When Jim Caldwell was hired Tuesday as the head coach of the Detroit Lions, the Ravens accelerated the process of finding their third offensive coordinator in just over 13 months.
Team officials have been coy about potential candidates but they are expected to consider both internal and external options to replace Caldwell, their offensive coordinator for parts of the past two seasons.
After emerging as the Lions’ leading candidate when San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt accepted the Tennessee Titans’ head coaching job on Monday. Caldwell will replace Jim Schwartz, the Baltimore native who was fired after the Lions’ 7-9 regular season.
“We believe Jim is the right man to lead our team and deliver a championship to our fans,” Lions owner William Clay Ford said in a statement. “We had a very specific plan and profile for our next head coach, and I am convinced that we found that man in Jim Caldwell.”
Caldwell will be introduced as the Lions’ 26th head coach at a Wednesday afternoon news conference at Ford Field.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has known for a couple of weeks that Caldwell, who also interviewed for the Washington Redskins and Titans’ coaching vacancies, could move on, and there were no assurances that Caldwell would have returned in his current capacity.
So, Harbaugh has had plenty of time to assemble a list of offensive coordinator candidates that figures to include current Ravens wide receivers coach Jim Hostler and former NFL head coaches Rob Chudzinski, Norv Turner and Gary Kubiak.
The Ravens also requested permission Tuesday to interview Ben McAdoo, who is 37-years old and comes under heavy recommendation from Green Bay Packers star quarterback Aaron Rodgers. However, McAdoo was hired as the New York Giants’ offensive coordinator on Tuesday night.
Caldwell’s departure leaves Harbaugh with plenty of work to do in filling out a coaching staff that will have a decidedly new look next season. The Ravens parted ways with long-time running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery earlier this month.
Caldwell is also expected to take a couple of Ravens’ assistants with him, including defensive backs coach Teryl Austin, who is lined up to be the Lions’ defensive coordinator, and offensive line coach Andy Moeller.
But the marquee opening, of course, is at offensive coordinator and the Ravens, who have a Super Bowl-winning quarterback in Joe Flacco, enough offensive talent around him and organizational stability, have plenty to sell prospective candidates.
Caldwell, who spent three seasons as the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, was on Harbaugh’s staff for the past two years, originally hired to be the Ravens’ quarterback coach. Caldwell’s promotion to offensive coordinator after the late 2012 season firing of Cam Cameron was viewed as one of the driving forces behind Flacco’s torrid 2012 postseason and the Ravens’ Super Bowl XLVII run.
However, the Ravens offense slumped this season, ranking 29th in the NFL. Flacco threw a franchise-record 22 interceptions and running back Ray Rice gained just 660 rushing yards, his lowest total since his rookie season.
Still, the offense’s struggles didn’t appear to hurt Caldwell’s candidacy, nor did recommendations from his former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, former Colts coach Tony Dungy and Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome.
“We're ecstatic about Jim's hire,” said John Wooten, the chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, in an interview with The Baltimore Sun. “It means a heck of a lot to us. That was the real big job that we saw on the board. What Detroit has in terms of personnel with Matthew Stafford at quarterback, and their leadership, with [general manager] Martin Mayhew and [team president] Tom Lewand. I think he'll be an excellent fit.”
Several Ravens thanked Caldwell and wished him well on their Twitter accounts Tuesday.
“Congrats to Coach Caldwell ... great coach/teacher and even better person,” wide receiver Torrey Smith wrote. “He always taught us something new.. he will do well in Detroit.”
Under Harbaugh, the Ravens have filled most of their high-profile coaching vacancies with internal candidates. Their last three defensive coordinators — Greg Mattison, Chuck Pagano and Dean Pees — received staff promotions to that position. Caldwell, then the quarterbacks coach, was also the natural replacement for Cameron when the Ravens’ offense was faltering late in the 2012 season.
If that trend continues with their latest opening, Hostler is the most logical candidate as the only member of Harbaugh’s staff with NFL offensive coordinator experience. Hostler, the Ravens’ wide receiver coach the past six seasons, was the San Francisco 49ers’ offensive coordinator during the 2007 season. Trying to acclimate young quarterback Alex Smith, the 49ers offense struggled that year, finishing last in the league in total yards and points scored per game.
Hostler would offer the Ravens and Flacco offensive continuity and he has a strong relationship with many of the team’s top players.
As far as external options, Harbaugh and the Ravens have always had a great deal of respect for Turner, known as having one of the best offensive minds in the NFL and for his work in the development of quarterbacks like Troy Aikman and Philip Rivers. However, Turner is still under contract with the Browns and it is unclear if Cleveland officials will let him out of it as they search for their own head coach. The Browns did say that they would be “liberal” in allowing assistants to interview for other jobs.
Chudzinski, who the Browns fired last month after one season as their head coach, and Kubiak, fired by the Texans in early December, also have good relationships with Harbaugh and NFL experience as an offensive coordinator.
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