ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Jim Caldwell was one of the most successful Detroit Lions coaches in the Super Bowl era, but general manager Bob Quinn said he made the difficult decision to fire him early Monday morning because he did not believe Caldwell could take the organization to a Super Bowl.
"We didn't get there," Quinn said. "We worked at it for two years and we didn't get there. So that's the decision that I came to."
The Lions went 36-28 in Caldwell's four seasons as head coach, but failed to win a playoff game.
Quinn said he was swayed to try to find new leadership in part because of the Lions' struggles against good teams. Under Caldwell, they went just 5-23 against teams that finished with winning records, and had bouts of major sloppiness in this season's final month.
Quinn inherited Caldwell when he took over for Martin Mayhew as Texans general manager in January of 2016, and was never part of a coaching search in his previous stint with the New England Patriots.
Now, the third-year general manager will make the first coaching hire of his career, and he said he has several traits in mind for Caldwell's successor.
"Leadership. Situational football. Willingness to adjust and adapt scheme to players. Really just someone that can lead this team with the players we have and the players that we will acquire and put them in the best position to win," Quinn said. "Being a head coach in the National Football League is not an easy job, so they come in all shapes and sizes. Offensive coordinators, defensive coordinators, special teams coaches, so it'll be something that's going to spend a lot of time researching, that I've started to do this morning, and we'll continue down that road."
The Lions' search so far has focused on mostly defensive-minded assistants.
Teryl Austin, who was kept on staff as defensive coordinator, will interview Tuesday, according to ESPN, and the Patriots' Matt Patricia, the Panthers' Steve Wilks, the Texans' Mike Vrabel and the Packers' Winston Moss also are expected to interview for the job.
As for Caldwell, Lions players said they were sad to see him go, but understand the nature of the business.
"Obviously we didn't do what we needed to do and obviously we wish something would have happened differently to create a different outcome," wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. said. "But the fact of the matter is we didn't, so it's always tough."
--Despite Monday's coaching dismissal, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said he hopes the Lions maintain some continuity on their staff and keep Jim Bob Cooter as offensive coordinator.
"Jim Bob and I have a great relationship and ever since he's had the opportunity to take the reins, this offense has moved in the right direction in my opinion," Stafford said. "I feel like I'm playing some of the best football of my career, so I would love to have the opportunity to keep working with him. He's been good for us and good for me."
Since Cooter replaced Joe Lombardi as offensive coordinator midway through the 2015 season, Stafford has completed 66.3 percent of his passes and cut down dramatically on his turnovers.
He completed just 60.1 percent of his passes before Cooter took over as play-caller, and this year the Lions finished seventh in the NFL in points scored.
"I think continuity is important in this league to a certain extent and I voiced my opinions earlier just a second ago on our guys on the offensive staff," Stafford said. "I think they do a good job, I think our offense is going in the right direction, I think our team is close so we'll see what happens."
--Defensive end Ziggy Ansah made quite the contract push to close the season.
Ansah, who struggled through knee and back injuries much of the year, had six sacks in the Lions' last two games. He finished with 12 on the season, tied for eighth most in the league.
Ansah is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in March, though the Lions can use the franchise tag on him at a cost of around $18 million.
Quinn called the decision on Ansah one of the most "critical decisions" facing the team this offseason.
"But that's something that once the new staff is in place, the new head coach, the scheme, all that's figured out, that's going to be factored in to what we do with Ziggy," he said.
NOTES: DE Kerry Hyder, who missed the season with a torn Achilles tendon, said Monday that he is not yet back to running but that his rehab is going well and he's "extremely confident" he will return to 2016 form. Hyder had a breakout season with eight sacks last year. ... TE Eric Ebron will be back in 2018, general manager Bob Quinn said Monday. Ebron is under contract on the fifth-year rookie contract tender of $8.25 million. Ebron had a disappointing first half of the season, but he closed the season on a strong note with four or more catches in six of the last seven games. His contract becomes fully guaranteed in March. ... TE Michael Roberts was suspended for Sunday's season finale for what then-head coach Jim Caldwell called "conduct detrimental" to the team. According to the Detroit Free Press, Roberts went AWOL after checking into the hotel, missed meetings and was sent home and fined when he was finally located.