Former Lions tailback Barry Sanders, shown running away from Minnesota defenders in his final season, says he's not sure whether the Lions' coaching change is enough to turn the franchise into a playoff contender. (MLive.com File Photo)
NEW YORK -- Barry Sanders tried to turn the Detroit Lions into a winner. He tried and tried and tried some more. Then he got sick of trying, and quit.
Fifteen seasons later, the Lions still haven't won another playoff game.
And now they're going through yet another coaching change after yet another collapse. But this one, the Lions say, is different.
Detroit brass has billed Jim Caldwell's hire as a move that will reverse the team's losing culture in 2014. The club expects to win right away.
But Sanders has been around a long time, and been around a lot of losing. He believes Caldwell is a good fit, but remains skeptical that the coaching change is a panacea for a losing culture that now stretches decades.
"I think (the decision to fire Schwartz) could have went either way. I think even this season, we showed improvements from previous seasons," Sanders told MLive on Thursday in New York. "But I guess it just wasn't enough for the powers that be.
"I don't know Caldwell, but anytime you have -- you and I were just talking about offense -- any time you have the type of guys that we have on that side of the ball, Caldwell coming in being an offensive guy, you would think that's a good fit. We'll see."
Sanders remains impressed by the Lions' talent, especially on the offensive side of the ball. He singled out Joique Bell as a potential future star.
But the Lions also are just 11-21 the past two seasons with all that talent, and Sanders is at a loss to describe why Detroit has struggled so much with so much perceived talent.
"I hope we'll contend with Caldwell," he said, "but I'm not sure what that missing element has been. Certainly we've fallen back from 2011, when we made the playoffs. I just don't know."