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Caldwell: Performance, not race, reason for hot seat

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell rejected on Wednesday the notion his race has been a factor in the way he's been covered.

“I said, ‘No,’ and that’s the way I feel,” Caldwell said. “You’ve never heard me blame anything in any point in time, make up any excuses about anything that we’ve ever done, and I never will. I’ve been around a long time. My father wouldn’t allow me to do it when I was a kid. So, no difference today.”

A column in the Times Herald of Port Huron ran Tuesday suggesting Caldwell is on hot seat, not because of the what the team has failed to accomplish on the field, but because of the color of his skin.

Caldwell, who once called the local media “the Dungeon of Doom” for the negativity of their coverage, continued to attribute calls for his job to the Lions’ record. The team is 8-7 heading into the season finale with Green Bay and mathematically eliminated from the playoffs following a disappointing loss to the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday.

“That’s part of our business,” Caldwell said. “That’s kind of the way it goes. That’s every year, right? I told you guys a story a long time ago about Marty Schottenheimer. He got fired at 14-2. So, anything less than a Super Bowl, obviously it could happen.”

Caldwell is the first black head coach in Lions history. He led the team to an 11-5 mark and a postseason berth in his first year with the franchise. The team got off to a 1-7 start the following season, but finished strong with six wins in the second half.

Caldwell was retained by new general manager Bob Quinn in 2016 and delivered a second postseason appearance. The Lions surged to a 9-4 start before stumbling down the stretch while quarterback Matthew Stafford played through a finger injury on his throwing hand.

This year, the Lions failed to improve on the previous campaign. After starting 3-1, the Lions lost five games to playoff-caliber opponents, and the defeat in Cincinnati ended aspirations of back-to-back playoff appearances.

Caldwell has posted a 35-28 mark and his .556 winning percentage is the best of any full-time coach in the Super Bowl era for a franchise that has won one playoff game in six decades.