Rogers: Quinn wanted Caldwell; now he has to deal with it

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Jim Caldwell and Bob Quinn

Allen Park – Bob Quinn has made many changes since being hired as the Detroit Lions’ general manager, but his first decision, to retain coach Jim Caldwell, has the franchise facing yet another lost season just four games into the 2016 campaign.

For the second consecutive year, the Lions are at risk of being out of playoff contention by their bye week. The hole is already deep and nearing insurmountable, following an embarrassing 17-14 to loss to the previously winless Chicago Bears. The Lions now sit at 1-3 and 0-2 in the division.

To his credit, Caldwell is shouldering the blame, but that accountability isn’t improving the on-field performance. For three straight weeks, Detroit has looked unprepared and uninspired. Standard fare adversity, injuries and penalties, are sinking the ship and Caldwell doesn’t appear to have the tools to make the necessary repairs.

In January, Quinn took five days to decide Caldwell’s fate. The two had extensive conversations during that stretch and the rookie general manager came away believing the veteran coach was still the man for the job.

On the surface, the decision was steeped in logic.

Caldwell is a top-notch communicator and has the unquestioned respect in the locker room. Plus, there was something to be said for the way the Lions finished last season, refusing to roll over after starting 1-7 and clawing back to respectability with a 6-2 finish.

Lions’ Caldwell: ‘I can’t control’ buzz about job security

Why not see if that momentum could carry over into the next year with some roster retooling?

But the problems that plagued Detroit in the first half of the previous season now qualify as perennial issues. The defense has been unable to compensate for the loss of star players. And the offense, despite being loaded with quality weapons, is infuriatingly inconsistent.

Most importantly, the Lions have been too slow to adjust, both in and between games. Combined with an inability to consistently finish, it’s been a recipe for disaster.

And while it’s easy to pin everything on Caldwell, Quinn also shares blame for the 1-3 start. He promised to bolster the depth, but the team is getting limited production from its free-agent haul. The crown jewel of the group, wide receiver Marvin Jones, has been a steal. On special teams, cornerback Johnson Bademosi has been an obvious upgrade. But who else?

Veterans Stevan Ridley, Geoff Schwartz, Darrin Walls, Jeremy Kerley and Matthew Mulligan didn’t make it out of training camp. To this point, Tavon Wilson and Rafael Bush have been less effective than Isa Abdul-Quddus at safety. And defensive linemen Stefan Charles and Wallace Gilberry have combined for six tackles.

Quinn’s arrival was met with jubilation. A wonder kid who had cultivated his football mind working for the NFL’s elite organization. The hope was that he’d be able to port that championship formula to the lowly Lions.

No one thought it would be easy, but we reasonably expected to see some early progress.

That’s what makes these current struggles so frustrating. There have been changes with long-term improvements in mind – the new weight room, the dietician, changes to the scouting process – but those aren’t fixing anything now.

For now, the focus is on Caldwell, whose seat is unseasonably warm for this time of year.  Just don’t expect Quinn to pull the trigger on a change any time soon. If he makes a switch now, installing one of the two equally inconsistent coordinators as a lame duck, it might temporarily quell dissatisfaction, but will also raise questions about the general manager’s convictions.

Keeping Caldwell was his decision, he has to live with it and learn from it. But at this rate, another wave of changes is on the horizon.