Jim Caldwell, despite being the most successful Detroit Lions coach in recent history, gets as much scrutiny as almost any head coach in the league.
Why? Becuase he cares more about the big picture than he does about showing the same emotions that fans are feeling when things aren’t going well. The Lions are 6-6, with a minimal chance of making the Wildcard even if they run the table. It’s no doubt been a disappointing six-game stretch for the Lions since they started an impressive 3-1 through four games.
Caldwell is not one to go on postgame rants about officiating or call out players for underperforming. This is perhaps both what makes him a successful coach and the reason why he frustrates a passionate fanbase. Whether it be the illegal bat play from a few years ago in Seattle, or the ten-second runoff that cost the Lions against Atlanta in Week 3, Caldwell never seems affected.
Earlier this week, Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter said of his team’s intention to attack injured quarterback Matthew Stafford’s hand: “We gotta try to get ahold of that hand.”
Koetter later backtracked from his Stafford comments, and when Caldwell had a chance to address it, he downplayed it.
Jim Caldwell said Dirk Koetter's comments about going after Matthew Stafford's hand were "in jest." Asked how he knows, Caldwell said, "I know him" https://t.co/c9oDaX0bXy
— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) December 7, 2017
Now, if it’s true that the two coaches are friends and that they both understood the comments to be in jest, you can understand why he’d avoid calling out Koetter for the somewhat out-of-bounds remark.
But this is the kind of thing that fans are tired of. They want to hear Caldwell’s passion, to feel he cares as much as they do. Fans want to hear him defend Detroit’s franchise quarterback, not stick up for his coaching buddy.
So is this low-key, unemotional style a strength or weakness of Caldwell’s?
It’s tough to say. His players routinely speak highly of him. He has made the playoffs in two of his three seasons in Detroit and could still realistically finish 10-6 this year. The team’s recent problem with slow starts, however, along with some inexcusable mishaps, have caused a large portion of Detroit’s fanbase to lose faith in him to lead the Lions anywhere relevant.
On the contrary, this team has shown a consistent ability to win games late for much of his time in Detroit. Matthew Stafford has grown as a player and leader, taking more control over the offense than ever. That’s why Caldwell was originally brought here, yet he gets very little credit Stafford’s growth.
As much as I understand the frustration of the fans, I also caution not to overreact to the little things, such as his emotions on the sideline or postgame comments.
Simply judge Jim Caldwell by how the team performs. This season, the Lions are average at 6-6.