Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell before the game against the Green Bay Packers on Jan. 1, 2017, at Ford Field.

Congratulations, Detroit Lions. You’ve just become the Cincinnati Bengals.

Congratulations, Martha Ford. You’ve become Mike Brown.

And if you’re wondering, neither is a compliment. Just ask any Bengals fan about their team and its owner.

The Lions today said they'll bring back Jim Caldwell for at least one more season. If you’re a Lions fan, you should be worried for several reasons.

This decision suggests that there are troublesome issues behind closed doors. Perhaps a meddlesome owner. Or perhaps a general manager who cares more about pleasing his owner and having job security than about taking a gamble to pursue excellence.

Mostly, Lions fans should be worried about the direction in which this franchise seems comfortable heading. The direction of mediocrity. The direction of the Bengals, who have seen no reason to fire coach Marvin Lewis, who is a whopping 0-7 in the playoffs.

And Caldwell has done even less than that. At this point, Caldwell has won as many playoff games for the Lions as you and I. Zero. None. He gets another chance Saturday at Seattle (8:15 p.m., NBC).

Oh, but Caldwell has gotten the Lions to the playoffs twice in three years. Let me catch my breath! When does the Woodward parade start? I’m sure Lewis would like a front-row seat. Or maybe he’s driving the lead float.

Look, Caldwell is a competent coach. But only that. Competent. Average. Give him good talent and a few bad breaks, and he misses the playoffs. Give him good talent and a few good breaks, and he makes the playoffs. He is not a difference maker.

And don’t talk to me about improving discipline and changing the culture. Don’t tell me about overachieving this season (thanks, choking Redskins, Vikings injuries and a soft schedule!). Don’t talk to me about having a chance to win the division at home and coming, oh, so close!

That’s a bunch of hokum. All that means is the bar is so low that this franchise is grasping for even the most tenuous signs of improvement. No one should care about this kind of drivel.

But I’ll tell you who cares. Owners such as Martha Ford who don’t seem to like it when hotheads like former coach Jim Schwartz make them look bad. And you know what? If Schwartz had won, I’m sure that the Ford family would have been only too happy to look past the “passion” of a successful coach who earned them lucrative home playoff games.

If you like Caldwell and his anti-Schwartz composure, I don’t blame you. He presents a great face for ownership and the franchise. He’s smart and well-spoken and exudes leadership.

He’s the kind of coach loved by an owner who cares more about image than results. If you recall, when Caldwell’s future was in doubt last January, Ford said, “I love Jim Caldwell.” She said that at Quinn’s introductory news conference, which was inappropriate and undermined Quinn’s supposed autonomous decision on Caldwell's future.

Imagine you get hired for a big job and, on your first day, the company owner tells you she loves a certain employee. You think you’re firing that person?

Caldwell also deftly has played his political hand by ingratiating himself with Martha Ford and her family. Before each game, he spends several minutes with them on the sideline. There are hugs, handshakes and broad smiles.

That might make it hard for Quinn to ever get rid of Caldwell. But that might not be bad news for him. If Caldwell returns for a lame-duck season — or better yet, if he gets a one-year extension into 2018 — that means Quinn is playing with house money. GMs typically get to hire two coaches. Caldwell doesn’t count as Quinn’s hire, so his clock hasn’t really even started ticking.

So where does this leave Lions fans? Most likely, in the lurch.

You have a coach who hasn’t won a playoff game. An owner who seems OK with that. And a GM who isn’t willing to do anything about it.

Welcome to the Same Old Bengals -- and the Same New Lions.

Seidel: Detroit Lions do right thing and bring back Jim Caldwell

Contact Carlos Monarrez: Follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez. Download our free Lions Xtra app on your Apple and Android devices.

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