At the time Jim Caldwell was relieved of his head coaching duties on New Year's Day in 2018, Lions general manager Bob Quinn made a decree that seemed to encapsulate what many Detroit fans were feeling.
Quinn stated that he felt going 9-7 -- which Caldwell did in his final season as Lions head man in 2017 -- was not good enough, and it was his assessment that the roster had underachieved.
There was a belief among management that the team had enough talent to not only make the postseason, but to also start competing for Super Bowl championships.
But it hasn't happened through almost two full seasons now with Matt Patricia at the helm, the former longtime defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots.
In fact, the Lions have produced a measly nine wins -- to go along with a tie -- in 26 games under his watch.
And since Patricia took over, there's been constant chatter about players being disgruntled and unhappy inside the locker room and failing to buy into "The Patriot Way."
Veteran safety Quandre Diggs, a former Detroit team captain, spoke about this after being traded to the Seattle Seahawks earlier this season.
He told Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press that Patricia & Co. want to "control the locker room" and "control (the) voices in the locker room.”
All of this has led me to start believing that Caldwell is the most underappreciated head coach in Lions history.
In Caldwell's first season with the team in 2014, the Lions went 11-5, and earned a playoff berth as a wild card.
They were defeated, 24-20, by the Cowboys in a game that was filled with controversial calls made against the Lions.
In his NFL head coaching career, Caldwell has a 62-50 record.
With Detroit, he coached four seasons, and amassed a 36-28 mark, including two playoff appearances.
Neither postseason appearance resulted in a victory.
In seven seasons of being an NFL head man, Caldwell's had an above .500 record on five occasions -- three times with Detroit.
What Caldwell brought to the table was a professional attitude and approach to managing his roster and the locker room.
The major gripes that Detroit fans had about Caldwell were his incompetency when it came to in-game decision-making and the notion that the Lions could only go so far with him as their coach.
He wasn't viewed as the coach that could lead the Lions to their first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.
However, now that the organization has taken a major step backwards under Patricia, it is easier to appreciate Caldwell for the success he had in Detroit.
Caldwell taking the Lions to the playoffs in his first season should be commended.
Hindsight being 20/20, instead of moving on from Caldwell as the Lions did in hopes of taking the next step, it may have actually been the correct decision to stay the course.
Caldwell could have won playoff games in Detroit.
He could have benefited from having a franchise running back on the roster like Kerryon Johnson to complement Stafford.
And Stafford could be having even a better season right now, with Caldwell -- a former quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator -- at the helm.
So, could Quinn and Caldwell -- with more time together -- have taken the Lions to the next level?
We'll never know the answer now, two years removed from the last time Caldwell roamed the sidelines at Ford Field as Detroit head man.
What we do know, though, is that Patricia is not the answer. He's been an utter failure almost since the moment his tenure began in Motown.
Remember, his first game as Lions head coach was a 48-17 blowout loss suffered at home on Monday Night Football to then-rookie quarterback Sam Darnold and the New York Jets -- a team that went 4-12 in 2018 and finished in last place in the AFC East.
From all the losses that have piled up to the inability to win over the locker room, everything that could've gone wrong in the Patricia era seemingly has up to this point.
And all of Patricia's misfires have proven that he is not fit to be a head coach in the NFL.
Lions fans, sad but true, it's come to this.
It's time to admit something that we thought would have never been possible two years ago: Caldwell was a better head coach than Patricia, and was underappreciated during his time in Motown -- including by me.
The only thing else I can say is Jim Caldwell, I'm sorry.