It was interesting for me to sit back and watch the reaction of Lions fan as the hiring of Jim Caldwell was announced yesterday to almost unanimous dislike among fans in the city. Not that I was personally excited by it, but given the Lions specific criteria of someone with head coaching experience at the NFL level and offensive minded, I wasn’t sure what else people wanted them to do.
Caldwell comes with an interesting background, filled with great quarterback play at times (Peyton Manning helps) and some big question marks when he doesn’t have the QB to his liking (2-14 in his one season without Manning). Ringing endorsements from someone like Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning, but some doubt given the fact that the Ravens offense this season was forgettable, at best.
But all in all, this hire rides on the shoulders (and arm) of Matthew Stafford. He is the sole person that has the innate ability to either make this a great hire, or have the Lions in this same position a couple of season from now. When news broke that Stafford in fact met with Caldwell during the interview process, I was fine with it given the fact that the relationship between those two is what the future of the franchise rests on.
Caldwell comes with the ability to tutor Stafford based off working for numerous years with one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time. Peyton’s off the field work and preparation have long been praised by media outlets, so it’ll be interesting to see whether or not Caldwell is able to convince Stafford that that kind of preparation is what separates the good quarterbacks from the greats. While I have yet to hear Matt isn’t a hard worker, I most certainly haven’t heard he puts the time into the position that Manning does.
So hold off, on bashing Caldwell just yet Detroit. I know you aren’t ecstatic with the hire and neither am I. But the one person who can make this a smart move is Stafford. If he blossoms under Caldwell, no one will remember that not everyone was on board with the Caldwell hire. If he struggles as he did down the stretch that led the Lions to a 1-6 record, the franchise could be looking for both a new leader and a new signal caller in a few years.