Jim Caldwell Won Motown Over, Then Got Lions Fans Belting Out Playoff Tunes

DETROIT — It's funny. Laughable, if you will.

When Jim Caldwell was hired as Lions' head coach, many fans moaned and groaned. They lit up sports-talk radio, trashing the hiring.

Yep. Some fans were sure their team had hired the wrong guy, that they settled for their second or third choice.

Most of those same fans probably wouldn't admit it now. That's because they are too busy celebrating the Lions securing a playoff spot on Saturday night after the Philadelphia Eagles lost to Washington.

It's just the Lions' third trip to the postseason in 16 years.

Or they were too busy celebrating the Lions' 11th victory of the season, a 20-14 victory over the Bears in Chicago on Sunday afternoon.

It's only the third time in Lions' history that they have won at least 11 games in a season.

Caldwell – who was 26-22 in three years with the Indianapolis Colts — has so far gotten the job done in his first year in Motown. Unlike most, I thought Caldwell had a shot to do it.

Here’s a blurb of I wrote in January endorsing Caldwell's hiring.

Jim Caldwell wasn't the sexy pick.

In fact, most Lions fans discounted Caldwell as a serious candidate to replace Jim Schwartz because of his lackluster personality.

Let's face it. Before his press conference at Ford Field on Wednesday, some didn't know much about him and even more had never heard Caldwell speak.

It's hard to get excited about a guy like that, a virtual unknown to the general public.

Plus, there was such much buzz about Ken Whisenhunt. He appeared to be the next coach almost from Day 1 when the job opened.

But make no mistake about it, Caldwell is a solid pick to be the Lions' head coach.

Caldwell, who turned 59 Thursday, has everything the Lions need. He has experience. Caldwell was the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts for three seasons. He has a winning pedigree, going to three Super Bowls and winning two rings.

Caldwell has been a quarterback coach and offensive coordinator. He's worked with Super Bowl-winning QBs in Peyton Manning and Joe Flacco. Just the medicine Matthew Stafford needs.

Better yet, Caldwell's a no-nonsense, even-keeled man. That's something the Lions sorely need.

For sure, Caldwell, a quiet man, reading from basically a prepared speech and quoting the Bible a few times, didn't win the press conference.

Lions fans didn't call up Ford Field for season tickets after his formal introduction as the Lions' head man.

But then again, it's not about that. Theater doesn't work in football. Matt Millen and Schwartz made people feel great when they were hired, as if the Lions' history of being losers was going to end. Both crashed and burned.  

Maybe the Lions, drowning in a sea of wrong choices for decades, will finally get a break with this choice.

Maybe, just maybe, the Lions made a smart hire, even if it wasn't what they wanted to get at first.

There's no doubt they wanted Whisenhunt. It's the reason president Tom Lewand even mentioned Whisenhunt at the press conference.

There was no way he could have ignored it. It was truly the elephant in the stadium.

Lewand dismissed the notion that the Lions settled for Caldwell. "He fits our profile to a "T," Lewand said. "There's no doubt about it.

"Anyone one who thinks we settled for Jim Caldwell doesn't know anything about Jim Caldwell."

The Rolling Stones may have sang, "You Can't Always Get What You Want." But the Lions might have finally gotten what they need.

For sure, Caldwell has a real chance to win in Motown, much better odds than Schwartz and Rod Marinelli, the last two coaches here.

Not only is the talent on this team better than they those guys took over, Caldwell has been a head coach before. This isn't his first rodeo.

"I believe this is the right fit for me," Caldwell said.

Caldwell's job isn't done, however. His mission is simple: win a playoff game.

The time is now. The Lions' season will be for not without a playoff victory, the team's first since 1991.

When hired Caldwell understood this wasn't a rebuild and that many expected results immediately. "There's a reason I'm here, to win a championship," he said back then.

Caldwell has given the Lions a chance. Sadly, many fans weren't willing to give Caldwell one.

Rob Parker is a columnist for The Shadow League. He is also an analyst for Fox Sports 1 in Los Angeles. He co-hosts The Odd Couple on Fox Sports Radio and is also an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California.