Jim Caldwell believes he can help take Stafford to the next level
DETROIT — Matthew Stafford insisted late in the season that he didn’t need any so-called quarterback guru from the outside to fix him.
In the end, the Detroit Lions brought one to him.
Jim Caldwell was introduced Wednesday as the Lions’ new coach during a news conference at Ford Field, and there’s no doubt that one of the reasons he’s here is because of his background working quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning and Joe Flacco.
"That was important to us," Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said.
Caldwell believes he has the blueprint for taking a quarterback like Stafford to the next level, and Manning apparently agrees.
Mayhew confirmed that he received an unsolicited phone call from the Denver Broncos’ star quarterback in support of Caldwell during the search process.
"We do have a set of parameters we use in terms of teaching and coaching quarterbacks, that we know works," Caldwell said. "I’m anxious and excited about giving him (Stafford) an opportunity to work within those parameters. I think you’re going to see improvement from the onset.
"He’s a willing guy, has immense amount of talent. We’ve just got to bring that to the forefront."
Stafford has been under fire since throwing 12 interceptions during a crucial six-game stretch late in the season that led to the Lions being eliminated from playoff contention.
When Stafford dismissed the quarterback-guru suggestion so easily, saying that it wasn’t his "style," some questioned whether he was willing to do whatever it takes to become an elite quarterback capable of taking a team to the Super Bowl.
Caldwell indicated he’s seen a different attitude during his two conversations with Stafford.
"He is willing to do whatever it takes to get ready to win," Caldwell said. "That’s the key. He’s a guy that has ability. He has great leadership qualities. I think, without question, that you’re going to see him develop and take off in every facet."
Caldwell became the quarterbacks coach at Indianapolis in Manning’s fifth year in the NFL. Stafford, 25, will be entering his sixth season.
In 2011, Stafford showed just how good he can be (5,038 yards passing, completed 63.5 percent, threw 41 touchdowns to 16 interceptions) before regressing the last two years, particularly the second half of this last season.
"That position is so difficult to play," Caldwell said. "I think the casual fan and even those of us who’ve watched the game for a long time, we sort of underestimate how fast things move, how long it takes to make certain you get every aspect down where you’re functioning at a high level.
"I think you’re seeing some guys who’ve been around the league a long time, that are playing at a very high level that have benefitted from that experience. I think Matthew’s going to be the exact same way."
Caldwell went so far as to say that Stafford is "on the cusp of becoming an absolute outstanding player in this league."
How long will that take to get there?
"It won’t be long," Caldwell said. "I do think he has the commitment to do so."
— Bill Ford Jr., the Lions’ vice chairman, had heard about how Caldwell was such a quiet, low-key coach.
Ford thinks otherwise now after going through the interview and hiring process.
"The image is very different than what I saw," Ford said. "He’s very different than some of the perceptions.
"He’s very intense."
Caldwell was given a four-year contract.
— Before being asked a question, Caldwell addressed some issues that have plagued the Lions – and frustrated their fans – in recent years.
"We’re going to be smart," he said. "We’re going to be a football team that takes the field that’s not going to shoot itself in the foot. We’re going to be a team that is disciplined … that’s going to be drilled and drilled and drilled, and not just given lip service. What you should see on the field is a product of our coaching, our instruction and our demands."
Caldwell also didn’t pretend that he would need time to turn the Lions into a winner. He knows he’s expected to win immediately.
"Anything short of the Super Bowl is unacceptable."
"They (the players) believe – and I believe – the time is now. Not two years or three years from now down the road somewhere. We’re right here, right now."
"I think the organization is ready. The city of Detroit is ready. Our fan base is ready and I think our players are ready as well."
— Receiver Calvin Johnson recently underwent surgery on his injured knee and a finger, Mayhew confirmed. The season-long finger injury explains some of his dropped passes.