By: Eric Thomas
Among Detroit sports fans, there’s a new rule: Super Bowls are irrelevant now. Update your opinion if you’re out of date. Apparently, according to a lot of people on Twitter, websites, TV and radio, it’s really easy to make it to a Super Bowl. If Peyton Manning is your quarterback, making the Super Bowl is a layup. Never mind the other 13 years where Manning missed the title game, if he’s your guy, it’s automatic.
The Lions hired Jim Caldwell to be their latest head coach. The reaction in Detroit is hard to understand. It’s 80-20 against his hiring. If your reason is because the Lions are an organization that shouldn’t be trusted, that’s fair. Lions ineptitude is a train that’s never late. If that’s your skepticism, that’s fine, but the people who say Caldwell is unworthy to be the coach aren’t making any sense.
Caldwell has two rings. He’s Tony Dungy’s right hand man, and Dungy is mentioned by many Detroiters in tones and reverence usually reserved for the messiah. The Lions hired his right hand man and many act like it’s the apocalypse. If you loved Dungy, why don’t you like Caldwell?
“[Dungy] was…for Marinelli. It got us 0-16”
When Dungy left Tampa, he didn’t bring Rod to the Colts. He brought Caldwell. Am I missing something here?
The Lions needed a quarterback whisperer. They got one in Caldwell, who was a quarterback coach for both Manning and Flacco. They needed an offensive expert. Caldwell was the OC in the Super Bowl last year. His team won.
“If Caldwell was so good, why did the Colts get rid of him?”
Sorry, didn’t they also get rid of Peyton Manning? Does he stink now, too? The Colts got rid of everyone—including President Bill Polian and Vice President General Manager Chris Polian. If you listen to anyone who was around the team around 2011, the Polian’s get more blame for the state of the roster in that two win season. Why are we assuming that the Colts made the right decision? Wouldn’t you be a little sore if the guy you released got a championship the very next year? It’s a hypothetical; because the Lions haven’t ever released a coach that went on to win the Super Bowl as a coordinator.
Don’t forget the controversy that swirled around the Colts leading up to the 2011 season: Peyton Manning wanted to be the highest paid player in the NFL. The Colts obliged, and they had to starve several other parts of their roster to accommodate him. He drained the team of money and didn’t show up. When Manning sat out 2011, it was weekly drama whether or not he was coming back. Remember that? It would have been different if Manning was just on IR to start the season. Manning had the more painful surgery so he could come back quicker. The Colts spent almost every week wondering what was happening with the future Hall of Famer. Caldwell had to coach through that mess. How did the Packers do when Aaron Rodgers was out? Now extend that for a year. Is anyone saying Mike McCarthy should be out of Green Bay?
As it turns out, Matt Stafford wasn’t interviewing Caldwell when he met the Lions quarterback during his interview. Reports say that Caldwell came prepared: he had every throw Stafford made on tape, and went over what drills he was going to do with Stafford to help him improve his performance. That…is impressive. After years of Schwartz braying about how penalties are actually good and reminding the media that they can’t call the coaching staff “scared,” Caldwell showed up to the meeting and got to work fixing the biggest problem the Lions had in the second half of last season. He got to work at the interview.
When Lions brass introduce their new head coach at the press conference later today, if they claim they were leaning toward Caldwell on Monday and not Wisenhunt—there’s reason to believe them. If you’re skeptical, it’s understandable, but in the ego driven world of the NFL, I’d be pretty impressed by a former head coach in the Super Bowl if he shows up for the job interview and starts working.
“Why weren’t any other teams pursuing Caldwell?”
So…the other teams who’ve fired their coaches and now their organizations are in shambles didn’t turn to Caldwell. Is that really an important endorsement or indictment? You need to have the Vikings, Buccaneers or Titans sign off on your coach? Let’s be clear: the other organizations that don’t have coaches have made lots of mistakes, which is why they’re in the predicament they’re in. I wouldn’t worry that DC or Cleveland passed on Caldwell.
“Caldwell is the Lions’ second choice.”
This would be where Martin Mayhew’s silence hurts him. He doesn’t talk to the media, so the media is left to draw its own conclusions. If Brian Xanders is offered the GM position in Miami, the Lions should remove Mayhew and elevate Xanders. I like the Caldwell hire, but anyone could have pulled this one off. Mayhew has done nothing exceptional, as far as I can tell, to remain the General Manager of the team.
I’m going to be attacked for this blog. I’m going to be called a shrill homer for the Lions, but I was screaming for Jim Schwartz’s dismissal since the game against Tampa Bay. I think this was a good hire. Would Wisenhunt have been better? Probably, but his play calling against the Broncos shook my confidence and his press conference in Tennessee shook me even more. The Lions may have dodged a bullet there.
Caldwell’s resumé has blemishes, but what do you expect? There’s no perfect head coach, and even the guys who seem perfect fail. Is he perfect? No, but the perfect candidate wasn’t available. Let’s not pretend that Caldwell is Bill Parcells. He’s an improvement over Schwartz, and that’s all you really need right now.
I like this hire, and I don’t really care if I’m the only one who does.