In life, usually, the faux tough guy in the room makes a habit of letting everyone know through actions and words how people should perceive him and perhaps why they should even fear him.
Mostly, that can prove to be nothing but a false facade. Often times, the bravado is fake and the person everyone perceives as the tough guy ends up looking stunningly weak in certain high-pressure situations, showing his true colors.
Detroit Lions’ head coach Jim Caldwell shares only one commonality with his predecessor, and that’s his first name. Whereas Jim Schwartz wanted desperately to be thought of as tough, flaunting his machismo, breaking headsets and pounding his fists, he failed to deliver true toughness in public and private, making him weak.
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Caldwell, on the other hand, might not be as tall, loud or commanding as Schwartz, but quietly, he’s a tougher, more demanding personality than the Lions have ever seen before on their sidelines, even just five months into his important new job.
Those character traits will serve him well in arguably the toughest job Caldwell will ever face.
Tuesday after practice, the normally tight-lipped Caldwell cut loose with a bit of his leadership philosophy unprompted, showing in the process why he’ll have to be taken seriously by everyone on the roster despite a seemingly meek disposition and an ever-growing grandfatherly look.
"“The fact of the matter is, it doesn’t matter if you’re yelling or screaming, because first of all, they tune you out at a certain point in time,” Caldwell said after practice. “I played for guys when I was playing and guys were screaming and yelling. Pretty soon that sounded like his normal, audible tone and you end up ignoring it.”"
Caldwell’s approach? Much quieter, most of the time, until a certain situation might deem an inflection change necessary. “(When) I have to go up an octave or two, I gurantee you it will have a little bit different response than most people in that regard, and I do from time to time.”
Much in the way a child never wants to disappoint a parent, Caldwell’s cerebral, observational style when combined with a pertinent, timely lashing can have the same effect. It was one thing for Schwartz to tell the Lions to knock off penalties, but he never properly sold it. The team, then, didn’t grasp that the behavior wasn’t acceptable. As a result, Detroit became known as a rogue team that could be rattled.
“When I have to go up an octave or two, I guarantee you it will have a little bit different response than most people get in that regard, and I do from time to time.” -Jim Caldwell
From day one, Caldwell has had a different feel. It’s almost as if he’s the friendly principal that commanded equal parts respect and fear in school. While he might be generous, have a polite waive and offer a smile, if he was crossed, severe punishment was likely, or at the very least, a major tongue lashing. Nothing could be worse than letting him down.
That’s Caldwell the coach in a nutshell. Don’t think for a minute that he’ll allow the repetitive indiscretions of the past to continue on his watch. If the Lions lose in 2014, it will likely be for reasons besides routine personal fouls and borderline dirty play resulting in game-changing penalties. It might also be for reasons other than complacency at the end of games.
Calmness can sometimes bring about the best storm. Being that Detroit has never had a football leader quite as reserved as Caldwell yet just as fiery, it’s hard to bet against him having the biggest changing effect.