ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Jim Caldwell has coached the Detroit Lions to the playoffs twice in three seasons. Before he arrived, they’d made it once in the previous 14.
Yet with his team preparing for this weekend’s opening-round game at Seattle, Caldwell was asked Tuesday about … his job security.
Yes, Caldwell and the Lions still have a lot to prove to a skeptical fan base that’s had little to cheer about over the years.
Detroit is in the playoffs as a wild card, but after three straight losses to end the regular season, the Lions are in danger of finishing on a sour note.
“It’s not about me. I’m more interested in this team and that focus,” Caldwell said in response to a question about his future.
“Our business is always skepticism and those kinds of things. It’s a challenging business. That’s what makes it fun, you know? It’s not for the faint of heart. You better be willing to take on challenges and understand that you’re expected to win.”
Caldwell may not have much to worry about in terms of his job status. He’s 27-21 in the regular season with Detroit, and the Lions (9-7) made the playoffs despite losing Calvin Johnson to retirement last offseason.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford called Caldwell “a heck of a coach” and defensive back Darius Slay gave an even stronger endorsement Tuesday.
“He’s the best coach. I love him,” Slay said. “He’s all about players. He takes care of us well — great coach. He’s got the best powerful words I’ve been hearing. He teaches more manly stuff than football stuff, even though his job is football, but he brings into the football world the manly part.”
Caldwell’s interactions with players behind the scenes aren’t usually made public, of course. Fans see mostly his stoic sideline demeanor, and although the Lions have won enough to make the playoffs this season, there are caveats — they were outscored by 12 points over their 16 games, for example.
The Lions rallied after a 1-3 start, and a victory last weekend against Green Bay would have given Detroit a home playoff game for the first time in the 15-season history of Ford Field.
Instead, the Lions lost , and now they have to travel to face the Seahawks on Saturday.
“We’re one of the 12 teams still playing,” Caldwell said. “I think it was probably about a 14 percent chance of us getting here after starting where we started. I think we have a team that’s dedicated, that’s tough, that’s smart, that plays extremely hard, and we’ve got a chance.”
The Lions might be viewed much differently if they’d been able to win the NFC North. They haven’t won a division title since 1993, and that drought continues after they lost to the Giants, Cowboys and Packers to close the regular season.
The easiest way for the Lions to make up for that would be to beat Seattle for their first postseason victory since the 1991 season. Easier said than done.
“It’s kind of like a golf game. You’ve got a 494-yard par 4 and you hit it off the tee,” Caldwell said. “Some guys hit it right down the middle and then maybe hit a 3-wood to the green or a 5-wood in some cases.
“Some guys are like me. They hit it in the woods and they might have to hit it between two trees in order to get on the green, but the fact of the matter is, we’re still on in two, all right? We’re on in regulation and everybody’s putting for birdie.”
NOTES: Detroit WR Andre Roberts (shoulder) did not practice Tuesday.