Lions putting faith in Caldwell's plusses, not minuses

A coaching career that began for Jim Caldwell in 1977 has seen its share of ups and downs. The Lions hope his positives outweigh his negatives as he takes over the reins in Detroit.

Caldwell spent 24 years coaching at the collegiate level before taking his talents to the professional ranks. He was the first African-American coach in the Atlantic Coast Conference, spending 1993-2000 at Wake Forest, where he led the Demon Deacons to a record of 26-63.

After he was fired following the 2000 season, Caldwell joined Tony Dungy's staff with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as quarterbacks coach. He worked with Brad Johnson for one season before Dungy was fired as Tampa's head coach. 

Dungy and Caldwell moved together to Indianapolis, where both coaches famously worked with the Colts offense and quarterback Peyton Manning, enjoying enormous success offensively and in the win column. The Colts ranked among the top offenses in the NFL and won Super Bowl XLI over Chicago. Caldwell was the quarterbacks coach and assistant head coach of those teams.

When Dungy retired after the 2008 season, Caldwell took over the head coaching duties.  In his first season, Indianapolis finished 14-2 and advanced to Super Bowl XLIV.  The Colts lost to New Orleans. 

Caldwell and the Colts followed up that season with a 10-6 finish in 2010 and a first-round playoff ouster.

In 2011, Peyton Manning was ruled out for the year with a neck injury, just days before the season opener. The loss of Manning stunned the team, which was ill-prepared to move forward without the franchise quarterback.  Floundering with Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky under center, the Colts started the season 0-13 and finished with a 2-14 record.

Caldwell was fired after the season.

Landing in Baltimore as the Ravens quarterbacks coach, Caldwell found himself in the middle of a major coaching change with just weeks left in the 2012 season.  Cam Cameron was fired as offensive coordinator in December and Caldwell inherited the job. 

In the weeks following the change, Baltimore's offense posted some of its most prolific numbers ever, averaging 31 points per game in the postseason and advancing to Super Bowl XLVII. 

The Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers 34-31 to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Caldwell remained Baltimore's offensive coordinator for the 2013 season and the Ravens production plummeted. Quarterback Joe Flacco had the 32nd-highest passer rating in the league. Baltimore's offense was 29th in the league in yards per game and 25th in points per game. 

There has been speculation this week that Caldwell may not have returned to Baltimore as offensive coordinator this season under any circumstances.

As the Lions turn the direction of the franchise over to Caldwell, they hope he garners respect from the players and is able to connect with Matthew Stafford. 

Drafted first overall in 2009, Stafford has posted gaudy statistics, but has failed to deliver a playoff win. He also has failed to reach the Pro Bowl in any of his first five seasons.  Stafford needs the guidance and touch of an experienced winner to refine his game and take it to the next level.

Caldwell is being entrusted to handle that task and lead the Lions to the next level, where they consistently compete in the postseason for many years.

Tom Leyden is the Sports Director at WXYZ - Follow Tom on Twitter: @TomLeyden


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