On Thursday, former Colts cornerback Justin Tryon claimed that he would have been a starter if it were up to coach Jim Caldwell. Tryon’s contention opened a can of worms regarding the question of whether Caldwell has the power to set the lineup.
Caldwell says he does.
“Well, probably without being boastful or seeming as if that I’m reacting to that particular statement, but I can just tell you that if I wanted him to start, he would have started,” Caldwell said, per the Indianapolis Star. “If I wanted him to here, he’d still be here, plain and simple. I’m not going to carry on a back-and-forth, you know, because the young man did a good job for us while he was here and I hope he’s able to land with someone else.”
Caldwell elaborated, in a transcript distributed by the team. “I don’t think I’m different than anyone else in this league in terms of a head football coach,” Caldwell said. “You always say there’s always sort of a three-pronged sort of a decision-making progress. All of us have an opportunity to talk about different issues, and we can certainly express our opinion. But in players and dealing with players on the field and that sort of thing, that’s my decision. I get the ultimate decision there in that regard. That’s the way it’s always been.”
Former Colts coach Tony Dungy echoed Caldwell’s position. “I promise you the Head Coach of the Indianapolis Colts makes the decisions on who plays and what is done on game days,” Dungy said via email to PFT. “That’s the way it has been done since Jim Irsay has been in charge. That’s the way it was done when I was there. And I have talked to Jim Irsay enough in the past three years to know it is still being done that way. “
Caldwell isn’t concerned that the controversy will affect his authority within the confines of the locker room. “I don’t think so,” Caldwell said. “I’m not one of those individuals that worries about that kind of stuff anyway. I think our guys have been around me long enough, and they have a sense and they know that I have a process that we take them through. Without getting explicit, I don’t think anybody has any questions about where they stand and also about perception of where I stand in this organization as well.”
Tryon’s comments likely resonated a bit because the quiet, low-key Caldwell finds himself sandwiched between a very strong personality in the front office (Bill Polian) and a very strong personality at quarterback (not Kerry Collins or Curtis Painter). But while plenty of teams use a structure in which the G.M. gets the players without regard to whether the coach really wants them, it would be surprising, to say the least, if any NFL team doesn’t let the head coach decide who starts and who plays. Though it wouldn’t be unusual for others in the organization to give input or ask questions, one of the most fundamental jobs of a coach is to determine which of the men he coaches will be relied upon to perform.