Tampa, Fla. — After beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday to move to 7-6 on the season, Lions coach Jim Caldwell is once again having to answer questions about his job security.
On Sunday morning, multiple reports surfaced that the multi-year extension Caldwell signed last offseason is actually just a one-year deal, with his 2018 salary guaranteed. The team holds an option for the 2019 season.
That new information significantly alters the coach’s perceived job security following the completion of the 2017 campaign.
Not surprisingly, Caldwell declined to comment on the reports.
“We’ve never, never ever, ever been in the practice of talking about contracts and anything of that nature, and certainly not going to start today,” he said during his postgame news conference.
As he has often said in the past, Caldwell noted he never allows himself to feel comfortable about his job status.
“That’s coaching, right?” he said. “It’s the way it is.”
Even if the Lions win their final four games, the team is likely miss the postseason. But a 10-6 record, following two playoff appearances the previous three seasons, could provide Caldwell and his staff a strong argument to stay on another year.
Caldwell has coached the Lions to a .557 winning percentage during his four years with the organization, the best of any full-time coach during the Super Bowl era. The team exited the postseason in the opening round both trips.
Several Lions players were asked their thoughts on Caldwell’s status with the team, but most had little to say.
“We go play, he goes and coaches,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “He understands that part of the business. We understand — who knows, I’m not on social media, so I don’t know all that crap. Yeah, we just go play man. We go play, he goes and coaches. Our job is to win football games, that’s what we’re trying to do.”
More than anyone, defensive back Quandre Diggs came to his coach’s defense.
“Coach Caldwell is a great coach, a great man,” Diggs said. “He gets a lot of unfair criticism because of us. If we go out and do our job, there wouldn’t be any questions about his job. A lot of that falls on our shoulders.
“He’s always going to take the blame, but if falls on our shoulder. We’ve got to come out, we’ve got to play, we’ve got to compete and we’ve got to play 60 minutes because that’s not his job to get us to play 60 minutes.”
Caldwell has drawn criticism from a number of issues this year — from the Lions’ slow starts, inability to beat playoff-caliber competition, and, most recently, not having enough players on the field for critical plays on back-to-back weeks.
As Diggs pointed out, Caldwell rarely makes excuses and is quick to accept blame for the team’s shortcomings. It remains to be seen whether those shortcomings will cost him his job this offseason.
But if the reports are accurate, we know if won’t be as financially burdensome on the organization to make a change.