Thursday, January 16, 2014

Caldwell Apologeia

So I can't say I'm too excited by the Caldwell hire.  I will say that from a contrarian perspective, I'll bet he does much better than most people think.  Sentiment is fully against him.
Regardless though, I can't say I would have been very excited by any of the candidates.  Lovie was the only one who I liked and it doesn't appear that the Lions strongly considered him.  My dream was that the team trade a first round pick to the 49ers for Harbaugh a la the Belichick deal 15 years ago.
But as you all can tell from the subject, this email isn't to bury Caldwell, but rather to praise him so praise him I shall.
1.  I've had a philosophy for quite a while, mostly with personnel but also with coaching that if you don't trust management to make the right pick then your team of choice has much greater problems than the head coach.  This doesn't guarantee any kind of success with Caldwell, but it does presume that the team vetted him thoroughly and he was among their final choices.  It also presumes that management expects him to be successful.

2.  Caldwell's coaching prowess [sic] cannot be easily measured by the performance of his teams.  This isn't an endorsement of course, but more of a 'it's all under the hood' type of argument.  He was HC for Wake Forest and then the Colts late/post Manning.  It is notable that his first Colt team went 14-2 and lost in the Super Bowl.  You can count the number of Super Bowl coaches available for hire on zero fingers now that Whisenhunt, Lovie, and Caldwell are gone.  This team was among the worst in the league in yards allowed yet finished 8th in scoring defense.  They also finished 7th in scoring offense yet were a threat to go undefeated until they pulled Peyton at halftime with a multiscore lead and a 14-0 record.  This team also held Baltimore to 3 points in the Divisional round.
His second year the team went 10-6 as the defense fell apart.  His legacy from his Colt tenure marked more by his mind-numbing times out in the Wild Card game which led to a Jet FG and loss than by the Super Bowl appearance the year before.  And of course in year three he lost Peyton, most of his games, and ultimately his job.

3.  He isn't being asked to do a lot.  This isn't a team that needs rebuilding, it's a team that needs stability - precisely the type of team that he's already succeeded with.  The Lions need two things right now, discipline and ... errr .. discipline.  The first is to remain collected, not do stupid things, accept what comes.  Schwartz is a hothead.  A good coach, but a hothead and the team took its lead from him, committing countless stupid penalties, often at the worst times.  Merely having a coach who preaches calm should help here. 

The second discipline is between Stafford's ears.  I think everyone understands that Stafford has as much physical talent as any quarterback in the league.  What he hasn't developed is the mental acuity to exploit his physical advantages.  He recently told the press that he doesn't need a quarterback guru, to the dismay of - well - everyone.  Caldwell has a great record with quarterbacks.  He was quarterbacks coach with Penn State while Kerry Collins was there.  While he didn't have much success with his QBs at Wake Forest (notable only for Brian Kuklick) his time with Peyton Manning cannot be overlooked.  While it can be debated whether Caldwell influenced Manning's development, it cannot be debated that merely being in the presence of Peyton had to have helped Caldwell.  I think all Raven fans would agree that not only did he represent an enormous upgrade at OC when he came, but that he also brought something to Flacco or at least that he was able to deliver the offense to Flacco's skillset.  If he can duplicate this in Detroit, the team will be in the playoffs annually.

4.  He is fully qualified.  This isn't a Raheem Morris/Mike Tice type of hire.  This is a guy who has been a coordinator for multiple teams, a head coach for multiple teams.  It is impossible to argue that he's inexperienced for the job.  He may be incompetent - that remains to be seen - but if so it will be experienced incompetence.

5.  He's black.  This point really can't be underscored enough.  Black head coaches in the NFL have an excellent record overall.  The list is astonishingly short, of course, but also astonishingly successful.  Not count Fritz Pollard in 1921, and not counting interims, there have been 15 black NFL head coaches.  Of those 15 only Romeo Crennel, Mike Singletary and Raheem Morris failed to take their teams to the playoffs at least once.  Crennel and Morris both had 10 win seasons, Singletary an 8 win season.  Flores, Dungy and Tomlin each won Super Bowls while Lovie and Caldwell each lost one.  Additionally, Shell and Green (twice) took their teams to conference championships.

6.  Finally, he's learned.  I can't prove this of course, but I assume that everyone learns and that Caldwell couldn't have 'won' the interview without displaying skills that he may not have had in the past.  Stafford (and Bill Ford Jr) sat in on Caldwell's interview and Caldwell proceeded to break down film showing Stafford where he could have made better decisions in certain spots.  While Stafford may publicly deny the need for a quarterback whisperer, everyone welcomes a mentor when the situation presents.  If Caldwell can be a mentor to Stafford, if Caldwell can get Stafford to take that next step to disciplined player, then this hire will be a success and so will the team.


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