Jim Caldwell, the unheralded coach behind much of Peyton Manning’s success with the Indianapolis Colts, became the second Black to take over head-coaching duties when he was hired by the Detroit Lions to replace fired Jim Schwartz.
Caldwell, who turns 59 Thursday, was the offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens. He takes over a Lions team that seemingly is flush with talent, but was sabotaged by undisciplined play on both sides of the ball. If he has the success he had with Manning when he was the Colts’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Detroit QB Mathew Stafford will show significant progress.
“I envision that offense being very similar to what we had in Indianapolis,” said former Colts coach Tony Dungy, “where it’ll be kind of a check system and the quarterback being able to say, ‘If they’re going to take away the passing game and spread out, we’ve got these backs that can crease people. If you give us single coverage on the outside, we throw. It’s kind of ‘adapt to the defense’ but be able to hurt them in different ways, and I think their quarterback Matthew (Stafford) is going to really benefit from being around Jim and the way he approaches playing the position.”
Caldwell fit a lot of the criteria Detroit had during its search. The Lions wanted someone with head-coaching experience and experience on offense, apparently preferably with quarterbacks. Ken Wisenhunt was reportedly the front-runner, but he took the Tennessee job.
“On behalf on my entire family, I want to express how thrilled we are with the appointment of Jim Caldwell as our new head coach,” Lions owner and chairman William Clay Ford said. “We believe Jim is the right man to lead our team and deliver a championship to our fans.”
Caldwell joins Lovie Smith, hired by Tampa Bay, as new Black head coaches. Last off-season, none were hired in seven openings.
Caldwell was the first person to interview for the Detroit job. He has been a head coach at two prior stops — from 2009 to 2011 with the Colts and from 1993 to 2000 with Wake Forest.