Tony Dungy: "Matthew Stafford will blossom under Jim Caldwell"

Posted Jan 14, 2014

Peyton Manning has credited new Lions head coach Jim Caldwell with taking his game to another level and Tony Dungy thinks he'll do the same thing for Matthew Stafford

Matthew StaffordPhoto: Gavin Smith/Detroit Lions

It's no secret former Super Bowl-winning head coach Tony Dungy has lobbied for his former associate head coach and successor at Indianapolis, Jim Caldwell, to get the Detroit Lions head coaching job.

One of the big reasons why is because Dungy saw firsthand what Caldwell was able to do with a young Peyton Manning and an offense in Indianapolis chalk-full of weapons.

"Detroit has a very, very talented team that is ready to roll," Dungy told in a phone interview Tuesday night. "This isn't a situation where you have to have a coach grow. You need to have someone ready to hit the ground running.

"I also think this team, very much like our team in Indianapolis, there was so many offensive weapons in place that you want a system that can maximize that. I think what Jim believes in, in terms of offense, is just going to fall in line with the skill set of the players there. You have a young quarterback to develop in Matthew Stafford and it reminds me of when we (got to Indianapolis).

"Peyton Manning had put up a lot of numbers in Indianapolis his first three years in the league, but his career really started to take off after Caldwell became the quarterbacks coach."

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

"Jim Caldwell worked with him in getting him to kind of understand the way we wanted to play and helping him prepare," Dungy said. "I know Peyton talked to Martin Mayhew and Mr. Ford about that too."

There are some similarities between what Caldwell walked into offensively with the Colts with Manning, receivers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne and running back Edgerrin James and what he'll have with Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush and Joique Bell.

"I just think you have a lot of weaponry that Jim Caldwell will know how to work with," Dungy said. "But more than anything, it's the preparation and accountability that he's going to bring. I think those players are going to love playing for him, but they are going to know what's expected in no uncertain terms. They are going to know how to win at the end of the day."

Stafford had a breakout year in 2011 with 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns to help lead the Lions to their first playoff appearance in 12 years.

He's fallen short of those numbers the last two years, however, and had a rough second half to this season when the Lions collapsed from a 6-3 start to finish 7-9.

Dungy thinks Stafford will benefit more than any other player from Caldwell's presence in Detroit.

"I know what we talked about when we got to Indianapolis is they had a very, very explosive offense and we talked about keeping that explosiveness but not being a high-risk team and taking care of the football and knowing how to manage the end of the game," Dungy said.

"Once Peyton (Manning) really understood what Jim was trying to do, he went from a very explosive player to a guy in 2004 who threw 49 touchdowns and (10 interceptions) and that's what I think you're going to see from Matthew.

"You're going to see him learn that you can be explosive and not be high risk and that there are times when you manage the game and win the game, by not only what you do, but by what you don't do. I just think for a young quarterback, he'll really blossom under Jim."