Jim Caldwell worked on the Ravens' staff, most recently as offensive coordinator, after serving as head coach for the Colts.(Photo: Evan Habeeb, USA TODAY Sports)
Jim Caldwell watched every pass Matthew Stafford threw this
year to prepare for his interview with the Detroit Lions. Next year,
he'll have an even better vantage point.
The Lions hired Caldwell to be their 26th head coach Tuesday, a person familiar with the situation tells the Detroit Free Press,
ending a search that spanned more than two weeks and saw the Lions miss
out on at least one of their top candidates. The person could not speak
publicly on Caldwell's hiring because because the formal announcement
had not yet been made by the team.
ESPN and NFL Network first reported his hiring.
the Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator, succeeds Jim Schwartz, who
was fired Dec. 30 after the Lions closed the season on a four-game
He went 26-22 in three seasons as Indianapolis
Colts head coach from 2009-11 and comes equipped with the offensive
pedigree and championship background the Lions desired.
who was promoted to offensive coordinator late in the 2012 season,
called plays during the Ravens' Super Bowl run last winter. He also won a
ring as an assistant with the Colts, and led Indianapolis to another
Super Bowl appearance as head coach.
After making the playoffs his
first two years in Indianapolis, Caldwell was fired after a 2-14 season
in 2011 when Peyton Manning did not play because of a neck injury.
has long credited Caldwell with fine-tuning his game as a quarterback,
and former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, who worked on Caldwell's staff
in 2011, said Caldwell was a "visionary" for Manning throughout their 10
"Peyton would have 9,000 questions," Tressel
said. "He'd want to go back to the 2002 game against the Vikings when
the defensive coordinator was the guy that's now the secondary coach of
the team we're playing and he remembers a coverage, so Jim was always
kind of the guy that visionated with Peyton as I listened (to people
talk about their relationship).
"I think Peyton really counted on him to be that researcher with him because Peyton loved to research."
Lions are counting on Caldwell to work more of his quarterback magic
with Stafford, whose late-season struggles were a big reason they
slumped to 7-9 and missed the playoffs this year.
met with Caldwell as part of his interview, saw his passing numbers
decline for a second straight season and threw 19 interceptions this
year, his most since his rookie season.
"As I think about the
Lions, which I think conventional thinking is that it's probably the
best NFL job available right now," Tressel said. "With the talent you've
got, the solid quarterback, when I saw that he was being mentioned for
that job, I said you know that makes a lot of sense because he's got
that ability to keep people together."
Lions general manager
Martin Mayhew said on the day Schwartz was fired that harnessing
Stafford's considerable talents was one of his priorities in this
More than a great teacher, though, Mayhew said the Lions
wanted a leader who would help change the culture of an organization
that's been to the playoffs just once in the last 14 years and
squandered a golden opportunity to win a wide-open NFC North this fall.
Lions started the season 6-3, but lost six of their final seven games.
Last year, they closed the season with eight straight losses despite a
solid nucleus of talent that includes Stafford, receiver Calvin Johnson
and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
"I think if you go back to
2009, we really were starting from the very bottom going 0-16 and hiring
a new coach," Mayhew said two weeks ago. "We're not at that point right
now. We think we're further advanced than that. We think we've come a
long way and Coach Schwartz brought us a long way, but we think it's
time for somebody who can put us over the hump and take us to the next
For much of the search, it looked like that person would be
former San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, who
played with Mayhew in Washington and like Caldwell had prior experience
as a head coach and an extensive offensive background.
Whisenhunt spurned the Lions and shocked much of the NFL Monday when he
agreed to replace Mike Munchak as Tennessee Titans head coach. The Lions
had a private plane in Detroit waiting to fly to San Diego to pick up
The Lions also formally interviewed Munchak and
ex-Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak in their search, but ultimately
decided to turn their team over to Caldwell, a 37-year coaching veteran
who turns 59 on Thursday.
While many Lions assistants remain under
contract from last year, Caldwell hopes to hire Ravens secondary coach
Teryl Austin, a former assistant at Michigan, as defensive coordinator,
and Kansas City Chiefs assistant head coach David Cully as offensive
coordinator, Fritz Pollard Alliance chairman John Wooten said.
Regardless of his coordinators, Caldwell might retain play-calling
duties on offense, Wooten said.