Although the news will not exactly come as a surprise, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes that Lions head coach Jim Caldwell remains “under review” and could be fired by the end of the season. Detroit, of course, began making sweeping changes to its power structure earlier this week when the club parted ways with with general manager Martin Mayhew and president Tom Lewand, and given the Lions’ tremendously disappointing season, it is widely expected that Caldwell will not be far behind.
If Caldwell is, in fact, terminated, La Canfora writes that current defensive coordinator Teryl Austin would become a strong candidate to take the reins, at least on an interim basis. Indeed, if the Lions are going to fire Caldwell anyway, it may behoove them to fire him sooner rather than later and give Austin a few weeks at the helm prior to the end of the season.
Both La Canfora and Dave Birkett of The Detroit Free Press speculate as to how the team will structure its front office moving forward. Although owner Martha Ford announced the Mayhew and Lewand firings, Birkett writes that Ford “has made a point to involve her children in major organizational decisions, and no one has her ear more now than her second-oldest daughter, Sheila Ford Hamp.” Hamp, her husband, and Rod Wood, the CEO of Ford Estates, have had an increased presence around the club in recent months, while Birkett and La Canfora report that William Clay Ford, Jr. now has a far less prominent role with the team. Per La Canfora, Hamp could find herself as team president, and Birkett writes that she will at the very least play a major part in assembling the Lions’ new front office.
Birkett adds that the team is expected to maintain the same management pattern it has employed for the past seven seasons. In other words, the Lions will select a president or chief operating officer to run the business side of the organization while adding a general manager who oversees the football side.
Of course, the job as Lions’ general manager will be an attractive one, although GM candidates will undoubtedly want the inner dynamics of team ownership to be sorted out before agreeing to accept the position. As far as on-field personnel, La Canfora writes that the future of quarterback Matthew Stafford will be one of the key issues to be addressed when the team interviews prospective GMs.
Several clubs informed La Canfora that, if they had known Detroit was on the verge of such major changes to its front office, they would have certainly pursued Stafford at the trade deadline. Those same sources indicate that, if the Lions do try to trade Stafford this offseason, they will find a very healthy market for him. The Lions, who had the misfortune of selecting early in the draft multiple times under the old collective bargaining agreement, have been consequently burdened with exorbitant contracts that have put severe restrictions on their cap flexibility. If they were to deal Stafford–and his contract is easily tradeable–they could begin to restock their roster with younger and cheaper talent. It seems, then, that the front office shakeup the Lions initiated earlier this week was just the tip of the iceberg.