O'HARA: Caldwell did something not many head coaches do -- said he needs to win immediately

Posted Jan 15, 2014

While many newly-hired head coaches have a grace period for success, Jim Caldwell acknowledged that he has to win in 2014

Jim Caldwell didn't take a page out of the standard playbook for what to say and not say in his introductory press conference as the new head coach of the Lions.

He didn't plead for time to implement his systems and schemes or ask for patience to build a team in his vision.

Caldwell's long-term project to take advantage of a talent pool that most NFL analysts think the Lions have underachieved with is about eight months – until the NFL's 2014 regular season begins in September.

Caldwell said something to the media at Ford Field on Wednesday that isn't often heard from a new coach. He put an emphasis on winning immediately.

Frankly, after the late-season fade that left the Lions out of the playoffs again and cost head coach Jim Schwartz his job after five seasons, no one with any connection to the Lions – players, coaches, front office, support staff and fans – should have the stomach for another grace period.

Caldwell said he contacted many players – Matthew Stafford, Ndamukong Suh, Calvin Johnson and Stephen Tulloch among them – after arriving in Detroit early Wednesday.

"They believe, and I believe, the time is now," Caldwell said. "Not two years or three years from now down the road somewhere, but right here, right now."

In his interviews with the Lions' ownership and upper management – vice chairman Bill Ford, president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew – Caldwell's presentation supported how they felt he fit the profile for what they were looking for in the next head coach.

It also helped that Mayhew got unsolicited phone calls from former Colts head coach Tony Dungy and quarterback Peyton Manning in support of Caldwell.

Leadership was a key element of that profile. The Lions felt that Caldwell demonstrated it in three seasons as the Colts' head coach and in the last two seasons as an assistant coach and offensive coordinator for the Ravens.

Caldwell's stoic sideline demeanor during games is opposite of how he presents himself in front of a group of players. He has command, a crucial quality for anyone in a leadership role.

"What you saw today was very impressive," Ford said after Caldwell's lengthy press conference. "The image that has been written about him is very different from what I saw."

Jim CaldwellPhoto: G. Smith/Detroit Lions

Caldwell stresses accountability, fundamentals, attention to detail, eliminating penalties and discipline in performance. Falling short in those areas has plagued the Lions. Around the NFL, they have the reputation of being a talented team that generally flies by the seat of its pants – and has taken too many pratfalls.

"You heard a lot of that today," Ford said. "He's very calm, very measured, but he has a real fire burning inside him. You also heard today him talking about penalties, turnovers, discipline.

"Those are things that this team could use, and Jim will bring."

Ford stressed that the Lions were not searching for the anti-Schwartz candidate.

"No, no no," Ford said. "I don't think you ever start with something like that. There was a profile that Martin really put together in terms of a profile he thinks we needed. Jim fit that profile."

Everything sounded good on Caldwell's first day on the job in Detroit, and it should. He is a coaching lifer, with head coaching experience in college (Wake Forest) and the NFL (the Colts), and as offensive coordinator of the Colts and Ravens.

He has worked in big games, played for the highest stakes. As an offensive coordinator, Caldwell was on Super Bowl winners with the Colts and Ravens and worked with quarterbacks on both teams who were Super Bowl MVPs – Peyton Manning for the 2006 Colts and Joe Flacco for the 2012 Ravens.

There are no guarantees, for coaches or teams. Schwartz looked like the head coach for another decade after a steady climb upward put the Lions in the playoffs with a 10-6 record in 2011.

Just as fast, he skidded out of a job, with a 4-12 record in 2012 and the collapse in 2013 to a 7-9 record that gave away a certain division title.

"The second-half collapse, and particularly in the fourth quarter in so many games, was incredibly disappointing," Ford said. "That was something that obviously we couldn't live with."

Caldwell doesn't intend to live with losing. He expects to win right away.

It was refreshing that he said so.