Sometimes, you can tell you’re going to like a person just by listening to them speak for a little while.
Every Monday, following a win or a loss, has become an exercise in this during Detroit Lions’ news conferences when Jim Caldwell takes to the podium. Instead of the usual boring and bland coach speak, the media and fans are treated to motivational stories, quotes, quips and interesting anecdotes which gently weave around the pertinent football issues of the week.
One particular week, he’ll make a few wise-cracks about golf. The next, he’ll quote literature. Throughout, he’ll always make plenty of pithy quotations available. This week, Caldwell used an example from boxing, specifically the John Tate and Mike Weaver fight from 1980, to describe his team’s attitude during a ferocious comeback against the New Orleans Saints. What will he reference next?
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Outside of definite ambiguity on injuries and roster moves, you never know quite what you’re going to get from a Caldwell press conference, which makes each one better than the last. Sometimes, it feels like sitting in your favorite high school or college class with the one teacher or professor that constantly made learning fun and adventurous.
If many in the media can’t get over this dynamic week to week, imagine what a breath of fresh air Caldwell has been to the players. Meetings are likely chalk full of the same interesting rhetoric, and no session is like any of the others, breaking up the monotony in a long season. The ability to constantly have something new to keep attention is a major part of being a head coach, and quite usually, the most successful ones are the best at doing this.
The ability to constantly have something new to keep attention is a major part of being a head coach, and quite usually, the most successful ones are the best at doing this.
As a head coach, Caldwell has been pretty darn good on the sidelines this year, as well. Take Sunday’s game for an example. Instead of allowing the Saints to get an advantage in field position on a third and short, Caldwell accepted a penalty which gave New Orleans a third and 20. That’s a low percentage conversion, and a move which quietly helps aid in a winning cause. Credit the coach for knowing how big 10 yards can figure in by the end of the game.
Overall, the Lions look like a more cohesive, organized and energized team under Caldwell’s leadership. He speaks and leads like a real head coach, and has made his share of quality moves in between the lines to help lead in Detroit’s excellent first place start to the year. His passion and commitment early have been outstanding.
Last January, plenty of people worried about the type of leadership the Lions were getting when they tabbed an older Caldwell to lead their franchise. With every week that passes, it’s clear his experience and unique voice is a major asset that meshes perfectly with the team.