Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
When you think of the Detroit Lions, who or what is the first thought that pops into your head? Chances are it is one of the franchises star players, like Matthew Stafford, or Calvin Johnson. Perhaps its the greatest player in team history, Barry Sanders? Or maybe its head coach Jim Caldwell?
Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Wait, Jim Caldwell?
Probably not the first thing, huh?
The fact of the matter is, that the current captain of the ship isn’t a big name or a flashy personality. What he is however is a guy with a winning pedigree that has the uncanny ability to teach and develop the players under him.
Something Detroit has undoubtedly lacked for a very, very long time.
As you probably know by now, Caldwell was once a student on the job under Super Bowl winning coach, Tony Dungy. Like Caldwell, Dungy is also known for not just player development, but coaching development as well — and he sees something special in the staff currently assembled in Detroit.
Dungy via a recent phone interview with DetroitLions.com:
"“What I always looked for is I wanted guys who were good teachers and good communicators, but even before that, you’re looking for people who are going to be on the same page with you.” “Not that they have to be exactly like you personality wise, that’s not the key at all, but the fact that they believe the same things about football and how you want to teach it, so the things that you’re saying, that staff is echoing and demonstrating.”"
“I think that’s probably one of the most underestimated things in this league, you know, the ability to develop players.” – Lions General Manager, Martin Mayhew
It makes sense, and we’ve already seen some results just one year in.
One of the main factors that landed Jim Caldwell the job in Detroit was his well-known breakdown of every pass attempt by made by Matthew Stafford in 2013, prior to his interview in Detroit. Caldwell had worked with the great Peyton Manning in Indianapolis, and Stafford needed someone who could come in and help him improve his decision-making and mechanics.
So far, it’s worked.
Stafford’s interception totals dropped significantly from 2013 to 2014 and coincidentally the Lions won more games.
"“When you have players who are anxious to learn and who are buying into the system and doing what the coaches ask, and you have a staff that is going to teach, then you do see those improvements,” Dungy said. “You see individual improvements and you see group improvements. “That’s why I’m kind of looking to see the Lions this year because the biggest jump we had as a team (when I was coaching) was after the first year in that second year.”"
Beyond coach Caldwell there is a great group of guys that some of you may or may not be familiar with. That’s why we’re going to do a quick run through of the guys who are not only developing the talent you see on the field each and every Sunday, but also could be responsible for this team taking the next step in 2015.
Next: Meet the Detroit Lions Coaching Staff - Offense