Introduced on Wednesday as the Detroit Lions' new head coach, former Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell has no intentions of supervising a rebuilding project.
Taking over a talented roster that includes quarterback Matthew Stafford, wide receiver Calvin Johnson and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, Caldwell anticipates coaching an immediate winning contender.
"I believe the time is now," Caldwell said during a televised press conference at Ford Field. "Not two years or three years from now down the road, but right here, right now. There's a great nucleus here in all three phases, and I believe we're on the threshold of some great things."
Caldwell replaces Jim Schwartz after he was fired when the Lions lost six of seven games to close out the regular season and failed to make the playoffs in a season where the NFC North was winnable as the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers' star quarterbacks were sidelined with injuries for several games.
Caldwell won a Super Bowl as the Ravens' offensive coordinator following the 2012 regular season when he replaced offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. He made the Super Bowl as the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts following a 14-2 regular season and won a Super Bowl with the Colts as an assistant and was the quarterbacks coach of Peyton Manning.
Stafford is a strong-armed young quarterback whose statistics dipped this past season.
“A quarterback on the cusp of becoming an absolutely outstanding player in this league,” Caldwell said of Stafford.
With Caldwell calling the plays, quarterback Joe Flacco threw 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions during the postseason and was named Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XLVII.
The Ravens fell to 29th in total offense this season, though, as Flacco threw a franchise-record 22 interceptions and running back Ray Rice slumped to 660 yards.
“I enjoyed my time with Jim greatly," Flacco said in a stateent. "He is a man that I will always respect as a football coach, leader and a friend. Through his calming influence and extensive knowledge of the game, he was an integral part of our success over the past few years. He will be missed by me and the Ravens. I wish him the best of luck in Detroit.”
Caldwell, who signed a four-year contract, emerged as the Lions' leading candidate after they were unable to land San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, who took the Tennessee Titans job.
The Lions interviewed Caldwell first where he made an extensive presentation and plan of improvement for Stafford having reviewed all of his throws from this past season.
"I'm excited about working with the players who are here on this team at this time," Caldwell said. "I can feel and sense a genuine excitement. I think without question they're willing to do whatever it takes to win."
The Lions also interviewed Whisenhunt, former Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak and former Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak.
“There is no doubt that anyone who thinks we settled for Jim Caldwell doesn’t know Jim Caldwell,” team president Tom Lewand said. "I couldn't be more happy to have the opportunity to introduce him to the city of Detroit and to all of you as the next head football coach of the Detroit Lions."
Added general manager Martin Mayhew: "We had a profile, and he fit that. We did have some characteristics we were looking for in our next head coach. A leader of men, Jim Caldwell is certainly that. Coming to the organization and bringing confidence and credibility, Jim has that. He has experience with quarterbacks. That was important to us.”
Caldwell is taking over a team that has been prone to penalties and aggressive actions, especially Suh, who's been fined heavily.
“We’re going to be smart,” Caldwell said. “We’re going to be a team that is disciplined, that is focused and understands situational football. It’s going to be drilled and drilled and not just given lip service. What you should see on the field is obviously a product of our coaching, our instruction and our demands.
“We’re going to have a fast football team. There’s nothing like teams with speed. We have to be fast, and we’re also going to be physical. We’re going to be a physical, hard-nosed, rough football team. We’re going to flat get after you from the word, 'Go.'"
Caldwell thanked several people for vouching for him to Lions management, including Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, coach John Harbaugh and owner Steve Bisciotti, Manning, former Colts coach Tony Dungy and former Colts general manager Bill Polian.
Caldwell said he wants his team to be like "a piece of steel wrapped in velvet."
Known for his low-key demeanor, Caldwell said he won't be running up and down the sidelines and will remain his usual undemonstrative personality.
Caldwell is expected to hire Ravens secondary coach Teryl Austin as defensive coordinator.
Offensive line coach Andy Moeller is another possibility to join the Lions' staff.
"I believe it would be difficult to find anyone with the Ravens who is more respected than Jim Caldwell," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a statement. "That includes players, coaches and other staff members. He earned that because of the person he is and his extensive knowledge about football, including the keys to winning and his ability to teach all of that. Personally, it is a privilege to know him, and it was an honor to work with him.
"We put Jim in a difficult position a year ago when we named him offensive coordinator late in the season. All he did was help us turn our offense around, and we won the Super Bowl. He has many strengths, but one that is sometimes overlooked is his ability to bring a coaching staff together. He has already succeeded as a head coach, and he will again in Detroit."
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