DETROIT – Jim Caldwell got a ringing endorsement from one of his mentors when Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew was doing his homework.
The Lions hired Caldwell on Tuesday to replace fired coach Jim Schwartz, ending a search that included a telephone conversation between Mayhew and Tony Dungy.
“Martin called me and said we’re looking for a leader who can help turn our locker room into a winning one and to help us get the most out of our investment in Matthew Stafford,” Dungy recalled in a telephone interview. “I told Martin that Jim Caldwell is exactly what you’re looking for. He’ll lead by making people accountable and by being a role model on and off the field. And with his attention to detail and history of developing quarterbacks, Stafford is going to flourish just like Peyton Manning did with us in Indianapolis.”
Detroit wanted to replace Schwartz with someone with experience as a head coach, ideally with a track record of tutoring quarterbacks.
Caldwell helped the Indianapolis Colts reach the Super Bowl after his debut season in 2009, but was fired two years later after a 2-14 season while Manning was injured, dropping his three-year mark to 26-22.
Before Caldwell was hired by the Dungy-led Colts in 2002 to be their quarterbacks coach, he had the same job for Dungy with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Caldwell was hired by Baltimore two years ago to be their quarterbacks coach and was promoted to offensive coordinator late in the 2012 season. The Ravens went on to win the last Super Bowl.
The Lions will introduce Caldwell as their coach on Wednesday during a news conference at Ford Field.
“We believe Jim is the right man to lead our team and deliver a championship to our fans,” Lions owner William Clay Ford said in a statement.
The Ravens struggled on offense in 2013 and might have replaced Caldwell if he didn’t get another job. Baltimore ranked 29th on offense overall — 30th rushing and 18th passing — last season with Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice.
Still, Caldwell’s body of work was enough to also make him a candidate to lead the Washington Redskins and Titans. Former Tennessee coach Mike Munchak and ex-Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak were also considered by the Lions.