<
>

Where does Jim Caldwell rank among Lions head coaches?

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Every day for at least the next little while, we’ll take one reader question per day and expand on it some, as long as the questions are strong in quality -- and so far, they have been.

To submit a question, tweet using the hashtag #LionsMailbag on Twitter, email me at michael.rothstein@espn.com or drop me a note on Facebook here. This week, we’ve already covered the Matthew Stafford and Golden Tate benchings and Laken Tomlinson’s future with the team.

Now, on to today’s question.

Still think it’s too early to really be having this conversation, but considering the Lions are a win or two away from two playoff berths in three seasons under Jim Caldwell, it’s worth taking a peek at where Caldwell might stand on this list.

If you’re looking at every coach Detroit has ever had, then no, Caldwell is not the best coach in franchise history. Buddy Parker, who had a 50-24-2 record from 1951-56, would be in the short conversation, as would George Wilson, who went 55-45-6 from 1957-64 and was the coach for the Lions' last NFL championship in 1957.

Potsy Clark and Dutch Clark, who coached the franchise back in the 1930s, would also be in the conversation.

But if you take them out of it and just look at the Super Bowl era of football, it’s really down to three coaches: Joe Schmidt, Wayne Fontes and Caldwell.

Schmidt had four winning seasons as the Lions head coach and put up a 10-4 year in 1970 – the only year Schmidt made the playoffs as Detroit’s head coach from 1967-72. His 43-35-7 record made him one of two full-time Lions head coaches during the Super Bowl era to have a winning record with the club.

The other, for now, is Caldwell.

Fontes coached the Lions from 1988-96, went 67-71 and made the playoffs four times. He also has the lone playoff victory for the franchise in the Super Bowl era and had three seasons of 10 wins or more. Fontes also coached the best player in franchise history, Barry Sanders, and was the coach the last time Detroit won a divisional title, back in 1993.

Then there’s Caldwell.

He’s in his third season with the Lions and has a 26-18 record. He’s already guaranteed two non-losing seasons in his first three years with the franchise and with a victory Sunday, he’d have two winning years in his first three. Only Fontes, Schmidt and Monte Clark have more than two winning seasons as Lions head coach in the Super Bowl era.

So there’s actually a case -- as surprising as it might seem -- that Caldwell already is the best Lions coach in the Super Bowl era. Personally, I’d take Fontes for now, but a divisional title and playoff win from Caldwell and I might be already willing to shift my opinion.

And another winning season or two from Caldwell and at least in the Super Bowl era, it might not even be a question.