Jim Caldwell was an assistant coach at Penn State when tight end Al Golden arrived in 1987.
Nearly 30 years later, Caldwell and Golden will work on the same coaching staff for the first time, again on a team with a lion as a mascot.
Now entering his third season as head coach, Caldwell hired Golden to coach the Lions’ tight ends. Golden, 46, has never coached tight ends, but Caldwell thinks he’ll know innately how to instruct players at the position.
“He played it, so he understands it a little bit more intimately than the guy who’s just learning to coach it,” Caldwell said last month. “He’s coordinated; he’s been a head coach. Trust me, he’ll be all right.”
Golden comes to Detroit after being a college head coach for the past 10 years. He spent the last five years at Miami, where he finished 32-25 including a 4-3 record in 2015 before the school fired him last October. Before taking over the Hurricanes, Golden was at Temple where he had a 27-34 record, and before taking that job, he was defensive coordinator at Virginia.
Golden is one of a few former college head coaches currently with the Lions. Offensive line coach Ron Prince was head coach at Kansas State from 2006-08, and the team hired former Maryland and UConn coach Randy Edsall this year, too. However, Edsall’s exact role is unclear as director of football research/special projects.
“We’re going to load him up pretty good,” Caldwell said of Edsall.
Golden’s priority will be to maximize the potential of tight end Eric Ebron, who played against Golden’s Hurricanes when he was at North Carolina. Even though Golden has never coached tight ends, Caldwell said he has the right experience — coaching both offense and defense in the past — to help the Lions.
Caldwell also said having experience as a head coach helps coaches understand the importance of assistants. And even though Golden has had a long coaching career since his time at Penn State, Caldwell said he’s still the same hard-working, precise and knowledgeable guy.