Jim Caldwell: “You must be able to humble men without debasing them." (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)
New Lions coach Jim Caldwell made the rounds on the radio Friday morning, first nationally on ESPN’s Mike & Mike then locally on WDFN-AM with Matt Shepard.
Caldwell, 59, discussed his coaching philosophy as well as his upbringing and how he can turn Lions players into leaders for the 2014 season.
“You must be able to humble men without debasing them, and then you must be able to exalt men without inflating them, and I think that’s what coaching is all about,” he said on WDFN, crediting the quote to former U.S. Army Gen. William M. Hoge, though something similar is in the Bible, too.
Caldwell, who was hired Tuesday as the franchise’s 26th coach, wouldn’t confirm nor deny reports about his coaching staff, but he spoke highly of Teryl Austin, who, according to Detroit News sources, will be the defensive coordinator.
“He’s a guy obviously that is extremely bright,” Caldwell said on WDFN. “He’s a guy that, without question, has a great balance in terms of his overall experience. (He’s) energetic and really has just an outstanding feel for defensive football, and he’s an outstanding communicator as well.”
The Lions have yet to find their offensive coordinator, but Caldwell said he wants someone innovating, demanding and encouraging.
“I think innovation is key,” he said on WDFN. “One of the things about this league, particularly in the division when you play teams multiple times, that you have to have a bit of variety. You have to be able to make certain that you can keep them off balance and that’s going to be key, but also that you have a real firm grip on what the core principles are in terms of offensive football and how you win games.”
Once the Lions gather this summer, Caldwell said on WDFN it won’t take long to determine who are the leaders on the team, and he thinks some players will need to take a more prominent role. He also said he developed leadership qualities at a young age, but he constantly reads books — specifically Malcolm Gladwell — and looks for non-football related leadership skills he can apply in his coaching.
“I think the mark of a leader, number one, is a man who can lead himself,” he said. “I’ve captained every team I’ve ever been associated with since I was a little guy and not because I was a rah-rah guy or anything of that nature. I think it’s because of the fact that I listened to my coaches, that I was real good servant in terms of making sure if they told me to keep my outside arm free I’d keep my outside arm free. If they told me hey this is your gap, you’re responsible for this particular gap, I took care of that gap.
“I think from that, being able to do exactly what’s being asked of you, as a good servant, you become a good leader.”
On ESPN with hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic, Caldwell talked about why the Lions job was desirable, listing franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford and a defense than can stop the run. He also repeated his desire to win immediately.
“I think anybody who took over this situation would feel the same way,” he said. “The time is now, and we do have a good football team. We’ve just got to get them to play better, and that’s the key.”
Another key Caldwell listed on Mike & Mike is limiting penalties, and he said the Lions’ goal will be to finish in the top five in fewest penalties.
Of course, one main reason the Lions hired Caldwell was to work with Stafford, who just finished his fifth NFL season. With guidance and structure, Caldwell thinks Stafford can make the necessary improvements to make the Lions a contender next season.
“I think you’re going to see him just continue to get better and better and better,” Caldwell said on ESPN. “I really do believe that. Often times, you’ve got a guy that maybe can’t make all the throws. Maybe it’s a guy that maybe doesn’t have the command at the line of scrimmage that he should. I think Matthew has all of those things.
“He’s got natural leadership, he’s got the toughness, and I think obviously the arrow is still pointing up on him.”