Jim Caldwell, who has said repeatedly over the past few weeks that the conversation shouldn't be about him amid questions about his job status, will return as coach of the Detroit Lions next season, the team announced Wednesday.
Caldwell won't have to worry about that anymore. A team official told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter that the Lions want continuity on their staff after making the playoffs in two of the past three seasons. The last time the Lions accomplished that was from 1997 to 1999.
Detroit had a two-game lead in the NFC North heading into Week 15 against the New York Giants, but the Lions lost their last three games to slip from a possible division title to a wild-card matchup at NFC West champ Seattle on Saturday night. That slide -- combined with the fact that Caldwell was hired by a previous regime and not current general manager Bob Quinn -- had brought Caldwell's job status into question.
Caldwell, whose current deal runs out after the 2017 season, would not comment on whether he signed an extension beyond that. He is 27-21 with Detroit in three seasons, and his .562 winning percentage is the best for a Lions coach during the Super Bowl era and the best since Buddy Parker went 50-24-2 from 1951 to '56.
"I want to say obviously I'm appreciative, thankful," Caldwell said Wednesday. "... I'm not going to talk about when discussions happened, if there were discussions. I'm not going to talk about status of our staff or whatever that might be because as I said yesterday, the focus is still on this team. It's about getting our guys ready.
"Our guys, all year long, I think have been absolutely excellent on focusing on what they have to get done and the next team, the next game moving forward, and we want to keep that focus as such. So we're not certainly going to add to that and complicate that anymore."
In an interview with Sirius XM radio on Wednesday night, Quinn explained some of his reasoning for bringing back Caldwell.
"Jim's done a really good job -- him and his staff have really put together this team with the help of my scouting staff, and they've really done a good job developing some of the young players," Quinn said. "We've got quite a number of rookies on the team that are playing significant roles so I'm really happy with how that has gone.
"You know making the playoffs is pretty difficult to do in this league, as a lot of coaches and front office people know. So I was really glad to bring Jim back for next year."
Lions players said they were glad to hear Caldwell would be back for another season -- something that fits well with their continued descriptions of him.
"Cool with me," tight end Eric Ebron said. "That's my guy. I appreciate it."
The Lions started 1-3 this season and rebounded to finish over .500 for the second time in three years. Fewer than half of the franchises in the NFL have been over .500 in two of the past three years.
Caldwell, who is 53-43 in his six seasons as an NFL head coach, has been critical in the development of quarterback Matthew Stafford, who has had three of his better NFL seasons under Caldwell's tutelage. Caldwell and his staff also have had a role in the development of multiple rookies, including this year's first-round pick, left tackle Taylor Decker.
Caldwell chose Teryl Austin, a lifelong assistant, to be his defensive coordinator in 2014, and Austin has turned into a hot head-coaching choice every offseason. Caldwell promoted Jim Bob Cooter to offensive coordinator after firing Joe Lombardi, and the Lions have been 15-9 since.