Lions fire coach Jim Caldwell after missing playoffs

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ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) Jim Caldwell may have been the Detroit Lions’ most successful coach in the Super Bowl era.

That was not enough to save his job.

The Lions fired Caldwell on Monday after a season in which the team raised hopes before fading and missing the playoffs for the second time in three years.

Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford called Caldwell “one of the finest leaders we’ve ever had as our head coach.”

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“Not only did he guide us on the field to three winning seasons, but he also set a standard of excellence off the field that had a tremendous impact on everyone in our organization and our entire community,” she said in a statement.

“As many of our players have already said, his influence on them transcended the game of football and will positively serve them throughout their lives. Our organization is better because of Jim, and we are forever grateful.”

Caldwell received a multiyear contract extension before the season, but the team didn’t announce the move for months.

The Lions beat Green Bay 35-11 Sunday to finish 9-7, their third winning record in Caldwell’s four years. Detroit met relatively modest expectations this season after a promising start that left the team at 3-1 and 6-4. But the Lions then dropped out of postseason contention by losing three of their next five.

Caldwell was 36-28 with Detroit and 0-2 in the postseason. Including three years with the Indianapolis Colts, he is 62-50 and 2-4 in the playoffs.

When Caldwell was hired almost four years ago, he was working for a franchise with only one winning season in a 13-season stretch.

“We’re going to be smart,” Caldwell said when he was hired Jan. 14, 2014. “We’re going to be a football team that takes the field that’s not going to shoot itself in the foot.”

Detroit’s defense, though, was short-handed in consecutive games late in the season.

The Lions were down a player for a snap when Minnesota scored a touchdown in a win at Detroit on Thanksgiving and were missing two players when Baltimore converted a third down to help it take a two-TD lead in a victory. After bouncing back with two straight wins, the Lions lost what shot they had to rally for a spot in the playoffs by losing to Cincinnati in Week 16.

Even as it became clear Caldwell’s job may be in jeopardy, he took it in stride.

“That’s part of our business,” he insisted going into his last game as Detroit’s coach. “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.”

The Lions have never played in a Super Bowl. And since winning the 1957 NFL title, they have won only one playoff game and that lone victory was in 1992.

Caldwell, who led the Colts to the Super Bowl nearly seven years ago in his first season as an NFL head coach, got off to a solid start in Detroit with 11 wins in 2014 that was the franchise’s best regular season since 1991.

His second season got off to a slow start with a 1-7 record. But the team rallied for a 7-9 finish, and general manager Bob Quinn stayed with him. When the Lions hired Quinn shortly after the 2015 season, he kept Caldwell around for a third season. The Lions were 9-7 in 2016, putting Caldwell in company with Bobby Ross and Buddy Parker as Detroit coaches to earn playoff bids in two of their first three seasons.

He became Detroit’s first coach to have at least three winning seasons in his first four years since the early 1950s.

Caldwell didn’t scream at his players and showed an interest in their lives off the field.

“I love Caldwell,” receiver Marvin Jones said. “I’ve been here for two years and he’s the best coach I’ve ever had. Everybody is quiet two minutes before his meetings because he demands respect without yelling. He doesn’t yell at all. You never want to disappoint him. We just had to make more plays for him.”

He went 16-8 against NFC North teams, but wasn’t able to help the franchise win its first division title since 1993.

In each of Caldwell’s four years of leading the Lions, they ranked among the NFL’s worst in yards rushing. That glaring weakness put a lot of pressure on quarterback Matthew Stafford and a shaky line, leading to an offense that struggled to move the ball and score consistently.

“He does a great job in our locker room help getting us ready to go play football,” Stafford said days before the season finale. “And the rest is up to the players to go out there and make plays and win games.”

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Stafford-led Lions beat Bears 20-10, stay in playoff picture

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DETROIT (AP) Matthew Stafford threw two touchdown passes and avoided mistakes, allowing the Detroit Lions to stay in the playoff picture with a 20-10 victory over the Chicago Bears on Saturday night.

Detroit (8-6) has won two straight and needs to close the regular season with two more wins to keep its postseason hopes alive.

The Bears (4-10) have lost six of seven, sealing a third season with double-digit losses in three years under embattled coach John Fox.

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Stafford threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to TJ Jones with 6:10 left in the first half after Fox chose to punt on fourth-and-1 from the Chicago 45. He threw an 8-yard pass to Eric Ebron for a 20-3 lead early in the third quarter after Darius Slay‘s first of two interceptions in the game.

Stafford was 25 of 33 for 237 yards and didn’t turn the ball over for the first time since Week 11.

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Stafford’s 4th winning drive leads Lions over Bucs 24-21

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TAMPA, Fla. — With the clock running down in a tie game, the Detroit Lions didn’t have any qualms about the ball being in Matthew Stafford‘s injured throwing hand.

They’ve come to expect their quarterback to find a way to lead them to victory in those situations, and Stafford didn’t disappoint Sunday, when he threw for 381 yards and set up Matt Prater for a 46-yard field goal in the closing seconds to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24-21.

The victory stopped a two-game skid and kept the Lions (7-6) in playoff contention with three games remaining.

“I just think we have a lot of confidence. I think guys that have been around here have understood that sometimes that’s the way the game boils down. We go out there and make plays,” Stafford said after directing a winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime for the 32nd time in his career.

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“When you have success, it breeds confidence,” he added, “Frankly, there’s been some times this year where we haven’t been successful in those situations, some really close calls in some other games. It feels good to get back out there and have a two-minute drive, go down there and win the game.”

Stafford made his 109th consecutive start despite being limited in practice after his right hand was stepped on during the previous week at Baltimore . He completed 36 of 44 attempts against the Bucs (4-9), and the Lions overcame two interceptions and a fumble to stay alive for a playoff spot.

Jameis Winston rallied Tampa Bay, which has lost eight of 10 following a 2-1 start, with a pair of fourth-quarter TD passes. But once again, the Bucs’ defense couldn’t hold off an opponent down the stretch.

A week ago, the Bucs led by a field goal in the closing minutes of regulation before losing 26-20 in overtime at Green Bay.

“This team is always going to fight. We’ve just got to learn how to come out on the other side of these things,” Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said.

“We fought back last week. We fought back this week,” McCoy, who left the game in the opening half with a biceps injury. “It’s a fine line between winning and losing. The fine line was a field goal today.”

Stafford moved the Lions 49 yards in eight plays to set up Prater’s winning kick with 20 seconds left – the fourth winning drive he’s led this season.

“Tough guy who heals quickly. It’s always been that way,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “He’s a great leader. Did a tremendous out there for us under tough circumstances. … He threw the ball pretty well. I’m sure it wasn’t easy, but he did a nice job.”

Stafford threw a 5-yard TD pass to Golden Tate and Theo Riddick scored on runs of 2 and 18 yards to help the Lions take a 21-7 lead into the fourth quarter.

Winston, who threw two interceptions and lost a fumble, led a 75-yard drive that he finished with a 2-yard scoring pass to O.J. Howard and then used a 40-yard pass interference call against Detroit cornerback DJ Hayden to set a 2-yard TD throw to seldom-used offensive lineman Leonard Wester to make it 21-21 with eight minutes remaining.

Winston completed 26 of 38 passes for 285 yards. His fumble led to Riddick’s second TD run. Tampa Bay finished with five turnovers, and Winston was sacked three times.

The loss ensures the Bucs, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2007, will finish with a losing record . The team entered this season with heightened expectations after going 9-7 in their first year under coach Dirk Koetter, who now finds himself deflecting questions about whether his relationship with Winston – the top pick in the 2015 draft – is deteriorating.

“That’s obviously news to me. I think Jameis and I have an extremely consistent relationship for the last three years. I don’t think anything’s different about it, but that’s just my opinion,” the coach added before shrugging off another question about if he was concern about speculation about a possible riff between the two.

“It concerns me that we’re not winning enough games. That’s my biggest concern,” Koetter said. “I know the truth about our relationship. My big concern is our football team.”


Stafford’s streak of 109 consecutive starts is the third-longest among NFL quarterbacks behind Matt Ryan (128) and Philip Rivers (119).


It took two replay reviews for officials to get it right on a play initially ruled an incomplete pass and 15-yard penalty against the Lions for a hit on a defenseless receiver in the first half.

Officials first looked at Winston’s first-quarter completion to Howard, who fumbled after being hit in the shoulder by safety Quandre Diggs at Detroit’s 18-yard line. The Bucs retained possession when the play was ruled an incompletion and that a 15-yard penalty should be assessed from the spot of the previous play.

The Lions then successfully challenged the ruling of an incomplete pass. Following another review, referee Ed Hochuli announced Howard indeed caught the ball and took four steps before being hit, and the Lions were awarded the ball on the fumble recovery. There was no foul for the hit, which was legal.


Lions: Played without RT Rick Wagner (ankle), who was inactive.

Buccaneers: DT Gerald McCoy left in the first half with a shoulder/biceps injury and did not return.


Lions: Return home to face Chicago on Saturday.

Buccaneers: Begin a stretch of three consecutive games to end the season against NFC South rivals, hosting Atlanta next Monday night.

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