Jeff Seidel: New Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell focused on discipline, accountability
Say what you will about who they didn’t get.
There is one great thing about Jim Caldwell: He’s the exact opposite of Jim Schwartz.
When he was introduced as the new Detroit Lions coach Wednesday afternoon at Ford Field, Caldwell came off as strong, firm, humble, bold, stable and filled with conviction; Schwartz will be remembered for his emotion and ego, his handshake with Jim Harbaugh and cussing out the fans.
Caldwell’s opening statement, alone, was 2,245 words. He spoke in a rapid-fire, stream-of-conscious burst that came out in paragraphs, not sound bytes. He talked about discipline, mental toughness and protecting the ball; Schwartz presided over a team that was known for stupid penalties, turnovers and a long track record of second-half collapses.
“We’re going to be a team that is disciplined, that’s focused, that understands situational football,” Caldwell said. “It’s going to be drilled and drilled and drilled and not just given lip service, but what you should see on the field is obviously a product of our coaching, our instruction and our demands.”
Drilled? And drilled? And drilled? Wait a second. That sounds like an actual coach talking.
In a long, rambling speech, Caldwell quoted everybody from Fielding Yost to John Wooden, while dropping in a couple of references to the Bible. He seemed like a grandfather who has been in football his entire life, a man who has seen everything and won’t be surprised at anything; Schwartz was the smart-alecky, know-it-all in the back of the room.
When Caldwell, 59, talked, it didn’t sound cliché. It sounded like he was giving a life testimony.
“There is another passage in the Bible that says, ‘We should lack no zeal in our work,’ ” Caldwell said. “No zeal in our work, right? We ought to be enthusiastic about what we do. We ought to be passionate about what we do and it ought to certainly show in every facet of the game.”
While many had described him as being mild mannered, Caldwell was funny, charismatic and firm. He grew up in Beloit, Wis. “One time my dad referred to Beloit as a poke and plumb town,” Caldwell said. “He said, ‘If you’re driving in your car and by the time you poke your head out the window to see where you are, you’ll plumb out of town.’”Time not on his side
So there were some jokes. Some bold statements.
Which is all fine and dandy, of course. But let’s get to what matters: Can he fix Matthew Stafford?
Caldwell, who has worked with Peyton Manning and Joe Flacco, said that Stafford is “on the cusp” of being a fine player. He said Stafford can improve every area of his game.
“He is willing to do whatever it takes to get ready to win,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell did clear up something. He said he met with Stafford, but they didn’t watch film.
“We sat down and just talked a little bit,” Caldwell said. “He’s a guy that has talent, he has ability, he has great leadership qualities and I think, without question, you’re going see him develop and then also, certainly, take off in every facet.”
And yes, we will hold him to that statement.
Schwartz, meanwhile, said that Stafford’s fundamentals were just fine, even though Stafford’s play seemed to regress.
Now, what does all this talk mean?
In the NFL, there is a long history of teams hiring the exact opposite of their last coach.
Caldwell will be judged by only one thing: Does he get this team into the playoffs? He has 16 games to prove himself next season. That’s all that matters.
Clearly, he understands he has to win now.
“I have a lot of patience,” he said. “I just don’t have a lot of time.”
And I don’t think, at that moment, he was talking about his age.A man of faith
Caldwell was open and forthcoming, revealing everything from his defense (a 4-3 scheme) to his shoe size (an 11). He described himself as being a Midwest guy. A product of the Rust Belt and the UAW. “The UAW took care of my family,” said Caldwell, whose father worked 35 years in the automotive industry.
And he is obviously a man of faith.
While it’s unusual to hear a coach quoting from a Bible, I find it revealing. Not about his faith, in particular. I find it revealing about his character, that this man has such strong beliefs that he isn’t afraid to state them. That’s refreshing.
Does this mean he’ll be a good coach? Or that he will win?
This is the Lions we are talking about.
If history is any indication, this will be his last head-coaching gig.A man of accountability
So did the Lions win this news conference?
No. They lost it the second Caldwell was hired. If this news conference were a game, the Lions were 25-point underdogs and had no chance to win this moment.
Because the new coach is not named Ken Whisenhunt. Or Bill O’Brien. Or Bill Cowher. Or Tony Dungy. Lions fans are disappointed. Or miffed. Or angry. Or sad. Because they wanted to be wowed.
This was not a sexy hire. This was not even the Lions’ first pick.
Personally, I wanted Whisenhunt. And it was disappointing that they didn’t get him.
But none of that matters now.
This is who they got. All of their jobs are on the line now. They are all linked together now. The entire front office, as well as Caldwell.
I have no idea if he will win.
But I do think he will hold this team accountable.
“One of the great descriptions I’ve ever heard about a person is velvet and steel,” he said. “That an individual that should be, particularly guys that play this game, should be like a piece of steel wrapped in velvet. So, on the field you’ll find a hard-nosed, tough, fast, physical individual. But then out in our community, you’ll see them as caring, as kind, as cordial as you’ll ever see a human being. That’s the combination we’re looking for, civility and toughness.”
Velvet and steel.
Judging from one news conference, that might be the best description of Caldwell.
He came across as velvet. But you got the feeling there is a lot of steel underneath.Contact Jeff Seidel: firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff.http://www.freep.com/article/20140116/C ... eff-seidel