Over the last four years the Detroit Lions haven't done as well as I've wanted and hoped they would, but realistically they did as well as they should have for the most part. With Aaron Rodgers leading the Packers they weren't going to be the best team in the division and three winning records with two trips to the playoffs is pretty good. Especially considering the fact that they haven't been very good since Barry Sanders retired, and even then they were only good because of him. Not to mention the team is just ten years removed from going 0-16 in a season. Caldwell has finished turning the losing culture of the team around. Jim Schwartz did a lot of work on that as well, but even with the improvements he brought the culture of not being good was still there and the team needed a fresh start and that's what Caldwell gave them.
I'm not going to lie. There were many times in many games where I would curse a blue streak about Caldwell's easy going coaching manner and plays left unchallenged and timid play calling leaving points on the field. The reality is that the team is consistently a challenger in the division and has a shot of getting into the playoffs. I don't think he was ever going to be the coach that really took them to the next level, but he did what his job was and that was rebuild and rebrand the team as one that can win and is no longer a joke. He was helped by the presence of some great players in Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, and Ndamukong Suh. But even after losing two of those players he managed to keep them performing at a high level.
Every fan feels this way, but the past couple of seasons have had some bad officiating that really changed the way the games went for the Lions. I won't list all the calls that screwed the Lions, but there have been several big ones that hurt them big time. Might as well start with the one from this season as it would have put them in the playoffs if it didn't occur. The catch against the Falcons that everybody thought was a touchdown, but on review was called back saying his knee was down then ran off ten seconds to end the game. Considering how long it takes for refs to decide the process of a catch has been completed it seems a real bummer that a guy can be down when his knee hits, but still have to hold onto the ball when he hits the ground, but a guy who drops the ball when it hits the ground doesn't make the catch when even if his knees hit the ground. Caldwell's only losing season in 2015 saw two major calls that completely changed games that would have given them a winning record. The first being in the Seahawks game when Calvin Johnson fumbled the ball on the one yard line and KJ Wright batted the ball out of the back of the end zone which was ruled a touchback for the Seahawks when it should have been a penalty and given the Lions on the one yard line. The other call would be the phantom face masking penalty that gave the Packers another play which resulted in a hail mary touchdown by Rodgers. Replays clearly show that there is no contact, but the call was made and the Packers capitalized.
The biggest of the bad calls that went against the Lions in the Caldwell era happens during the Lions vs. Cowboys playoff game. The officials call pass interference and announce the call then get together and reverse the decision, despite replays clearly showing the pass interference. Fine, that happens all the time. Although Dez Bryant also runs onto the field to yell at the refs which should also be a penalty. So the officials just ignore all of this and the Cowboys get a free stop. Granted the Lions didn't help themselves by shanking the punt on the next play, but that's beside the point as it should never have had to happen.
Now this whining about bad calls seems like it's getting away from my point of thanking Caldwell for turning the team around, but if it wasn't for the work he did turning the team around we wouldn't be the kind of team that can point to such big deal calls working against us. I've seen controversial calls against the Lions before, but most of them I just forget because the team was bad and it didn't change the outcomes of the season. Caldwell made the Lions a team that can make it to the playoffs and be a winning team. Now they're a team were it's a disappointment when they don't make the playoffs instead of a team where fans are happy when we can go .500 and beat each of the division rivals at least once a season. So thank you Jim Caldwell for making the Lions a team that can disappoint me when they don't win.