NFL’s Minority Coaching Candidates Deserve Real Chance

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 43 seasons. He last worked in the NFL in 2019 as assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach for the Miami Dolphins.

I have a strong desire to get back into the NFL as a head coach.

I’ve had numerous opportunities to do other things, which I wanted to refrain from until I’ve exhausted every avenue in this area. I’m probably in my last hiring cycle.

Obviously, I think teams are looking at a different sort of profile at this point. They’re looking for younger guys for the most part. But there’s been enough failures with guys that have no experience in the NFL that perhaps there’s some team owner who’s looking for a guy that’s had some experience and background and knows how to build a team and get them to where they’re winning and winning consistently. So, I do think that opportunity’s going to avail itself at some point in time.

There was one I had a few years back where the guy didn’t even know I had coached at Baltimore. He didn’t know I coached Joe Flacco, didn’t know I was a coordinator in the Super Bowl.

When it comes to teams interviewing you as a minority candidate, I think you can discern rather quickly whether there’s a strong interest or they’re just trying to check the box. I’ve had maybe one or two interviews some time ago that they were just checking the box. But the last two — with the Jaguars and Bears last January — had strong interest because they had young quarterbacks they wanted to be developed. So, there was a place for me.

There was one I had a few years back where the guy didn’t even know I had coached at Baltimore. He didn’t know I coached Joe Flacco, didn’t know I was a coordinator in the Super Bowl — and they had a young quarterback that needed some direction. So, when things like that happen, you really haven’t looked into my background well enough to determine who I am, so you must not be interested. I think less of that is happening, particularly now that more attention has been brought to it.  People are, I think, taking time to really get a sense of who you are, what it’s all about, and you’re getting some credible interviews.

And obviously, Brian Flores’ lawsuit has brought even more heightened attention to it. There won’t be too many more interviews out there that are just done for the sake of checking the box.

I’m not putting myself in their category, but there are guys like Andy Reid, Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll who are similar in age to me. And the last two presidents, I think, are a bit older than I am, and they’re doing a more important job than running a team in the National Football League. But nevertheless, I do think there are opportunities out there, and it just has to be the right one. And it’s not going to be one of those situations where they want to bring me in and find out whether or not I know how to organize a practice or organize a training camp or build a staff or anything of that nature.

It’s got to be a connection with a relationship where they can see, “Hey, this guy can do something for our team, can move our team forward, get us to the point where we become a Super Bowl contending team and possibly win the Super Bowl.” I do think it’s going to be one of those situations.

It’s not necessarily all about me, either. I love the fact that people talk about me just in terms of getting a position, maybe as a head coach again. But there are a lot of other great candidates out there. One of the great missions that we have with the Quarterback Summit, which is run in conjunction with the National Football League and the Black College Football Hall of Fame, is that we’re trying to make certain that we bring some exposure to the individuals that are out there that are ready to go and certainly capable of leading a team.

I want to name a few guys. Leslie Frazier has done a tremendous job as the defensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills. He should have an opportunity to be a head coach again. DeMeco Ryans, the defensive coordinator with the 49ers, is another one. You’re telling me that somebody’s doing a better job than that young man is doing in the NFL? He has charisma, he has leadership. He has all the little detail things that you’d like to have in terms of a guy who’s running your team, directing your team.

I can’t say enough good things about Teryl Austin, senior defensive assistant/secondary coach for the Steelers. Teryl is the most well-equipped guy that I’ve ever been around as an assistant or a coordinator. I’ve coached for four decades, and I’ve been around a lot of good coaches through college and pros. Teryl is one of the absolute best. He hasn’t gotten an opportunity yet.

DeMeco Ryans, the defensive coordinator with the 49ers, is another one. You’re telling me that somebody’s doing a better job than that young man is doing in the NFL?

Raheem Morris is doing a nice job with the Rams. They won a Super Bowl a year ago and obviously are struggling a little bit. You have Eric Bieniemy, the offensive coordinator in Kansas City. You have Pep Hamilton, the offensive coordinator for the Texans; their record’s not great, but he’s an outstanding coach. There’s Byron Leftwich, the offensive coordinator in Tampa. These guys are all capable. Thomas Brown is the tight ends coach/assistant head coach of the Rams. He has all the qualities you look for in terms of running a team. So, there are a number of great guys out there to be considered for head-coaching jobs.

And then, if you’re looking for coordinators, if I’m a guy going into this league and we’re going to have an opportunity to draft one of the two or three or four quarterbacks coming out of college this year, I’m looking a Brian Johnson, who’s coaching the quarterbacks with the Philadelphia Eagles. Now he’s got a guy that he’s coaching, Jalen Hurts, who’s added some movement and things that he does well. And he could do the same thing for some of these other guys who will be coming from the college ranks, like C.J. Stroud from Ohio State, Bryce Young from Alabama and Caleb Williams from USC, a number of these other mobile quarterbacks. He could do some great things. So could Charles London, who’s the quarterbacks coach with Atlanta.

And you can’t forget about Brian Flores, who’s now with the Steelers, and Vance Joseph, who is the defensive coordinator of the Cardinals. Both have been head coaches before.

So, there are a lot of guys out there. I’d love to see five or six of these guys get a job, and perhaps I’m left on the sideline. That’s how I view things now.

As told to Vic Carucci

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