Jim Caldwell offered the perfect quote to sum up his reign with the Detroit Lions:
"We're just a little bit above average, and a little bit above average is not good enough," he said Tuesday, via Kyle Meinke of MLive.com. "There's no bowl games in this league and so we got to get better, we got to get better in every area. It's a team sport and there's not anything that we just absolutely excelled at I think all across the board."
The Lions have hovered around sea-level for the entirety of Caldwell's tenure. Detroit is 35-28 in four seasons under the head coach. At 8-7 heading into Week 17, Caldwell has had only one losing season and has made the playoffs twice, the most since Bobby Ross before the turn of the millennium.
The truth remains that the Lions have owned 8-8 talent the past several years. In the NFL's meritocracy, that means a record anywhere from 6-10 to 10-6 is possible depending on how close games break. With Matthew Stafford leading furious comebacks like they were a stroll down Woodward, the Lions stuck around the middle of the pack. Yet over the course of four years, the coaching staff hasn't improved the play of enough players on the roster.
At no time during Caldwell's tenure has he inspired confidence in the fan base that Detroit was more than a speed bump for Super Bowl-caliber teams. In big games, his teams consistently come out flat. Sunday's laid egg in Cincinnati was the latest example of a team ill-prepared in a big spot.
"Just a number of things that we've been a bit inconsistent with," Caldwell said. "There's some games it works decently, there's other games it hasn't been as good, and we consistently try to work on it. But like anything else, we're more interested in wins than we are in stats."
The Lions retained the milquetoast Caldwell after he backed into a playoff appearance last year. With another whiff in the division -- despite the Packers seeing Aaron Rodgers miss most of the season and the Vikings thriving after injuries to their starting QB and running back -- general manager Bob Quinn could decide to move on.
If it hadn't been for Stafford, Caldwell's tenure in Detroit would have been over long ago.