INDIANAPOLIS – Jim Caldwell's second stint as a NFL head coach will be a success or failure based on the ability of him and his staff to make Matthew Stafford into a top quarterback whose big plays outweigh the mistakes.
Maybe that's not fair, considering Caldwell wasn't around when the Lions gave Stafford a massive contract extension that tied him to Detroit for years to come, but that's the situation he faces. And, having some time to evaluate Stafford since he was hired this offseason, he likes being in that spot.
Caldwell, who went to a Super Bowl with Peyton Manning as Colts head coach and helped Joe Flacco win a Super Bowl as offensive coordinator of the Ravens, talked about wanting a "championship quarterback," and he thinks Stafford can be just that.
"I think we have the makings of that," Caldwell said. "I think you’re going to see Matthew take the bull by the horns and do all the little things that are necessary to get us to keep moving forward as a team."
The knocks on Stafford are well known. He is loose with the ball at times, and he has never been too fundamentally sound. Caldwell addressed Stafford's fundamentals when he talked about hiring new quarterbacks coach Jim Bob Cooter, who will be “a great fit for Matthew.”
Stafford has tremendous talent and has played very well in stretches, it's just smoothing out the rough edges of his game and becoming a quarterback who the Lions can count on every game. Caldwell addressed one lingering concern about Stafford, which is how willing he is to sacrifice to become a great quarterback. His comment that working with a quarterback tutor in the offseason was "not something that I feel would be my style or beneficial" raised some eyebrows. But Caldwell has no issue with Stafford's commitment.
"He’s hungry to improve, I’ve noticed that about him," Caldwell said. "He’s eager. He’s a willing worker. He’s smart, and he has tools. When you find that combination, typically you’re going to find a guy that does everything it takes to put himself in a position where he’s a championship quarterback."
Caldwell better hope he's correct. His coaching future is tied to how well Stafford develops.
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