By: Eric Thomas
Have you noticed? It’s something completely different coming out of Allen Park. The Hall of Fame game has wrapped, the Lions are on the eve of playing their exhibition opener at Ford Field, and you’d barely know it was happening.
This is new. No blustering; no bloviating and no controversy. Things at Lions training camp have been uneventful (rigorously knocking on wood). Without Ndamukong Suh this month would have been completely replete of story lines.
They’re almost—dare I say this?—boring! We shouldn’t note this with any upset at all. In fact, this is a great thing. Noise is bad. Remember when Marty and Matt rode off on their Harleys? Remember when he left practice because he was so “hacked off?” (I don’t remember if he said it on that day, but that’s the only thing I remember about Marty.) Remember the year with all the arrests?
This has been the most silent transition I’ve ever seen in all my years as a Lions fan. New coaches always added noise, but that hasn’t been the case with this administration. We have no idea on how Jim Caldwell will fare as the coach of the Lions, but when it comes to talking to the local media, he is amazing at saying next to nothing. While Jim Schwartz spoke to reporters with an annoyed air, laughing off questions as though they were ridiculous, Caldwell strings words together that somehow amount to less than the sum of their parts. He says the words, you write them down, but when you go back and review them, you realize he said nothing at all.
Our own Ashley Dunkak spoke with Caldwell about second year offensive lineman Larry Warford, he said, ““He never gets too high or too low and is never full of himself.” Ladies and Gentleman, that’s opacity with a capital O!
Caldwell is a rare breed in the history of Lions coaches, he carries the reputation of a “player’s coach.” He’s not likely to grab someone’s face mask, or bench someone for performance in the first half. He’s laid back and peaceful, the quiet calm in the NFL storm.
It remains to be seen if the fan base will accept Caldwell. Detroit tends to favor red-faced screamers who will punish professional players for even the slightest misstep. Fans favor hardline coaches despite the abundance of evidence indicating that coaches who behave like their players are heading into a cornfield at Antietam are relics of days gone by.
Given the Lions record, any break from the past seems like a positive. It makes sense in this situation because every new coach is brought in an effort to fix the problems of the last one. Ross was brought in to institute law and order; Marty was there to give the Lions an offense; Mariucci was there to give them a big name; Marinelli gave them help with the defense…Schwartz would take the job. Caldwell has been brought in to calm things down and fix what many saw as discipline problems. Schwartz was out of control, and the seams were showing last season.
How will all this add up? No one knows, but we can say this about Caldwell so far: he’s unlike any Lions head coach in the recent past. Considering the recent past, that’s a very very good thing.