One of [Lions general manager] Martin Mayhew’s first calls when the Lions started their search for a new coach was to Tony Dungy, and one of Mayhew’s first questions to Dungy was if he’d be interested in coming back to the sidelines.
"He said, 'I got to start this off, are you interested at all?'" Dungy told the Free Press today. "And I said, 'No, Martin, I’m not.' And then we went on. We were able to talk about what we needed to talk about."
The team announced Caldwell was its new coach on Tuesday, and introduced him at a news conference Wednesday. During the news conference, the Lions also addressed rumors that the team actually preferred Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, but lost out when Whisenhunt decided to take the head-coaching job in Tennessee.
"We had two really good candidates, one of who we didn’t get a chance to finish the process with," the Free Press quoted team vice chairman Bill Ford Jr. as saying. "And so, no [Caldwell] was not Plan (B). We had two Plan As and we were going down both roads simultaneously. That’s how I would answer it."
According to the Free Press, Dungy "gave Mayhew and others in the Lions organization a glowing recommendation of Jim Caldwell, his former assistant and hand-picked successor with the Indianapolis Colts."
Caldwell served as an assistant under Dungy for seven seasons in Indianapolis before Dungy retired following the 2008-09 season. Caldwell took the Colts to the Super Bowl in his first season with the team, losing to the Saints in Super Bowl XLIV in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Caldwell lasted two more seasons in Indianapolis but was fired after the team went 2-14 in the 2011 season, playing without Peyton Manning who missed the season with a neck injury. Caldwell spent the last two seasons in Baltimore, initially serving as quarterbacks coach before being promoted to offensive coordinator during the 2012 season, which ended with the Ravens winning the Super Bowl.