ALLEN PARK, Mich. — As the Detroit Lions 26th coach, the pressure is now on for Jim Caldwell.
Much has been made of the Lions' offensive and defensive talent with Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Ndamukong Suh leading the pack.
Jim Schwartz saw his team collapse after a 6-3 start last season and that was it for him — he had five seasons to turn the team around and was fired with two years remaining on his contract.
Now Caldwell, who has been to three Super Bowls as a coach (winning two), will attempt to bring discipline, accountability and a change of culture to the Lions' locker room.
Caldwell will be introduced in a 4 p.m. press conference on Wednesday at Ford Field.
“On behalf on my entire family, I want to express how thrilled we are with the appointment of Jim Caldwell as our new head coach,” Lions owner and chairman William Clay Ford said in a statement. “We believe Jim is the right man to lead our team and deliver a championship to our fans.
“I also want to commend Tom (Lewand) and Martin (Mayhew) on the thoroughness of the coaching search,” Ford continued. “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.”
Ken Whisenhunt, who was believed to be the Lions' front-runner, was introduced as the Tennessee Titans' coach on Tuesday. ESPN's Ed Werder reported that the Titans offered Whisenhunt $1 million more per season than the Lions.
Caldwell, who is coming from the Baltimore Ravens where he was offensive coordinator, was the first candidate interviewed by the Lions. During his interview he also met with quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Caldwell's expertise is on the offensive side of the ball which was the similarity between all four candidates. They all had NFL head coaching experience also. Mike Munchak and Gary Kubiak were also interviewed.
Earlier in the process Tony Dungy sat down and talked with general manager Martin Mayhew about the coaching search.
“Martin told me the things they were looking for, I told him at that time that I felt Jim Caldwell — I didn't know who the other candidates were — but I knew that Jim Caldwell fit the description of what Martin was looking for and I thought he could help their team where it was right now,'' Dungy said in a phone interview on Tuesday.
Dungy said he spoke with Bill Ford Jr., Lions' vice chairman, on Monday.
“I told him I'm kind of making this recommendation not as a coach but as a Lions fan,'' said Dungy who grew up in Jackson as a Lions' fan during the Mel Farr and Charlie Sanders' era.
Caldwell worked for Dungy with the Indianapolis Colts as quarterbacks coach/assistant head coach for seven years (2002-2008). He coached Peyton Manning who won three NFL MVP awards during that stretch. The Colts also won Super Bowl XLI (2006).
Jeff Saturday, the Colts' long-time center, thinks Caldwell is a good fit in Detroit.
“This team is loaded with talent both offensively and defensively, like you said they do lack discipline. A number of games they cost them selves with silly penalties or silly mistakes. Jim Caldwell will bring discipline, he'll bring consistency and a stability to this organization,'' Saturday said in an interview on ESPN.
“He'll sit down with guys, he'll put a plan in place that he knows can be effective and knows it will win games. Those three things with the accountability and the discipline that he brings to the table. This is a perfect fit for the DL and a good hire by those guys,'' Saturday added.
When Dungy retired after the 2008 season, Caldwell took over and brought the Colts back to the Super Bowl where they lost to the New Orleans Saints.
Caldwell was fired after three seasons (2009-2011) as the Colts' coach. In his final season in Indianapolis, Manning could not play because of his neck injury, and the Colts went 2-14.
Caldwell, who will turn 59 on Thursday, was hired by the Ravens as a quarterbacks coach for the 2012 season. Then late in December 2012, the Ravens promoted him to offensive coordinator after they fired Cam Cameron.
Now he gets another chance as head coach.
Dungy said he had played phone tag with Caldwell on Tuesday before leaving a message.
“I told him I don't want to put the pressure on him,'' Dungy said. “But I left a message that I have high expectations.''
Dungy, and Lions fans everywhere.