According to Kyle Meinke of Michigan Live, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay is still torn up about firing head coach Jim Caldwell three seasons ago. Of course, Caldwell just completed his 1st season as the head coach of the Detroit Lions, where he led his new team to an 11-5 record and their 1st playoff bid since reportedly 2011:
"“It was very difficult when I had to change the whole franchise and kind of start a new era to make that move,” Irsay said during last week’s Super Bowl in Phoenix. “I took my time on that, because it was such a hard decision. He’s a great coach. I think (Detroit) has an excellent guy in Jim Caldwell.”"
Jan 4, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay attends the 2014 AFC Wild Card playoff football game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Caldwell was the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts from 2009-11. He experienced polar highs and lows during his coaching tenure, as his 2009 team went to the Super Bowl only to fall to the New Orleans Saints, while his Peyton Manning-less team in 2011 went 2-11.
That dismal season ultimately cost Caldwell his job, but it also secured the Colts the #1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft where they selected star young quarterback Andrew Luck, which may have been a blessing in disguise.
It was nothing personal against Caldwell, but Irsay reportedly felt the need for a change of direction and leadership:
"“I think he did a great job (for us),” he said. “Sometimes you make a change because a change is needed with the whole dynamic. We knew Jim was an outstanding coach, felt he’d probably coach again, and just really proud of him.”"
In fact, he had nothing to say but high praise for his ex-sideline field general, even comparing him to his predecessor in former Colts head coaching great Tony Dungy, who he immediately took over from in 2009 with the Colts:
"“His integrity, his leadership, his hard work, his attention to detail,” Irsay said. “He has a great offensive mind, he has a great knack with quarterbacks, has been around the league a long time. He’s been to the Super Bowl. He’s just an outstanding coach. Integrity is what comes to mind.“Tony Dungy is up for the Hall of Fame — Jim comes out of that same sort of mold. Not a real loud guy, and that sort of thing, but strong and a leader.”"
If you haven’t read Meinke’s piece, I highly recommend it, as it helps to re-connect Colts fans to some of the team’s more recent past.
Regarding Caldwell, his offensive pedigree and the quarterback work he did with Peyton Manning and the Colts and just most recently, Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions speaks for itself. It’s easy to forget that he was also the quarterbacks coach/offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens from 2012-13. His work with starting quarterback Joe Flacco helped the Ravens win Super Bowl XLVII.
However, as a head coach, Colts’ fans biggest complaint was that he really didn’t show much emotion and passion on the sideline. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, his play calling in general was always pretty conservative, which only added more fuel to the figurative fire. It’s also always been unclear just how much control he was actually given in personnel decision making with former Colts General Manager Bill Polian as a pretty dominant personality at the helm.
What is clear is that Jim Caldwell is a pretty good offensive minded coach though and has a certain gift with quarterbacks, although his long-term legacy as a head coach has yet to be fully determined.
Dec 28, 2014; Green Bay, WI, USA; Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell calls a play in the first quarter during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports