Jim Caldwell is the former head coach of the Indianapolis Colts (2009-2011) and Detroit Lions (2014-2017). He was a part of a pair of Super Bowl-winning teams and has had a hand in coaching four Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks: Peyton Manning, Joe Flacco, Matthew Stafford and Brad Johnson. Caldwell, 67, has coached at the college and pro levels for […]
Former NFL Head Coach
Jim Caldwell’s NFL coaching roots date back to 2001 when he worked as a quarterbacks coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After acquiring QB Brad Johnson via free agency, Caldwell helped the veteran quarterback break then-team records for passing yards (3,046), completions (340) and attempts (540) as the team finished 9-7 and earned an NFC wild-card berth.
In 10 seasons in Indianapolis (2002-11), including three as the franchise’s head coach (2009-11), Caldwell and the Colts achieved almost unparalleled success. In each of the first nine seasons, the Colts had a record-setting nine-consecutive playoff appearances that included six AFC South titles, two Super Bowl berths (XLI and XLIV) and one Super Bowl championship (XLI).
In 2009, Caldwell was named the Colts’ head coach, a position he held for the next three seasons. In his first two seasons, he directed the Colts to 14-2 and 10-6 regular-season records, winning consecutive AFC South titles, an AFC Championship and earning a berth in Super Bowl XLIV. He is one of just four head coaches in NFL history to win 24-plus games and earn a berth in the Super Bowl in the coach’s first two seasons.
During his first season in Indianapolis, the Colts finished 14-2. He became the NFL’s only rookie head coach to win his first 14 games in a season and second to win 14 games in his rookie season as coach. He also became the fifth rookie head coach to reach the Super Bowl.
During his tenure with the Colts, Caldwell worked closely with All-Pro QB Peyton Manning and the team’s quarterbacks. His leadership helped guide the Colts offense to eight top-10 rankings in total offense during his 10 seasons with Indianapolis, and the team was a top-5 offense six different times.
In Caldwell’s first two seasons with the Colts, Manning recorded the highest (4,700 yards) and third-highest (4,500 yards) passing totals in team history. In both seasons, he threw for 33 touchdowns, which ranked as the second- and third-highest tallies in Colts history.
From 2002-10, the Colts won 109 games as Manning averaged a league-best 266.7 yards per game and threw for the most touchdowns (288) during that span. His completion percentage (66.7) and passer rating (99.3) were also the best in the NFL during those nine seasons. All four NFL MVP honors earned by Manning occurred while working with Caldwell.
Caldwell was the Colts’ quarterbacks coach for his first three seasons (2002-04) before earning the additional title of assistant head coach prior to the 2005 season. He was elevated to associate head coach with the club in 2008.
On December 10, 2012, less than one year since joining the Baltimore Ravens as the team’s quarterbacks coach, Caldwell was promoted to offensive coordinator with just three games remaining in the regular season. Ravens coach John Harbaugh entrusted Caldwell to lead the team’s offensive unit in its run to make the playoffs. What resulted from this decision changed the direction of the Ravens and put them on path to claim an NFL title by winning Super Bowl XLVII.
After Caldwell took over the team’s offense, the Ravens would win the AFC North and go on to win the Super Bowl. In the team’s final seven games, including four in the postseason, the Ravens averaged 400.6 yards per game and 27.3 points per game, including 410.3 yards per game and 31.0 points per game in the playoffs. Baltimore’s 31.0 points/game in the postseason is the highest playoff scoring average in NFL history by a Super Bowl team that advanced from the wild-card round and played four playoff games.
In those playoffs, QB Joe Flacco threw 11 touchdowns and 0 interceptions and accumulated a 117.2 passer rating. He joined Hall of Fame QB Joe Montana as the only passers in NFL history to throw 11-plus touchdowns and 0 interceptions during an NFL postseason.
Caldwell also served as the Ravens offensive coordinator in 2013 before arriving in Detroit.
In 2014, Caldwell was named head coach of the Detroit Lions. In his first season, Detroit compiled an 11-5 regular-reason record. Caldwell tied Potsy Clark (1931, Portsmouth Spartans) for the most wins in franchise history by a coach in his first year with the club. He is the third coach in team history to lead the Lions to the playoffs in his first year (George Wilson in 1957; Bobby Ross in 1997).
In 2014, the Lions ranked second overall in the NFL in total defense (300.9 yds/g) and third in points allowed (17.6 pts/g). The team’s No. 2 ranking in total defense was the highest finish for the Lions since 1970, and the 300.9 yards allowed per game were the fewest yards allowed by a Lions defense since 1993.
Defensively, the Lions put together one of the best units in team history in 2014. Detroit had the NFL’s top-ranked rush defense in 2014, yielding just 69.3 yards per game, which not only set a team single-season record but it also ranks as the ninth best single-season run defense in NFL history. Caldwell became the seventh coach in franchise history (since 1930) to lead the Lions to a winning record (over an entire season) in his first year with the club, and he is one of four coaches (Potsy Clark in 1931, George Wilson in 1962 and Wayne Fontes in 1991) to lead the Lions to 11-plus wins in a season.
Following a 1-7 start to the 2015 season, Caldwell led the Lions to a 7-9 record on the shoulders of the 6-2 surge to finish off the year. Detroit became the fourth team since 1991 to start a season with one or fewer wins in the first eight games (1-7 or 0-8 record) and finish with an NFL-best 6-2 record. It marks the Lions’ best second-half finish since the team finished 7-1 in 1995.
In 2016, his third season at the Lions helm, Caldwell guided Detroit to a 9-7 record and a trip to the playoffs for the second time in three years. By earning a playoff berth in 2016, Caldwell joined Buddy Parker (1952, 1953) and Bobby Ross (1997, 1999) as the only coaches in Lions history to lead the team to the playoffs twice in their first three seasons with the club.
The Lions trailed in the fourth quarter in eight of the team’s wins in 2016. The eight fourth-quarter, come-from-behind wins set a new NFL record, surpassing the previous total of seven set by the 2009 Indianapolis Colts (also coached by Jim Caldwell) for the most wins in a season after trailing in the fourth quarter.
In 2017, Detroit completed a 3-0 road sweep in the NFC North for the first time since realignment in 2002. The Lions also registered the franchise’s first unblemished divisional road record since divisional alignment first began in 1967.
QB Matthew Stafford continued his ascent under Caldwell in 2017 as he compiled a 99.3 passer rating for the season and established a new single-season franchise record. He also finished the season ranking in the top 10 in passing touchdowns (29, 4th), passing yards (4,446, 3rd), completions (371, 3rd), completion percentage (65.7, 6th) and passer rating (99.3, 6th). CB Darius Slay was also named to his first career Pro Bowl after tying for the NFL lead in interceptions.
With a 35-11 victory over the Green Bay Packers in Week 17 to cap off the 2017 season, Caldwell’s Lions finished with a 9-7 record overall and a 5-1 record in the NFC North. Detroit finished with winning seasons in back-to-back years for the first time since 1994-95 (9-7 and 10-6, respectively). The Lions accumulated a.667 winning percentage against the NFC North in Caldwell’s tenure, marking the team’s best four-year divisional winning percentage since divisional play began in 1967.
Caldwell is currently taking time away from football to spend with his wife, Cheryl, the couple’s four children (Jimmy, Jermaine, Jared and Natalie) and three grandsons (James, Josh and Larry).
You can follow Caldwell on Twitter @JimCaldwell_NFL.
Jim Caldwell is the former head coach of the Indianapolis Colts (2009-2011) and Detroit Lions (2014-2017). He was a part of a pair of Super Bowl-winning teams and has had a hand in coaching four Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks: Peyton Manning, Joe Flacco, Matthew Stafford and Brad Johnson. Caldwell, 67, has coached at the college and […]