Jan 15, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell speaks during a press conference at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
I was like everyone else when I first heard that Jim Caldwell was going to be named the the head coach of the Detroit Lions; pretty bummed out. Just like most Lions fans, I wanted the hottest coaching candidate out there, Ken Whisenhunt, offensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers. Whisenhunt though wanted to go back home to Tennessee rather than coach the team with the most talent with a coaching vacancy. With the other top candidates like Lovie Smith and Bill O’Brien already gone, the Lions appeared to be stuck with Jim Caldwell. Then I watched the press conference.
Now I didn’t know much about Caldwell except what I saw on the sidelines when he was coach of the Indianapolis Colts a few years back. He was so stoic. You could have stuck a life size cardboard likeness of Caldwell and put it on the sidelines for the entire game and nobody would notice the difference. As soon as I heard him speak I could tell that maybe the Lions having to go to their second choice was the right choice. Listening to him during the press conference I was reminded of a military man with a clear and precise mind.
I have to warn you that after the Rod Marinelli presser I was ready to run through the wall I was so inspired by his manner. Looking back on the two coaches I can see the difference in the two. Marinelli was, and always will be a drill sergeant type. He was in way over his head as a 0-16 record can attest to that, but Caldwell sounds like a General with a plan. Experience was just dripping off his words as he spoke.
Reports have gone out about how prickly Jim Schwartz was around the Allen Park compound with staffers. We all know how the team reflects the head coach of a team so it’s no wonder that the Lions were viewed as one of the most classless teams in the NFL recently. Thats all going to change under Commander Caldwell. The passion in his words and his clear cut plan will instill a smartness in this team we probably haven’t seen from the Detroit Lions in quite some time, maybe ever. When’s the last time you saw smart team and the Lions used in the same sentence?
Looking at Ken Whisenhunt, I kind of get the feeling that he would have been a little too much like the last coach here. The fiery “us against the world” type of speeches are not what this team needs anymore. This team has matured into what should be a perennial playoff team, not the “gang that couldn’t shoot straight” that they’ve resembled the last couple of years. This team needs a leader with a clear vision and a presence that demands respect. It needs a leader that’s been to the mountaintop and knows the directions to get there again. This team needs someone like Commander Caldwell.
When Peyton Manning calls you unsolicited to say how much respect he has for a coach, I think you may have exactly what the doctor ordered for what ails the Detroit Lions.