Jim Caldwell's success intertwined with that of quarterback Matthew Stafford

Posted Jan 15, 2014

New Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell thinks Matthew Stafford will "take off in every facet"

Matthew StaffordPhoto: G. Smith/Detroit Lions

The first time Jim Caldwell came to Allen Park to interview for the Detroit Lions head coaching position he met quarterback Matthew Stafford.

The two exchanged pleasantries, talked football, philosophy and a little bit about Stafford's 2013 season. Caldwell said he left that meeting impressed by his new franchise quarterback.

"If you ask him the question, is he willing to work. Yes," Caldwell said. "Is he dedicated. Yes. Does he want to get better. Yes. Does he want to win a Super Bowl. Yes. All of those things you can answer affirmative.

"I think without question you're going to see he can get better, better and better."

Stafford set franchise records with 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns in 2011, but he hasn't neared those touchdown totals the last two years as the Lions have stumbled in the second half of both seasons to miss the playoffs.

Certainly not all of that is on Stafford, but it comes with the job description that the quarterback gets the praise for winning and the blame for losing.

This season, Stafford completed 58.5 percent of his passes for 4,650 yards with 29 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.

Caldwell worked closely with Peyton Manning in Indianapolis and Manning made an unsolicited call to Lions general manager Martin Mayhew on Caldwell's behalf.

Manning set then-career highs in completions (379), completions percentage (67) and yards (4,267) in his second season under Caldwell. He threw 49 touchdowns with 10 interceptions the following year.

"I think, No. 1, he's a very, very talented guy," Caldwell said of Stafford.

"We had an opportunity to meet a couple times – or I should say once, when I came on my first interview – we sat down and just talked a little bit. We just kind of talked about some of the things that I had seen on film and things of that nature throughout the years we just kind of talked back and forth. We had common ground in a number of cases."

Caldwell said he hasn't made any determination just yet if he'll call the plays, but did say he'll work closely with the offense and the quarterback position.

"We also talked about what it was going to take to improve," Caldwell said of that first meeting with Stafford "We just hit on a few things. I think the thing that you find out about him is the fact that he is willing to do whatever it takes to get ready to win. That's the key.

"I mean, he's a guy that has talent, he has ability, he has great leadership qualities and I think, without question, you're going see him develop and then also, certainly, take off in every facet."

That's certainly the hope, because Caldwell's success as Detroit's 26th head coach in franchise history will be tied to the success of his 25-year-old signal caller.