The Detroit Lions wrapped up their two-week search for a new head coach Tuesday, hiring former Indianapolis Colts boss Jim Caldwell for the job, ESPN reports. But Caldwell heads into his new position knowing that he was the Detroit Lions' second choice.
The team thought it had San Diego Chargers Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt on the hook, but Whisenhunt changed course when he was offered the Tennessee Titans head coaching job. That left former Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak and ex-Titans coach Mike Munchak, as well as Caldwell, as the only other candidates the Detroit Lions had interviewed in their search process.
In the end, they went with Caldwell whom they hope, according to Detroit Free Press columnist Drew Sharp, will serve as a calming influence on a Lions team that seemed to drown in its own chaos as the 2013 season wore on.
Under now-fired Coach Jim Schwartz, the Detroit Lions were sitting atop the NFC North Division with a 6-4 record after 10 games. The Lions then proceeded to lose five of their final six games, including their last four straight, to finish at 7-9, out of the playoff picture and out of a job for Schwartz.
"There's nothing outwardly charismatic about Jim Caldwell. He doesn't dazzle. He doesn't excite," wrote Sharp in what didn't exactly sound like a ringing endorsement. "He maintains a steady emotional equilibrium that makes you wonder whether there's something actually beating beneath his chest."
But the columnist went on to say that exactly the sort of unemotional, even boring approach Caldwell brings might be exactly what the Detroit Lions — who have never won a Super Bowl and in fact have not even won a playoff game since 1991 — are looking for.
"The Detroit Lions lacked that calming demeanor last season, panicking rather than persevering as they blew an endless string of fourth-quarter leads," Sharp recounted. "Confidence breeds tranquility, and the Lions believe they've found the steady hand to stabilize a shaky team."
Caldwell coached the Indianapolis Colts from 2009 to 2011. He got off to a fast start, winning his first 14 games as Colts boss and taking the team to the Super Bowl that year.
But he incited a storm of controversy when, with a 14-0 record and a chance at a historic undefeated season — but with the team's playoff position secure — Caldwell chose to pull his first-string players from a game against the New York Jets.
The Colts ended up losing that game and their next one to finish at 14-2. The team cruised through two playoff contests, but in the Super Bowl they fell short, dropping an upset decision to the upstart New Orleans Saints.
Caldwell was fired after the 2011 season when, with future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning sidelined for the year with a neck injury, the Colts slumped to a dismal 2-14 mark.
Caldwell comes to the Detroit Lions from the Baltimore Ravens where he served as offensive coordinator since the 2012 season.