Looking back it was a move that many so-called experts were quick to second guess. When Jim Irsay decided to tab then-assistant coach Jim Caldwell as the successor to the immensely popular and highly successful Tony Dungy, many thought the Colts should have at least considered interviewing outside the organization for his replacement.
But Irsay knew what he was looking for, both in terms of continuity and capability, and in what is arguably the most important decision he ever made. He chose what has proven to be the right man to lead his franchise to an even higher level.
After serving as a quarterback coach under Tony Dungy in Tampa Bay, Caldwell joined Dungy in Indianapolis in 2002 and methodically developed a relationship with Peyton Manning and the core offensive players that would lead to great success in terms of offensive productivity and help the Colts qualify for the playoffs in each season since his arrival.
Prior to the 2005 season, Caldwell was appointed to the role of assistant head coach and it would prove to be a wise move by the Colts as he was most impressive in his handling of the team during the tragic death of Dungy’s son that season. This did not go unnoticed by the Colts brass as they would take that and several other positive attributes into consideration and name Caldwell as Dungy’s eventual successor in January of 2008.
When Dungy elected to resign a year later, the Colts had their man in place to insure a smooth and successful transition.
While he seeks no fanfare from those who cover the NFL, Caldwell has indeed left indelible impressions on those who know the game. Eddie White, a long time executive with Reebok NFL Apparel and co-host of ESPN radio’s Kravitz and Eddie show, finds Caldwell’s success to be nothing less than spectacular and cites the consensus from around the league as proof.
“Incredibly, Jim Caldwell in a short period of time has attained a level of respect amongst his peers, those throughout the NFL, and the media, that rivals that of Coach Dungy” said White when recently asked to evaluate the year Caldwell has had. Many others in the media agree.
“I always thought the transition from Dungy to Jim Caldwell would be a good one, but not this great so quickly” commented WISH-TV Sports Director Anthony Calhoun from Miami. “What really grabs me about him is how humble he is, and how he never seeks attention. He does not receive the credit he deserves.”
Radio station 1070 The Fan executive producer Michael Grady, whose station carries the Colts radio broadcasts echoed the sentiments of his media peers when reached for comment about Caldwell.
“He certainly has the same poise and composure his predecessor had, and his willingness to make personnel changes on defense and special teams has paid dividends beyond measure,” stated Grady from his Monument Circle studio. “His class and professionalism never waivers.”
Yet it is the Caldwell that only the players see that impresses me the most. While many were skeptical of his decision to sit his starters in the final two games of the regular season, how many of those detractors were aware that he had both his first string offense and defense in pads going full bore, head to head in practice, the week before the opening round of the playoffs against Baltimore? That is simply unheard of, but it worked.
While accomplishments such as the best regular season record in league history for a rookie head coach (14-2) speak for themselves, Caldwell is no doubt more proud of the seamless transition he has commandeered and now is on the cusp of becoming just the third African-American coach to win a Super Bowl. Indeed an inspiring story for those with NFL coaching aspirations.
Powerful stuff you would say, but it is all business as usual for this focused and well-grounded individual.
Win or lose the Super Bowl, Jim Caldwell has clearly distinguished himself in a manner that can be only described as phenomenal.
Something tells me the best is yet to come for this class individual and the Colts franchise is indeed in good hands for years to come with this splendid leader at the helm.
Thanks Coach, for doing it with dignity, style, and grace.
We are forever indebted to you for what you have provided.
Danny Bridges, who thinks we could all benefit from emulating Coach Caldwell’s approach to life, can be reached at (317) 578-1780 or Bridgeshd@aol.com.