I was excited about the possibility of Ken Whisenhunt becoming the Detroit Lions next head coach. I was also intrigued by Jay Gruden, but he ended up taking the job in Washington. Still, all the chatter was that Whisenhunt was Detroit's man, and why wouldn't he take this job? It was, in the mind of many, the best job on the market. Well, he didn't take it, and when I saw that Whisenhunt had taken the Titans job, I was worried. Then, I saw that the Lions had hired Jim Caldwell to be their head coach. I was no longer worried... because worry is an anticipatory feeling. Now I'm just disappointed.
This is not a good hire. For whatever reason, the Lions seemed determined to hire somebody who had a head coaching job in the NFL before. Inexplicably, Mike Munchak was involved in the interview process, and Gary Kubiak's name got bandied about too. Caldwell isn't as bad a hire as Munchak would have been, but it is not as good as Kubiak would have been, and that exactly would not have set the world alight.
Caldwell has several years head coaching experience, if you consider his woeful run at Wake Forest, but to be fair winning at Wake Forest has proven difficult. He then joined the NFL as a Tony Dungy guy, and when Dungy retired, he took over for Dungy in Indianapolis. He had two seasons that went very well. Peyton Manning was his quarterback. He had one awful season that got him fired. Curtis Painter was his quarterback.
This is not a good sample size really. He also spent the last couple of years as the offensive coordinator in Baltimore. He got some praise because Joe Flacco suddenly stopped throwing interceptions en route to the Super Bowl win. This year their offense was poor and so was Flacco. Yet, here we are, with Caldwell now the head coach of the Detroit Lions.
This is so uninspired. Had Caldwell never coached a team with the best quarterback of his generation under center, this guy's reputation would be very different I imagine. I don't want to look at his overall records too much, considering the circumstances. I will just point out that, repeatedly, Caldwell made TERRIBLE in game decisions. He was a regular in Bill Barnwell's Thank You For Not Coaching articles on Grantland. Based on this alone, you can't really call him a great coach. Maybe he's learned something, but I doubt it. Retreads don't usually change their ways. That's why they tend to fail in the same old ways.
Caldwell certainly has a different personality than Jim Schwartz. Schwartz tried to bring some tough guy bravado, and often looked like a buffoon. Caldwell is a nice guy, a quiet guy, a seemingly reasonable man. Does the team hope this will suddenly bring that "discipline" that people say the team needs? Are guys going to stop taking penalties out of the kindness of their hearts? I'm not saying a drill sergeant would have changed things either. Only a good tactical coach could maybe figure this out.
This isn't a bad hiring. It just isn't a good one. Maybe they hired Caldwell to save money and time because they only need to change the last name on all of Schwartz's stuff. He's not going to make this team better. Maybe he will hire a great offensive coordinator. Perhaps he will be able to help Stafford, although he showed no signs of helping Flacco. Caldwell is taking over a different situation than Schwartz too. The Lions were considered a disappointment going 7-9. The goal, the aim, is for Detroit to make the playoffs. If they don't do that in the next few years, and there is a very real possibility they won't, then Caldwell will likely get fired. When that happens, Martin Mayhew goes with him. By hiring Jim Caldwell, Mayhew has more or less written his own pink slip.