Lions fire head coach Jim Caldwell; GM says team needs 'a new voice'

Lions fire head coach Jim Caldwell (1:05)

Adam Schefter weighs in on Detroit GM Bob Quinn's decision to fire head coach Jim Caldwell. (1:05)

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions have fired head coach Jim Caldwell after four seasons with the franchise, and less than a year after he signed an extension.

The team made the announcement Monday morning. Lions general manager Bob Quinn praised Caldwell during his season-ending news conference, but said his goal is winning championships, and he felt Detroit needed "a change in leadership, a new voice."

"There's not one thing," Quinn said Monday afternoon. "Just when you look at our record over the last couple years since I've been here, we didn't beat the really good teams. Our record was above average -- 9-7 the last two years -- but our record against the better teams in the league have not been that good."

Caldwell said in a statement later Monday that he wanted to thank owner Martha Firestone Ford and the Lions for "the tremendous opportunity to have been a part of the Lions organization serving as head coach for the past 4 years."

He expressed gratitude for the "great effort put forth by our players and coaching staff who poured their hearts out in an effort to maintain the standard of excellence this organization has grown to expect."

"I wish the Lions, my coaching staff, our players and the loyal Lions fans, who were very supportive, much continued success in the future."

Caldwell, 62, had winning seasons in three of his four years in Detroit, but the Lions missed the playoffs twice in the past three years, including this season, when they went 9-7.

"I believe Jim is one of the finest leaders we've ever had as our head coach," Ford said in a statement. "Not only did he guide us on the field to three winning seasons, but he also set a standard of excellence off the field that had a tremendous impact on everyone in our organization and our entire community. As many of our players have already said, his influence on them transcended the game of football and will positively serve them throughout their lives.

"Our organization is better because of Jim, and we are forever grateful."

Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks confirmed to reporters on Monday that the Lions are interested in interviewing him to replace Caldwell. Detroit has also submitted a request to interview New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin will interview for the position Tuesday, a source told ESPN's Josina Anderson.

Quinn said the next Lions coach does not need to have head-coaching experience, and he doesn't have a preference between an offensive or defensive coach. He has no timeline for a search.

Quinn also said no players -- including quarterback Matthew Stafford -- will have any input in the coaching search. When Caldwell was hired, Stafford met with some of the candidates. Quinn and Lions president Rod Wood will be conducting interviews, and no member of ownership will take part in the interviews.

Stafford and wide receiver Marvin Jones both said they would like to see offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter -- who is still under contract -- retained by whomever the Lions hire as head coach.

The Lions also fired offensive line coach Ron Prince on Monday, a source confirmed to ESPN.

While he had a winning record overall, Caldwell was 4-23 against teams over .500 in his tenure. In key games in 2017 down the stretch of the season, while fighting for a division title and playoff berth, the Lions lost to the Vikings on Thanksgiving and then had December losses to Baltimore and Cincinnati, essentially knocking Detroit out of playoff contention.

Losses to good teams over Caldwell's tenure -- he had chances to win division titles in 2014 and 2016 but lost Week 17 games against Green Bay -- played a factor in his dismissal.

"That's a big part of why I'm standing here today," Quinn said. "I think there's games we could've, would've and should've won, and we didn't.

"This is a results business. This is wins and losses. You talk about all the individual plays, all the individual players, the staff, all that stuff. It comes down to winning football games and winning championships."

Quinn took some of the onus of the Lions' identical 9-7 records over the past two years, but also said he felt the teams of the past two seasons were capable of better records than what they finished with.

Stafford gave Caldwell credit for his development. Over the four seasons under Caldwell, Stafford improved his completion percentage, cut down his interceptions and became generally more efficient. He completed 64.6 percent of his passes with 107 touchdowns and 45 interceptions from 2014 through 2017, averaging 4,323 passing yards per season.

"He's been great. He's as levelheaded a guy as I've ever been around," Stafford said. "Understands the position of quarterback really well and was great for me and great for a lot of guys on offense just to bounce ideas off of. I have a ton of respect for him, just the way he carried himself, the way he coached us, the way he treated everybody. He's a great guy and a great coach."

Lions safety Don Carey, who was particularly close to Caldwell, said he spoke with Caldwell after he was let go and that they gave each other words of encouragement. Carey said he admires Caldwell "greatly" and hopes to stay in contact with him.

Carey said that during their conversation, Caldwell was "as even keeled as he always is, and that's what makes him special. You don't really see him too excited or see him flustered. He always seemed to have the same demeanor."

Instead of Caldwell addressing the Lions on Monday, Quinn spoke with the team during their final big meeting before leaving for the offseason. Tight end Eric Ebron said Quinn told the team "pretty much what he's looking forward to doing and the future of this team and what he has in mind and pretty much gave us something to look forward to."

Detroit has not won a playoff game since Jan. 5, 1992, against Dallas, and has not won a divisional title since 1993. Caldwell's winning percentage of .563 was the highest of any coach who led the Lions for more than one season since Buddy Parker had a 47-23-2 record and .671 winning percentage from 1951 to 1956.