By Ashley Dunkak
DETROIT (CBS DETROIT) – With Ken Whisenhunt no longer a possibility, the Detroit Lions continue their search for a head coach, and hiring Jim Caldwell away from the Baltimore Ravens might benefit both parties.
Caldwell is known for his work with quarterbacks, most notably with Peyton Manning in Indianapolis and more recently Joe Flacco with the Ravens, who was named Super Bowl MVP after his first year working with Caldwell.
Initially, the Ravens hired Caldwell as the quarterbacks coach, but they later made him offensive coordinator – a role ESPN writes Caldwell was initially reluctant to fill. Last season was his first full season at that position, and it did not go well. Baltimore finished 25th in the league in points per game.
Flacco had more passes intercepted (22) than all but two other quarterbacks, and he was sacked 48 times, second-most in the league. His overall passer rating was 73.1, down from 87.7 the previous season. Running back Ray Rice, who had rushed for at least 1,110 yards in each of the last four seasons, gained only 660 yards in 2013.
With those results, Caldwell may be leaving the Ravens whether he gets offered a head coaching job or not, according to ESPN. Evidently, Baltimore appreciates Caldwell and does not want to fire him, but it needs someone whose experience and expertise is as an offensive coordinator.
Baltimore’s offensive struggles in 2013 with Caldwell in charge, though, should not necessarily sour people on the idea of Caldwell as a head coach. Caldwell’s forte has always been working with quarterbacks, and being a head coach is also a role in which Caldwell has more experience and more success. While he spent several years as an assistant head coach and associate head coach with the Indianapolis Colts, having had his role expanded from that of quarterbacks coach, Caldwell had not worked full-time as an offensive coordinator until 2013.
Caldwell spent three years as head coach of the Colts after his long stint there as quarterbacks coach to Manning. In 2009, the Colts went 14-2 in a season that culminated in a Super Bowl loss. The following season, the Colts went 10-6 and lost in the playoffs.
Through that 2010 season, Manning had piloted the team in every game of the past 13 seasons. Including playoffs, he had started 227 consecutive games. Manning missed the 2011 season because of his neck issues, for which he underwent multiple surgeries. He was still recovering when the season began, and evidently the Colts thought he would be able to come back.
Manning never got back, missing the whole year. Using a mix of backup quarterbacks – Curtis Painter (eight games), Dan Orlovsky (five games) and Kerry Collins (three games) – the Colts went 2-14 and promptly fired Caldwell.
The next two seasons, once the Colts replaced Manning with a high-quality quarterback in Andrew Luck, Indianapolis went 11-5 and 11-5 again, suggesting that the team was not in nearly as bad of shape as the 2-14 record suggested.
ESPN calls the Lions job the last opportunity for Caldwell to get a head coaching job this season, having been passed over by the Tennessee Titans (who hired Whisenhunt) and the Washington Redskins.
Other teams not wanting a candidate certainly hardly increases that candidate’s appeal. However, looking at Caldwell’s work with quarterbacks – a specialty the Lions could use with Matthew Stafford’s declining numbers – and his overall record as an NFL head coach (26-22), Caldwell could still be a solid acquisition for the Lions.