COMMENTARY | The Lions missed out on former San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt on Monday, January 13, so they moved to Plan B.
Plan B turned out to be former Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, who will be the Lions next head coach for the 2014 season.
Before Caldwell was the offensive coordinator of the Ravens, he was the head coach at Indianapolis, where he led the Colts to a Super Bowl berth in his first year of being head coach in 2009.
Caldwell won a Super Bowl with the Colts in 2007 when he was the quarterbacks coach and assistant head coach before being hand-picked by Tony Dungy to succeed him as head coach.
There has been a lot of talk about Caldwell's lack of success in Baltimore and in his final season with the Colts where he went 2-14. However, it would be hard for any coach to succeed with the personnel he had with those two teams.
Fans and radio personalities already think Caldwell is doomed to fail, and the Lions have another three to four years of mediocrity awaiting them before Caldwell is fired. To that I say, let's pump the brakes and let the guy prove himself.
Let's take a look at last season in Baltimore, in which the Ravens were ranked 29th in offense this year averaging 20.0 points per game. The Ravens lost Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers that offseason, tight end Dennis Pitta was hurt for most of the year, running back Ray Rice struggled with injuries ever since the second game of the season, the offensive line was atrocious allowing 48 sacks this season -- fourth worst in the NFL -- and quarterback Joe Flacco regressed as a result.
So there were a lot of things working against Caldwell this season, but being the offensive coordinator of a stagnant offense doesn't mean you can't succeed as a head coach in the NFL.
Current Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy was the offensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers in 2005, the year the 49ers were dead last in offense averaging 14.9 points per game.
The very next year, McCarthy was hired as the head coach of the Green Bay Packers, and what has he done since then? Oh, nothing special, just six playoff berths in eight seasons, four division titles and a win in Super Bowl XLV.
As far as Caldwell's final year in Indianapolis, Peyton Manning was out the entire year with a neck injury, and Curtis Painter started half of the games. Curtis, who? Exactly.
You'd be hard pressed to find a coach in this league who could win with Painter, who hasn't started a game since the 2011 season. Caldwell can only coach so much, but he does need help on the field, and there was no way he was going to get it from Painter.
Caldwell fits all of the criteria the Lions were looking for in a head coach: prior head-coaching experience, an offensive-minded coach and a coach who has a background of working with quarterbacks.
The last one is especially important as the Lions will only go as far as Matthew Stafford takes them. I've said this numerous times, and I'll continue to say it. Former coach Jim Schwartz always stressed how important Stafford's play was and, during the second half of this season, admitted Stafford needed to play better.
However, Stafford never did play better and Schwartz never held him accountable for his play on the field. He simply brushed it off as if Stafford had an off game. However, the second half of the season was an "off game" for Stafford, and Schwartz never fixed it.
According to former Colts center Jeff Saturday, Caldwell brings the accountability and discipline the Lions have been lacking during the Schwartz era.
"A number of games, (the Lions) cost themselves with silly penalties and silly mistakes. Jim Caldwell will bring discipline. He'll bring consistency and accountability to this organization," Saturday said on "SportsCenter" after Caldwell officially was hired.
Saturday also added Caldwell wasn't afraid to tell Manning what he was doing wrong and find solutions to correct those mistakes. This is the kind of coaching Stafford needs. If Manning -- one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game -- can benefit as a result of Caldwell's coaching, then surely Stafford can benefit as well.
Caldwell does come with his faults, and I'm not saying the Lions will go on a run of Super Bowl titles the world has never seen before. But let's give Caldwell a chance before we start writing him off as a failure. Fans have every right to question a franchise's personnel decisions, but let his time spent in Detroit gauge whether or not he should be a long-term solution for the Lions.
He has a track record of success and is just what the Lions need in a head coach. If he fails, he fails and the Lions probably lose their general manager in the process. But asking someone to be fired before they've coached a single down is ridiculous.
Tom Mitsos is a Michigan native who writes about the Detroit Lions for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He also is a high school sports reporter at MLive Media Group. You can follow Tom on Twitter.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Jim Caldwell
- Matthew Stafford
- Baltimore Ravens