DETROIT -- They said this from the beginning and now, after two months of the same mantra over and over again, the Detroit Lions might just have to follow through on it.
Since the Lions hired Jim Caldwell in mid-January, both he and team president Tom Lewand have been consistent in the same message. They hired Caldwell to win. And win immediately.
“It’s a year of, 'Let’s go right now,'" Lewand said during an appearance at the MGM Grand in Detroit. “There’s no five-year plan.”
While that might sound somewhat concerning for Detroit in the long term -- ideally, one would think the Lions should plan for the present and the future at the same time -- it also crystallized his point. Detroit is working with a somewhat shrinking window to win with its current roster.
Calvin Johnson is 28 years old, turns 29 in September, and has been dealing with knee issues the past couple of seasons. Reggie Bush turns 30 next year. Joique Bell will be 30 by the end of his contract. Matthew Stafford is entering his prime, and Ndamukong Suh is about to either enter his last year in Detroit or become signed to a massive long-term contract.
The ages and contract statuses of its stars made Detroit a somewhat enviable place for a coach to land, despite the franchise’s culture and history of ineptitude and losing. It is why Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew really focused on coaches with prior head-coaching experience -- and prior NFL head-coaching experience -- when they conducted their search to replace Jim Schwartz.
It’s how they landed on Caldwell, and in Caldwell they are all entrusting their present and their futures.
“I was one of those people who didn't know Jim Caldwell before we started this process, but I was remarkably impressed with the people who spoke so highly of him,” Lewand said. “Bill Polian. Ozzie Newsome.
“John Harbaugh, who I have known for years, he called me up and said, ‘Look, this is a guy who I sit in the back of the room in our meetings in Baltimore when he’s presenting the offense and I think he’s the head coach. He’s that impressive to me. I couldn't speak more highly of him.'"
This is what sold the Lions on hiring Caldwell, who has now been on the job two months and has hired a staff and brought in his first high-level free agent. He’s the man who Lewand and Mayhew are constructing a team for.
Because Lewand and Mayhew have placed their futures in with this group of players and this coaching staff, so they have no other option except to trust. And to win immediately.
Even if they fail, Lewand was right to dismiss a five-year plan, because it's possible none of them would be around to implement it anyway.