Mike Tirico‘s job as ESPN’s lead anchor makes him a world traveler for the world-wide leader, and he’s had a busy few months with the NBA Finals, FIFA World Cup and British Open.
Tirico is ESPN’s play-by-play man for Monday Night Football, and the 2014 regular-season opener is Sept. 8 between the Lions and Giants at Ford Field.
Tirico didn’t need to pack for his recent trip to scout the Lions at training camp in Allen Park. He drove over from his home in Ann Arbor.
In a conversation with detroitlions.com, Tirico gives his views on a wide range of issues related to the Lions: the national perspective on Jim Caldwell and the impact he and his staff will make on
Today: Tirico talks about Caldwell, and what his presence will do for the team and Matthew Stafford, and he starts with the Monday night matchup:
On what will the world see Week 1 from the Lions when they play the Giants on Monday Night Football on ESPN?
Tirico: “They’re going to see me nice and rested because I’m sleeping in my own bed before the opener. After the World Cup and British Open and U.S. Open tennis, it’s nice to have a home game to start.
“I think they will see a more disciplined Lions team, because that’s what Jim Caldwell will demand. As you’ve seen, he’s got a quiet presence about him that is really engaging, and I think the guys will respond to it well after having Jim Schwartz here.
“That doesn’t mean what Jim Schwartz did was not good because this thing, as you know, was the bottom of the barrel (in 2009). A zero win team.”
When Schwartz was hired in 2009, one national analyst wrote that it was worse than taking over an expansion team because of the inherited problems. Agree?
Tirico: “You took over a team with no wins, with no happiness, and maybe most importantly, you took over a team with bad contracts, too. A lot of issues.
“That staff did a really good job to turn things around, but they were never able to get the team to finish and be more disciplined at the end. And I think you will see that from this team.”
On the buzz he gets on Jim Caldwell from his national perspective from doing Monday Night Football:
Tirico: “I’ll give you an anecdote from last year. We’re in Baltimore for a preseason opener, and I was just walking to get lunch. And there’s Jim Caldwell walking down the street, unassuming, quiet. We stopped and had a 10- to 15-minute conversation. Not necessarily about the game or what plays he was going to call or what he was looking for in his offense, but about coaching and the start of a season and the renewal of a start of a season.
“That interaction is what Jim Caldwell is all the time to people around this league who have covered him: respect, class, dignity, thoughtful. And it may not be rah-rah right out of the gate, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a fire burning in there. It just comes out in a different way.”
On where that aspect of Caldwell’s makeup comes from:
Tirico: “I think we saw that from his time at Penn State (as an assistant). We certainly saw it at Wake Forest (as head coach). Wake Forest was terrible before he got there. At least he was able to make them somewhat better and competitive and representative.
“And then we saw in Indianapolis (as an assistant, then head coach) what a good taskmaster he was, because Peyton Manning demands certain things. And he had Peyton’s respect. That says probably more than any other quote anybody can give you.”
On the benefit Caldwell’s association with Peyton Manning, Tony Dungy, John Harbaugh and even Joe Flacco – can have on Stafford and the offense:
Tirico: “I think it’s going bring Matthew, and the entire staff – Jim Bob Cooter (the new quarterbacks coach) as well, who’s very respected by Peyton – it’s going to bring in a structure that Matthew, in my opinion, needs to make the next step.
“He’s really good. He’s the best quarterback that’s been around here in a long time. That’s no disrespect to Greg Landry, Gary Danielson or the Eric Hipple moments or any of that.
“I think the association of all those people will give Matthew a great platform to take the next step in his career -- to grow to be not just a Pro Bowl quarterback but an All-Pro level quarterback. He has an offense that will show some of that.
“With Joe Lombardi’s offense, the use of the running backs, the use of the two tight ends – obviously Calvin Johnson,
“I think this will be the biggest benefit of this coaching staff, and for Matthew.”