It is easy to blame a coach whenever a play doesn't work or when players are undisciplined, but how is adequate coaching determined? Ultimately, the final record should be the scale for grading a head coach. The Lions had a slightly above average record and were one of the 12 of 32 teams to play at least one additional game. Depending on the expectations you placed on the team, it is not often considered a failure for a coach to lead their team to the playoffs–especially 2 out of 3 years.
My personal thoughts this year for head coach Jim Caldwell was playoffs or bust. Although he squeaked into the postseason, he still reached the bar I had placed for him. He deserves one more year to build on the success he has brought to Detroit. It doesn't hurt to have some continuity in the staff as well.
I will say this regarding Caldwell, he better figure out how to implement halftime adjustments next year or he will quickly run out of slack on my short leash.
On offense, boy did the tables turn on OC Jim Bob Cooter. At one point, there was even some premature consideration for him supplanting Caldwell as the Lions next head coach. Now, a vocal fraction would like him gone and think he doesn't know how to run an offense… disagree. He does deserve some of the blame for the offensive struggles down the stretch, but there is more at play. Those third and long screen passes must have really rubbed people the wrong way. In fairness, he catered to the strengths of many players and got the best of each individual. He allowed Stafford to run the offense and never faltered from the gameplan. The one true head-scratcher was the decision to continually play RB Washington over Zenner for the amount of time that he did.
Defensively, DC Teryl Austin is in a similar boat to Cooter. Once the best thing since sliced bread is all of a sudden one of the most disdained figures on the team. Despite many fans turning on Austin, the NFL still feels otherwise regarding his talents as two NFL teams want to interview him for head coaching gigs. I'll trust the professional GM's assessment. For the talent Austin was given this year, he somehow pieced together a respectable unit. There were times when he was forced to think outside the box, often looking silly, but what choice do you have when a mismatched team is getting manhandled while playing vanilla defense? Austin has proven he can command an elite defense, he just needs a couple pieces in the front seven to work with–like any defensive coordinator would.
When it comes to coaching, remember this, no coach is ever going to call each play to your perfect standards.
- MID-SEASON GRADE: D
- FINAL GRADE: C-
— Michael Rothstein (@mikerothstein) December 30, 2016