Detroit Lions Head Coach Jim Caldwell: The Quarterback Whisperer

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Peyton Manning

Jan 11, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) throws a pass in the fourth quarter against the Indianapolis Colts in the 2014 AFC Divisional playoff football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Colts defeated the Broncos 24-13. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Oh how the world forgets things. Great success can often blind others from seeing the prior misfortunes. The Peyton Manning we know now in 2015, is a legend and future hall of famer. Some would consider him to be the greatest quarterback of all time. But what about that struggling quarterback that was so quickly labeled as failing or middling in 2002? He seems as though he never existed.


Year Cmp % Yards Touchdowns Interceptions TD % Int % Team Record
1998-2001 61 16,418 111 81 5.00% 3,7% 32-32

A lot of yards to go along with a lot of interceptions. Seems like somebody Detroit Lions fans are familiar with. You may never believe it if I told you, but Peyton Manning was the Matthew Stafford of the early 2000’s. The early opinions of Manning were that he is a good but not great quarterback, which brought on the classic question- ‘can he be elite?’ As I outline in my comparing Matthew Stafford to the greats article, the similarities between the early Manning and Matthew Stafford are quite shocking. The tie that could ultimately bind them is Jim Caldwell.

With Caldwell (First four seasons)

Year Cmp % Yards Touchdowns Interceptions TD % Int % Team Record
2002-2005 67 16,771 133 49 6.40% 2.30% 48-16

As you can see, the difference is there and it’s huge. Peyton Manning has gone on record on multiple occasions to thank Jim Caldwell for helping him “launch his career” and “take it to another level.” During Caldwell’s stint in Indianapolis, Manning had the best years of his career. This included winning the NFL MVP award, multiple division titles, two AFC Championships and one Super Bowl win.

The classic rumor is that Payton Manning called all his own plays while Jim Caldwell and Tony Dungy just stood there playing the part of head coach. This is one of the most misunderstood rumors there is. It’s also been dispelled on several occasions. Manning like most quarterbacks, would call his own plays on rare occasions. He would even bring ideas to Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell. They would then determine if the plays could be installed into the offense. According to Tony Dungy they were denied more often than not.

Caldwell would take over for Tony Dungy in 2009 and led them to two division titles and an NFC Championship. After Peyton Manning suffered a nerve injury before the 2011 season, the Colts were forced to turn to Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky and Kerry Collins to play the games most important position. The Colts would finish 2-14 and Crazy Jim Irsay decided to fire everyone (Peyton Manning included) and start over fresh.

Still don’t believe me, hear it from the man himself.

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