When Jim Caldwell arrived in Indianapolis in 2002 to become the quarterbacks coach for the Colts, Peyton Manning was a good NFL quarterback on the verge of becoming an all-time great.
A year later, Manning was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player for the first time, an honor he would earn three more times under the tutelage of Caldwell. He won a Super Bowl in 2006 and went to another in 2009, the year Caldwell replaced Tony Dungy as the Colts' head coach.
On a conference call with Baltimore media Wednesday, Manning, now the quarterback of the 10-3 Denver Broncos, was quick to acknowledge the nudge that Caldwell gave him in Indianapolis.
"I felt like he really took my game to another level. He's also a tremendous mentor and friend to me," Manning said. "I can speak to him as a person and what kind of a coach he was to me."
But Manning, who called Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti to endorse Caldwell before he was hired as their quarterbacks coach in January, deflected questions about the Ravens promoting Caldwell to offensive coordinator. Caldwell replaced Cam Cameron, who was fired on Monday.
"All I'm going to do is speak to just how helpful Jim was to me," the 11-time Pro Bowler said.
Caldwell was 26-22 in his three seasons as Colts head coach, but he was fired after Indianapolis went 2-14 while Manning missed the entire 2011 season with a neck injury. After the Colts later released Manning, he signed with the Broncos, where he is having another MVP-caliber season.
Manning has completed 68.3 percent of his passes for 3,812 yards with 30 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He has thrown 19 touchdown passes during Denver's eight-game winning streak.
Manning said he has not talked to Caldwell since he was promoted. And while he ducked a question about Caldwell calling plays for the first time in the NFL, he gave a vote of confidence.
"He's very detail-oriented. He and I are very similar that way — very routine-oriented," Manning said. "I miss being in his presence every day, because that was really a fun time that he and I had together."