Lions hire Jim Caldwell to be their next head coach

Posted Jan 14, 2014

Caldwell becomes the 26th head coach in franchise history and its first African-American head coach

When the Detroit Lions fired head coach Jim Schwartz on Dec. 30, team president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew immediately went to work creating a profile for the next coach they hope will "take them over the hump."

After a two-week search and four official interviews, they’ve identified Jim Caldwell as their man.

In the end, the former Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator fit all the characteristics the Lions were looking for.

  • He won two Super Bowl titles as an assistant head coach (Indianapolis) and offensive coordinator (Baltimore), respectively, and also coached Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl XLIV berth as a head coach during the 2009 season.
  • He holds a 26-22 (.542) regular-season record in three seasons as an NFL head coach, including two seasons with at least 10 wins.
  • An offensive-minded coach, Caldwell helped the Colts rank in top 10 in the NFL in total offense eight of his 10 seasons with the team. He helped Baltimore to a Super Bowl title last year as his playmaker.

Caldwell's resume speaks for itself, but it didn’t hurt that vice chairman Bill Ford, Lewand and Mayhew got a ringing endorsement for Caldwell from former Super Bowl winning head coach Tony Dungy, who hand-picked Caldwell to be his successor in Indianapolis when he retired.

Jim CaldwellQB Peyton Manning and Jim Caldwell (Photo: AP Images)

Mayhew spoke with Dungy about Caldwell as recently as Monday morning.

"I already had told Martin Mayhew that (Jim) Caldwell is a great match for a team that has the personnel of being capable of playing in the Super Bowl," Dungy told ESPN.

"I think the Lions were not only impressed with Jim's interview but they were pleasantly surprised by the number of former Colts players who called on his behalf. Jim made Peyton Manning an even better quarterback -- look at the numbers and wins -- and I think he can do the same for Matthew Stafford."

The Lions also spoke with Manning about Caldwell, and got an endorsement from him, too.

"I felt like he really took my game to another level," Manning told Denver media of Caldwell last year before the Broncos played Baltimore in the regular season.  "He’s also a tremendous mentor and friend to me … He’s as fine a man as I know."

From 2003-09, Caldwell was the Colts assistant head coach where he also worked exclusively with Manning and the team’s quarterbacks. During that span, Indianapolis set NFL records with seven consecutive seasons finishing with 11-plus victories.

He told that experience of working with Manning has served him well in Baltimore and could serve him well in Detroit, too.

"(Manning) is a guy with a lot of drive and ability," he told during his first interview with the Lions on Jan. 3. "But he’s also a guy that has talent, but works extremely hard and sets a great standard for the individuals that want to perfect their craft.

"I think that bodes well for a number of the younger guys that are in this business and playing that position. Guys with talent, but are certainly looking for opportunity to get better, and obviously Matthew is as well."

Caldwell met with Stafford during that first interview.

Caldwell’s NFL coaching roots date back to 2001 when he worked as the quarterbacks coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After acquiring quarterback Brad Johnson via free agency, Caldwell helped the veteran quarterback to break then-team records for passing yards (3,046), completions (340) and attempts (540) as the team finished 9-7 and earned an NFC Wild Card berth.

Before making the jump to the NFL, Caldwell spent seven seasons as the head coach at Wake Forest University where the Demon Deacons’ offense ranked in the NCAA’s Top 25 four times.

From 1986-1992, Caldwell was an assistant at Penn State where he coached the wide receivers (1986), quarterbacks and wide receivers (1987-1990) and was named passing coordinator in 1991-92.

His other coaching stints include assistant positions at Iowa (1977), Southern Illinois (1978-80), Northwestern (1981), Colorado (1981-83) and Louisville (1985).

"You have to look at what wins," Caldwell said of his coaching philosophy. "That’s the important thing. You have to be very good in terms of your fundamentals and techniques ruling the day. Those are the things that are going to carry you when times are difficult. Those are the things that are going to put streaks together. Those are the things that certainly will help you win games and get you enough games to get you into the postseason.

"When you look at it, that’s what it boils down to. The basics and the rudiment of it all is to make certain you’re very good at the things you have to do most often, you block, tackle, catch run and throw accurately."

Caldwell becomes the 26th head coach in franchise history and it’s first African-American head coach.