The Lions have confirmed that head coach Jim Caldwell will be back next season, and that’s no surprise: Playoff teams rarely fire their head coaches, and when they do it’s usually a team that has fallen short of expectations (like in John Fox’s last year with the Broncos, when a Super Bowl contender lost its first playoff game), not a team that has exceeded expectations like this year’s Lions.
What the Lions haven’t said, however, is what the status of Caldwell’s contract is.
Caldwell is wrapping up his third season on a four-year deal he signed in 2014. If the Lions announce this offseason that they’ve signed him to a long-term contract extension, then case closed: Caldwell is the Lions’ guy, and G.M. Bob Quinn believes the right coach is in place for the long run.
But if the Lions either make Caldwell coach next year in the final year of his contract (which is rare in the NFL) or give him only a token one-year extension, that’s a sure sign that Caldwell is coaching for his job in 2017. Only a long-term extension can give Caldwell any real job security beyond next season.
Of course, Caldwell and his team have the opportunity to make all this moot in the coming weeks: If the Lions get to the Super Bowl, they’d certainly extend Caldwell in the offseason. If the Lions lose in Seattle on Saturday, Caldwell will still coach the team in 2017, but he may be out of work a year from now.