Jim Caldwell is officially on the clock. Yes, the Lions are 4-4 at the halfway mark in their NFL season. They might not be a lock to make the playoffs, but they haven't played themselves out of it totally, either.
Not yet, at least.
Still, it's hard to imagine that Caldwell, the Lions head coach, will get to stick around for a fourth season if his team doesn't make the playoffs.
The reason it's hard to embrace Caldwell or what he's done with the Lions is simple. They don't win the games they need to in order to really turn the corner.
Sunday in Houston was Exhibit A.
The Texans were a beatable team. A win by the Lions would have given them a four-game win streak, a 5-3 record and an inside track to making the playoffs.
That would have spoken volumes when you consider they lost three straight after winning the opener in Indy against the Colts.
Instead, it was more the same. The Lions managed just one touchdown and lost, 20-13.
Worse, Caldwell didn't have a good day at the office, either. He made a few decisions that had to make fans sitting at home scratch their heads.
The biggest one came with 2:57 left in the game and the Lions trailing by just a touchdown.
The Lions appeared to be in good shape. They had three timeouts and the two-minute warning to help as well. All they needed was a defensive stop, a three-and-out.
Instead, Caldwell opted for an onside kick.
Not only didn't the Lions get the ball back, the Texans got a few first downs to seal the game. For sure, it was an indictment of the defense. Caldwell had no confidence in that unit.
That wasn't the only move that Caldwell made to get fans up in arms. In the opening drive, he elected to go on a fourth-and-4. The Lions didn't make it.
And later in the game, Caldwell elected not to challenge a possible fumble that was recovered by the Lions.
Caldwell took his missteps in stride, claiming not to be bothered by any criticism.
"That's the way is goes," said Caldwell to reporters after the game at NRG Stadium. "It's usually what happens after the decision's made. When you make it on fourth down, there's no issue. When you don't, you got to know that obviously people are going to say, 'You shouldn't have done it.' hindsight. I think that happens all the time.
"We didn't execute. We didn't get it done. So yeah, I take that on without any question. That's the way it is. You don't like it, you better get into another sport. Better get into another line of work. I don't mind it."
The Lions also continue to be an undisciplined team under Caldwell. They had eight penalties for 75 yards on Sunday. Lions are averaging 7.5 penalties a game, in the top third in the league. A year ago, they averaged 6.5 penalties a game.
Still, many just aren't happy with the job Caldwell has done. The Lions should be better, play better than they have.
They are 1-3 on the road this season, including that stinker against the lowly Bears in Chicago. It's the only win the
Bears have in their seven games this season.
Three years ago, Caldwell came to Motown with low expectations. In fact, most considered his hiring as the Detroit Lions backup plan.
Nonetheless, it's hard to argue with Caldwell's first season. An 11-5 record and playoff berth is reason to expect big dreams in 2015.
Despite that success, many NFL experts predicted that the Lions fall back last season. Many saw seven or eight wins and no playoffs. They were right. The Lions lost their first five, won six of the final eight and finished 7-9 with no playoffs.
Caldwell's future is pretty simple. It's tied to winning, making the playoffs. If he does that, it would be nearly impossible for new GM Bob Quinn to make a change in coach.
If the Lions don't make the playoffs for a second straight season, the decision will be easy. Quinn will be able to bring in his own guy.
Sunday was just another example why most don't think Caldwell will survive. He needs to win more and coach better.
Tick. Tick. Tick.