Caldwell not sexy, but solid choice

Jim Caldwell introduced as new Detroit Lions head coach

By Rob Parker - Sports Columnist
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DETROIT - Jim Caldwell wasn't the sexy pick.

In fact, most Detroit Lions fans discounted Caldwell as a serious candidate to replace Jim Schwartz because of his lackluster personality.

Let's face it: Before his press conference at Ford Field on Wednesday, some didn't know much about him and even more had never heard Caldwell speak.

It's hard to get excited about a guy like that, a virtual unknown to the general public.

Plus, there was so much buzz about Ken Whisenhunt. He appeared to be the next coach almost from Day 1 when the job opened.

But make no mistake about it, Caldwell is a solid pick to be the Lions' head coach.

Caldwell, who turned 59 Thursday, has everything the Lions need. He has experience. He was the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts for three seasons. He has a winning pedigree, going to three Super Bowls and winning two rings.

Caldwell has been a quarterback coach and offensive coordinator. He's worked with Super Bowl-winning QBs in Peyton Manning and Joe Flacco. Just the medicine Matthew Stafford needs.

Better yet, Caldwell's a no-nonsense, even-keeled man. That's something the Lions sorely need.

For sure, Caldwell, a quiet man, reading from basically a prepared speech and quoting the Bible a few times, didn't win the press conference. Lions fans didn't call up Ford Field for season tickets after his formal introduction as the Lions' head man.

But then again, it's not about that. Theater doesn't work in football. Matt Millen and Schwartz made people feel great when they were hired, as if the Lions' history of being losers was going to end. Both crashed and burned.

Maybe the Lions, drowning in a sea of wrong choices for decades, will finally get a break with this choice.

Maybe, just maybe, the Lions made a smart hire, even if it wasn't what they wanted to get at first.

There's no doubt they wanted Whisenhunt. It's the reason president Tom Lewand even mentioned Whisenhunt at the press conference. There was no way he could have ignored it. It was truly the elephant in the stadium.

Lewand dismissed the notion that the Lions settled for Caldwell.

"He fits our profile to a 'T,'" Lewand said. "There's no doubt about it. "Anyone who thinks we settled for Jim Caldwell doesn't know anything about Jim Caldwell."

The Rolling Stones may have sang, "You Can't Always Get What You Want," but the Lions might have finally gotten what they need.

For sure, Caldwell has a real chance to win in Motown, much better odds than Schwartz and Rod Marinelli, the last two coaches here.

Not only is the talent on this team better than they those guys took over, Caldwell has been a head coach before. This isn't his first rodeo.

"I believe this is the right fit for me," Caldwell said.

His mission is simple: win a playoff game.

Before people get caught up in the Lions winning the Super Bowl, they have to take baby steps. The team's first postseason victory since 1991 would be a good start.

Caldwell said he text and spoke to a few players and got a positive response about his hiring.

"I'm excited to work with the players on this team right now," said Caldwell, who was 26-22 in three seasons in Indy. "They are excited and willing to do whatever it takes to win.
"The time is right now."

It was good to hear Caldwell talk about discipline, focus and not shooting yourself in the foot. It was a clear rip of Schwartz's Lions.

The Lions made a lot of dumb penalties in Schwartz's five seasons at the helm. Often, they came back to cost them games.

"I'm excited and proud to have Jim Caldwell as my head coach," Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said. "(He) has expertise, has the experience."

There was talk that there were issues between Mayhew and Schwartz. The two weren't always on the same page. Mayhew doesn't believe that will be the case here.

"Everybody told us what a great guy Jim is to work with," Mayhew said.

The Lions expect results right away, this isn't a rebuild. Caldwell understands that.

"There's a reason I'm here, to win a championship," he said.

For once, the Lions hired a coach that honestly has a chance to get the job done.

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