January 14, 2014 at 4:03 pm

Terry Foster

Jim Caldwell not the Lions' first choice, but that may be a good thing

The Lions did not get their man, which may not be a bad thing.

They usually get their man, and it usually turns out to be the wrong man.

Former Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell will take over the Lions, the team confirmed Tuesday. The Lions’ first choice, Ken Whisenhunt, left his job as the San Diego Chargers’ offensive coordinator to become head coach of the Tennessee Titans. The Lions reportedly had a jet fueled and ready to go to pick Whisenhunt up.

It is a black eye because the Lions appeared to be left at the altar. I already hear your cries of “same old Lions,” and that the Lions botched this.

You could be right. Maybe Whisenhunt looked at the Lions' history and said there is too much baggage in this organization for him to overcome. No Lions head coach, with the exception of interim head coach Dick Jauron in 2005, has gone on to become a head coach elsewhere since the Ford family took over. That is a wicked history.

Whisenhunt also has the luxury of building a team in Nashville. There is pressure on Caldwell to win immediately because this team is talented enough to make the playoffs.

First-choice flameouts

Look what happens when the Lions get their man. Bobby Ross went running out of town because he couldn't take it any longer. Former president Matt Millen would not let Marty Mornhinweg out the showroom because he thought so highly of him. Mornhinweg lasted two seasons and won five games.

The Lions were so proud of hiring Steve Mariucci they did something they never do: They paraded him into Ford Field and had a big news conference on the field.

Mariucci never had a winning season and was fired three years later.

Rod Marinelli pulled off an 0-16 season, and Jim Schwartz never understood the balance between disciplined football and winning football, although he got the team into the playoffs once.

Caldwell is the Lions' man by default.

How is he any different than Whisenhunt?

No big loss

Whisenhunt was 45-51 with Arizona, lost in the Super Bowl as a head coach and went to the Super Bowl with Pittsburgh as an assistant. He coached future Hall of Fame quarterbacks Kurt Warner in Arizona and Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh.

Caldwell was 26-22 at Indianapolis, lost in the Super Bowl as a head coach and won two Super Bowls as an assistant. He coached future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning with the Colts and Joe Flacco with the Ravens.

The Lions listened to former Colts coach Tony Dungy, who pushed hard for his guy to get a job, and Manning, who pushed softly from afar. Those are solid recommendations. However, the Lions can still spin this by telling us quarterback Matthew Stafford had a great meeting with Caldwell a few weeks ago.

"He has a great offensive mind. He knows how to work with quarterbacks to get the most out of them," former Colts lineman Jeff Saturday said of Caldwell on ESPN. "He did it with Flacco. He did it with Manning, and he'll do it with Stafford in Detroit."

One problem is the Lions need discipline. That was lacking under Schwartz. And Caldwell is an underwhelming personality who might not reach this team if things begins to turn south. This team needs a little personality and a shock to the system. He reminds me of Rod Marinelli with an offensive mind.

"He comes in with such a calm demeanor you never feel attacked as a player, you always feel like he's trying to build you up as a player," Saturday said.

And Caldwell could be the right guy simply because he was not "the guy" for the Lions.

terry.foster@detroitnews.com
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New Lions coach Jim Caldwell has experience developing talented quarterbacks. / Patrick Semansky / Associated Press