Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell has made a lot of changes since his arrival in the Motor City.
Caldwell himself is very different from the man he replaced at the helm in Detroit, former head coach Jim Schwartz. During Caldwell’s time in Indianapolis with the Colts we learned that he was not a particularly animated coach on the sideline. That in its self is very different from what Lions fans and players were used to seeing during the Jim Schwartz era.
It is not however, the only difference.
Besides the changes that coach Caldwell has made to the on-the-field side of things, he has also began making a number of changes off the field. Caldwell’s attention to detail is meticulous and the Lions players love how conscientious he is of everyone in the locker room.
Caldwell has taken the time to get to know his players and coaches, even posting a bulletin board with all of their birthdays in the cafeteria. He even announces the newest additions to the Lions family, in terms of the birth of children.
According to one player who knows what it takes to win championships, these small changes are very important.
“Those are very simple things that can be conversation starters that you can get to know someone else,” said Super Bowl champion Golden Tate. “A lot of times, guys just come to work and leave work. But if you get to know a person — get to know someone’s story — I think that helps you.
“I know there’s going to be a moment when I’m really, really tired, or I’m aching in a game, or whatever the case is, and mentally I want to think ‘Dang, I can’t do this.’ But when I look to my right and I look to my left and I see guys like Calvin (Johnson), or see guys like Reggie (Bush) out there, they’re tired too. But they’re working trying to get it done, and that’s going to give that extra rep — that extra two reps — and those are guys you want to play for.
Linebacker DeAndre Levy said that he and his teammates are responding well to a coach who “talks to everybody like men and shoots you straight” and center Dominic Raiola called it a “calming” effect that allows everyone to focus on doing their job.
Tailback Reggie Bush acknowledged that players will always try to say the right things about teammates and coaches this time of year. But he says with coach Caldwell, its genuine.
“I think it’s a little different with Coach Caldwell,” Bush said. “His whole mentality — his whole approach to the team — is genuine. It’s on a championship level of thinking. Playing, practicing, walking and talking, he treats us like men. It’s very refreshing to have.”
Caldwell’s demeanor is far calmer and possibly even more mature than Jim Schwartz and the way the players are treated might be the most important change in Detroit.
“One of the things I’m sure they’re referring to that I mentioned is we treat them like men because of the fact that we anticipate that they’ll bear responsibility and accountability,” Caldwell said, via the Detroit News. “It doesn’t take me standing out there in the middle of the field screaming and yelling, acting like it’s all about me. It’s about them and what they do, and we put the onus on them.”
In approaching the players as men, Caldwell has laid out responsibilities for all players, from the veterans on down. And the hope is that if they all follow through, the Lions will win more games next season.
A lack of discipline hurt the Lions on and off the field during the Schwartz era and the team’s collapse down the stretch last season didn’t speak well of anything going on with the team. Ultimately though, Caldwell will be judged by wins and losses, but it’s clear he already has won over the locker room with the culture changes he has brought in.