Jim Caldwell hired by Detroit Lions
Jim Caldwell’s personality may not be the exact opposite of Jim Schwartz’s, but he was far enough removed on the spectrum for the Detroit Lions to tab him as their next head coach. ESPN’s Adam Schefter first reported that the Lions had decided to hire Caldwell.
After ending Schwartz’s often emotionally charged five-year tenure, the Lions made clear that they wanted to bring in an experienced coach capable of harnessing a talented but unsteady roster. Caldwell brought with him to the table the backing of Tony Dungy, one of the most respected coaches in NFL history. Dungy chose Caldwell to succeed him in Indianapolis in 2009, then vouched repeatedly for Caldwell during the recent interview process.
“Lions should have hired Caldwell already,” Dungy tweeted Tuesday morning, mere hours before the hiring. “He is the best coach for the job. For what they need he is perfect.”
Caldwell helped lead the Colts — with a major assist from Peyton Manning — to a 14-2 record and a Super Bowl appearance in 2009, the franchise’s first after Dungy retired. Indianapolis won the AFC South again the next season, at 10-6, but then plummeted to a 2-14 mark as Manning sat out the 2011 campaign following neck surgery. Caldwell was let go following that performance, which left the Colts in position to draft Andrew Luck No. 1 overall.
Caldwell landed with the Baltimore Ravens as the team’s quarterbacks coach, then was promoted to offensive coordinator late during the 2012 regular season. With Caldwell calling the plays, Baltimore went on to secure a playoff spot and win the Super Bowl.
The team enjoyed far less success this season — Baltimore finished 8-8, with the league’s 25th-ranked offense in terms of points scored..
However, Caldwell still ticked off many of the boxes Detroit had in mind during its search, including a background working with quarterbacks. Caldwell did just that under Joe Paterno at Penn State, jumped to the NFL in 2001 as the Buccaneers’ QB coach and one year later settled in as the assistant head coach under Dungy.
He reportedly impressed Detroit’s front office during his initial interview, too, by breaking down Matthew Stafford’s game tape with the Lions’ quarterback and highlighting areas where Stafford could improve. How much progress the soon-to-be 26-year-old Stafford makes between now and the 2014 season may determine just how successful Caldwell is at the outset.
In addition to Stafford’s presence, Caldwell will find in Detroit a roster that appeared talented enough to win a downtrodden NFC North this season. The Lions once were 6-3 and all alone in first place in the division, before finishing with a 1-6 close that led to Schwartz’s ouster.
Stafford and WR Calvin Johnson remain the building blocks on offense, with Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and 2013 first-round pick Ziggy Ansah anchored on an imposing defensive line.
“I think this will be one of the most, if not the single most, attractive head coaching opportunity in the National Football League for a lot of different reasons,” Lions president Tom Lewand said during the press conference to announce Schwartz’s firing. “The expectation is to bring a consistently-winning football team to the city of Detroit immediately.”
Up until Monday, the Lions had been rumored to be all-in on former San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, who instead took the Titans’ job. Whisenhunt, Caldwell, Gary Kubiak and Mike Munchak all interviewed with the Lions.