Lions general manager Bob Quinn made it very clear Monday that expectations in Detroit moving forward are high, and he believes the window to win is now.
Quinn relieved head coach Jim Caldwell of his head coaching duties Monday morning, despite three winning records in Caldwell's four seasons. Caldwell's 36-28 record over the last four years included just four wins over winning teams. The Lions were also 0-2 in the playoffs in his tenure.
That does not align with Quinn's expectations for this football team. Quinn is looking for a head coach that can take a roster with a franchise quarterback and nice young nucleus to the next level.
The Lions will begin a thorough search for a candidate Quinn believes can take a roster that underachieved over the last two years to one that wins playoff games and championships.
"I think we have enough players to contend," Quinn said.
"But the question is do we have enough players to get over the top? And I think we got to – every offseason's different. There's free agency, there's the draft. So, like I said a minute ago, thirty percent of our team's going to be different, so my job is to make sure that thirty percent is better than the thirty percent that's leaving."
The other 70 percent is comprised of players Quinn thinks can contend right away with the right man at head coach to lead them.
"I think we have a really good, solid nucleus of players that can kind of be molded into what the new head coach wants his team to look like," he said.
Matthew Stafford is the best quarterback this franchise has ever had, and a top 10 player in the NFL at his position. He's under contract for another five seasons.
The team has a nice core of talent still under contract like cornerback Darius Slay, safety Glover Quin, receivers Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr., tackle Rick Wagner and guard T.J. Lang.
Young players like left tackle Taylor Decker, receiver Kenny Golladay, linebacker Jarrad Davis, center Graham Glasgow, defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson and defensive end Anthony Zettel are all coming into their own.
The new head coach will inherit a winning team with a franchise quarterback and a roster with talent.
Are there still some needs that have to be addressed this offseason? Obviously. The Lions need to add pieces on defense, especially upfront along the defensive line. The run game has gotten worse in each of the last four years.
Quinn will address those issues this offseason.
The Lions can begin interviewing potential coaching replacements immediately, though candidates on playoff teams cannot be hired until their season is over. Assistants on teams that qualified for the Wild Card of the playoffs this week have to wait to interview until after their first playoff game. Coaches on teams with first-round byes – New England, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Minnesota – have until Sunday to interview.
Whoever the next head coach is, the expectation is to win and win now, while the window of opportunity exists.