Dear Mr. Jim Caldwell,
Exactly one year ago today on January 15, 2014, you became the head coach of the Detroit Lions, and I must admit, I was underwhelmed. Like many people transfixed by flashy headlines, I wondered why the Lions weren’t seeking a bigger name coach to put them over the top. I knew, though, you had Super Bowl experience and came highly spoken of as a tactician by people such as Peyton Manning, Tony Dungy and John Harbaugh. In the end, that allowed me to keep an open mind in the uncertain early days.
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Then, you took the podium that winter afternoon and the fun began. You started discussing your blue collar background, spoke about holding players accountable and talked with an immense understanding of time. You dropped several impressive literary references and were an expert wordsmith. I would come to appreciate that even more as the season wore on. Lo and behold, you weren’t the robot they claimed!
Through the season, you were unflappable with your demeanor, never too high or low. That would likely infuriate some, but considering what Detroit had grown accustomed to, it was a breath of fresh air. You rolled the dice well some (nice fake punt against Miami), and made some notable mistakes. One area you did not was with your staff, as a cast of new and old faces helped the Lions execute on a defensive level not previously seen. There remains work to be done offensively, but Matthew Stafford made less game-breaking mistakes than he had in the past, which does speak to coaching. Evidently, charting throws prior to a job interview has a positive effect.
On January 15, 2015, it’s clear that year one under your leadership was a bigger thrill than many may have imagined it could be. It came with excitement and heartbreak as any season does. Through several comebacks, the Lions made Sunday afternoons fun again in Michigan. Though the team fell short of winning the division, they took that fight to the final day of the regular season for the first time in ages, and perhaps came within a picked up flag of actually winning a playoff game, though you’d never admit that.
On January 15, 2015, it’s clear that year one under your leadership was a bigger thrill than many may have imagined it could be.
Despite the fact there’s plenty to like, you undoubtably understand the time remains now. Changes lie ahead in the future, but with a veteran core, good times cannot stop. Coaches may move on, free agents may depart and new blood may be slotted in. Despite that, for the first time, expectations have changed. The Lions must be able to not merely survive those previously damaging concerns, but thrive in spite of them. With your proven leadership, it’s not a stretch to believe they can.
As you told me during training camp, the cream always rises to the top. It became clear that was not simply a metaphor for a football team or life, but this entire experience. You’ve churned some serious cream within Detroit football already, and everyone’s excited to see if the top actually exists.
Best of luck in getting there in 2015 and beyond,