By Christy Strawser, digital director
DETROIT (CBS Detroit) The Ford family wants the Lions to win the NFC North in 2014 and bring a “consistently winning team” to Detroit, according to team president Tom Lewand.
Enter Jim Caldwell.
The Lions hired former Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Caldwell to replace Jim Schwartz after the Lions missed the playoffs again in 2013. Caldwell was officially introduced by the team during a press conference Wednesday afternoon, where he said the team is going to be smart, disciplined and “not shoot itself in the foot.” He added the team will be “hard-nosed” and “physical.”
It’s apparently exactly what The Lions front office wanted to hear.
“We had a profile laid out two weeks ago and two men fit that profile and were real finalists for us, Ken Whisenhunt was somebody we wanted to have additional conversations with,” Lewand said, adding Whisenhunt chose Tennessee.
And the race was down to one.
“He fit our profile to a T,” Lewand said.
General Manager Martin Mayhew added that Caldwell came highly recommended by several, including fan favorite Tony Dungy. “Everybody that we talked to, consistently, across the board, spoke so highly of Jim … We just had a great feeling.”
For his part, Caldwell praised Detroit fans, their level of football understanding and passion.
“Thanks to Martn Mayhew and Tom Lewand for making this possible,” he said, describing the interview process as “painstaking.”
Caldwell’s previous NFL head coach experience came with the Indianapolis Colts, where he went 26-22 over a three-year span, including a 2-14 season that resulted from future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Peyton Manning missing the entire season with neck problems for which he had undergone off-season surgery.
Working with quarterbacks has been Caldwell’s forte. He worked for years with Manning in Indianapolis, and the Ravens brought him in to work with Joe Flacco, who in his first year working with Caldwell helped guide the Ravens to a Super Bowl, where Flacco was named Super Bowl MVP.
Many are wondering if he can get the best from quarterback Matthew Stafford, who tossed 19 interceptions.
Caldwell disputed reports he watched film with Stafford before the Lions picked him to lead the team. But he did praise the QB, saying “he’s a guy that has talent … He has great leadership qualities and I think without question … you’re going to see him take off in every facet.”
The Lions fired Schwartz on Dec. 30, the Monday after Detroit’s final game of the season. Schwartz went 29-51 in his five-year tenure in Detroit, and despite loads of talent in 2013, the Lions committed turnover after turnover, blew fourth-quarter lead after fourth-quarter lead and ultimately finished the season on a 1-6 skid.
The beneficiaries of an injury-ravaged division, the Lions should have easily clinched the NFC North, but they bumbled away their lead.
Lions’ management obviously believes Caldwell is the man to put the team on the right course.
“As I had an opportunity to look at this situation from afar as this job opened up … I believe, without question, this is the best fit for me,” Caldwell said.
He added: “I believe we’re on the threshold of great things.”