Lions asked Tony Dungy if he wanted job, before Caldwell talk

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One of the things that sold the Lions on new head coach Jim Caldwell was the glowing recommendation of former Colts and Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy.

But before the Lions went there, they had to know if Dungy himself would be interested in the job.

Dungy told Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press that was among the first questions Lions General Manager Martin Mayhew asked, and he quickly dismissed it.

“He said, ‘I got to start this off, are you interested at all?’” Dungy said. “And I said, ‘No, Martin, I’m not.’ And then we went on. We were able to talk about what we needed to talk about.”

While the perception of many — and perhaps the correct one — is that the Lions settled for Caldwell, aiming high couldn’t hurt.

Caldwell worked for Dungy, and was his hand-picked successor, going 26-22 in three years with the Colts.

Dungy said he talked to Mayhew shortly after Jim Schwartz was fired, and spoke several times to team vice chairman Bill Ford Jr.

“One time we had a phone conversation and we just talked about what they were looking for,” Dungy said. “I really talked more to Mr. Ford about [Steelers chairman] Dan Rooney and the way Dan went about his search. Dan’s hired three coaches in 40-some years. They haven’t been big-name guys when they’ve been hired, but they fit the profile of what he was looking for, and that’s all I told Bill. I said I think from talking to Martin you’ve got a profile, you know what you’re looking for, get the guy who fits that. Don’t worry about what the media thinks, what the fans think, what anybody else thinks. Fill your profile and you’re going to be fine, and I think that’s exactly what they’ve done.”

Of course, Dungy would have filled a different profile, but it would have been a slightly higher one.

72 responses to “Lions asked Tony Dungy if he wanted job, before Caldwell talk

  1. Well, at least they tried.

    Hmmmm….that’s what I’ve been saying for years about this/past Lions team & the franchise as a whole.

  2. …”are you interested at all” doesn’t sound like a job offer to me – although it may have led to that. Jim Caldwell has taken a lot of “arrows” since he accepted the Lions HC position. This has amounted to a lot of disrespect for this man for basically no reason at all other than what amounts to a personal persecution. In the end, Jim Caldwell is going to make a lot of people, media included, eat their words. You’re all in for a big surprise.

  3. Just wondering, is there an NFL mandate that says every team must consult with Tony Dungy before every coaching hire? Or does it just seem that way?

  4. I have no issues with it honestly. The only thing that matters is wins or losses, not how someone is perceived by the media or fans of this or other teams.

  5. pretty wide profile that allows a guy coming off a 2-14 record in his last stint to be the choice … add to that his horrific record at wake forest as HC 1 winning season in 8 years especially knowing the guy after caldwell had 4 winning seasons and 4 bowl games in in 1st 8 seasons.
    my thought was yikes how uninspiring.

  6. The typical path to success is to identify a goal, go through due diligence and hard work then use best judgment based on available evidence. But what if the goal is drawn too broad or too narrowly or you don’t know how to do due diligence and your judgment is poor?

    Then you remain the Detroit Lions. Same as it ever was.

  7. So Tony Dungy is a big catch because he happened to have the greatest QB of all time on his roster. Maybe ESPN should start the Peyton Manning coaching tree and show all the coaches who have gotten a chance from hanging on to his coat tails.

  8. I’m not a big Caldwell fan, but 14 of his 22 losses were during the “Suck for Luck” campaign. I never really understood how that team was held against him.

  9. I don’t know why people are ragging on Caldwell. He knows how to win and has plenty of experience. That final year with the Colts is a one off. That was a team build around having one star to carry them with little payroll left to spread around him if something went wrong.

    And you what, cheers to Schwartz for what he accomplished too. He brought some attitude to a team with a culture of being contented with losing. He put some great pieces together and took them as far as he was capable of going. Now they need a mature coach to finish the deal.

  10. Hasn’t Tony Dungy declared a million times during his retirement that he’s not interested in returning to coaching…what a desperate reach.

    And if he were to return to coaching, why would he even consider returning to coach in this toilet of a city???

  11. I couldn’t believe when I heard that Jim Caldwell was even getting head coaching interviews, let alone him actually being hired! See you in 2016 Lions fans!

  12. Dungy is now playing handler for Lovie Smith and Jim Caldwell. I guess the Fritz Pollard Alliance is happy that two retread coaches were hired….nobody else gets a chance? As long as the FPA is in the news all is good.

  13. hope he works out for them but this was a very uninspiring hire… doesnt mean it wont work though, but why not look at some up and coming coordinators…

  14. A couple things.

    1. Asking Dungy was a great idea. He would’ve been great to work with their players. I am not the biggest fan of his Xs and Os, however there is absolutely NO doubt in his ability to coach and mentor players.

    2. The statement – settling for Jim Caldwell, that is really unfair. Yes he wasn’t their first choice, however when you have 5 or 6 openings, where everyone is looking at the same handful of candidates, someone is not going to get their first choice. Let’s also remember that you are asking people to leave winning teams to come to losing teams. There are also going to be candidates that don’t want to move.

    3. While I am not a fan of Caldwell as a head coach, (when working for Dungy – Dungy called the plays, when HC for Indy – he was good as long as Payton Manning was healthy and helping call the plays, with Baltimore they won when he took over for Cameron 1/2 way through the season), multiple teams interviewed this guy, so there is some merit to the hire like him or not.

    All of that, I really hope he does well.

  15. bostonian13 says: Jan 15, 2014 8:00 AM

    Overrated coach being asked about another WAY overrated coach. Without Manning, who would they be? Carry on, Detroit. Good luck.

    Are you drunk? Dungy brought TB from obscurity to respectability. He took that team to the NFC Championship game with Shawn King as QB. He was the architect of the most fierce defense the NFL has seen since the ’85 Bears. Gruden rode that defense to a SB and the team got progressively worse every year under the leadership of his substantial “genius”.

    Oh and the year Indy won the SB, it was the defense that carried Peyton.

    I swear, it’s like some you people don’t even watch the sport you comment on.

  16. Lions blew it again…

    In case anyone forgot here is what Dungy said of Rod Marinelli back in 2006..

    “I felt the same way about Herman [Edwards],” said Dungy. “Herman wasn’t a coordinator . . . he was a leader of men. Rod is a leader, he’s a coach’s coach, he’s one of the best communicators I’ve ever been around, he’s a motivator and he is a great teacher.”

    And we all remember how that turned out…

    Since when did Tony Dungy’s word become God’s word, this joker is consulted or has something to say about any and everything NFL related. It is getting a little old already.

  17. @harveyredman – You’re absolutely right. The Colts defense was like swiss cheese until Bob Sanders came back from an injury that year. After Sanders returned the Colts defense morphed into one of the best in the league. No Sanders -no defense,no defense- no SB title. You’re right on!

  18. If you are interested in hiring a coach from a “coaching tree” it makes sense to talk to the guy at the root of it. If you are going to hire a Holmgren guy, why not ask the big fella about strengths and weaknesses? If you are going to talk to a Parcell’s guy, you’d give him a ring. Same for a Belichik guy.

    And while you have them on the phone, don’t you kind of have to at least run it up the flag pole (except with Belichik, cause that would be tampering)? You obviously respect them if you’re looking at a coach that is of his style and from his former staff so it makes even more sense to get the mojo straight from the source.

  19. @blewinski – Marinelli couldn’t make chicken salad out of chicken feathers. That roster and W/L record is on Matt Millen – the worst GM who ever lived.

  20. More teams should consult Millen and then do the exact opposite. He has proven to be extremely good at finding the wrong guy over the years and I think that is a gift.

  21. For all of you who are saying that Dungy/Caldwell wouldn’t be any good if they didn’t have Peyton Manning, let’s look at the numbers, shall we? Sure, Peyton Manning was pretty good before Caldwell got there. Manning was completing 62% of his passes and throwing for 4,000+ yards before Caldwell. In the first two years that Caldwell took over as QB coach (2002 and 2003), Manning’s completion percentage jumped 4 points to 66% in 2002 and up above 67% in 2003. In 2002 his INTs dropped from 23 in 2001 to 19 in 2002, and then dropped again to only 10 in 2003. If there are Lions fans out there who think that it’s impossible for Caldwell to help Detroit, you’re wasting your time being a Lions fan. Go jump on a bandwagon because Detroit doesn’t need negative fans like you. We need fans who love and support our team.

  22. “Tony Dungy would be nothing without Peyton Manning”..

    Geez.. name me ONE coach considered ‘great’ for his success who did NOT have a great QB? I dare you.

    Tom Landry – Staubach
    Bud Grant – Fran Tarkenton
    Bill Walsh – Joe Montana
    Bill Belichick – Tom Brady
    Jimmy Johnson – Troy Aikman

    Sorry, but coaches who have sustained success also had very good if not great QBs.

    What the Dungy detractors always miss is how his approach and philosophy literally transformed a losing culture and the entire community and support for football in Tampa Bay.

    Frankly, I think his best coaching was in TB….

  23. This reminds me a lot of when the Bills hired Chan Gailey. They went for Cowher and he recommended Gailey. I hope for Lions fans that Caldwell turns out to be a better coach than Gailey was for the Bills. Pretty uninspired coaching hires this off season (with the exception of O’Brien maybe).

  24. Harvery Redman- what are you saying? Dungy didn’t get it done with Tampa bay, and Gruden did. That was his knock. Gruden almost made Gannon a Super Bowl winner, brought the Raiders back to light for a few years and then won the Super Bowl with BRAD JOHNSON as their quarter back. Gruden did the same as dungy with less, cut it out. The defense won the colts the championship? Coming from a Pats fam, it’s the same defense that put up a 21 point deficit and made Manning crawl them back into the game to win it, and the same “defense” that went up against a Rex gross man led offense. Ooooo so scary. Manning won the Superbowl for the Colts against 2 straight good defenses. Caldwell? Bum! Look at the job he did this season with the Ravens, was scared to go undefeated and was brutally out coached in the Super Bowl.

    Oh, Belichick isn’t anything without Brady? What the heck? Belichick recharged the browns by letting loose of their popular starting qb, put in the backup and should also be credited for the Ravens first Super Bowl win.

  25. “So Tony Dungy is a big catch because he happened to have the greatest QB of all time on his roster”

    “Overrated coach being asked about another WAY overrated coach. Without Manning, who would they be? Carry on, Detroit. Good luck.”

    Geez…how quickly you busters forget.

    Hmm Tony Dungy…who’s that guy?Let’s see:

    – Invented the Tampa 2 defense. A scheme that changed the NFL

    – Took over a TB franchise that was the joke in league. Then made the playoffs 4 out of 6 seasons.

    – Took over an Indy defense that had given up the 3rd MOST yards in NFL history and transformed them into a top 10 NFL defense in his first season

    -Between TB and Indy went to the playoffs for a record TEN straight seasons. A streak only broken due to his retirement

    – Assembled two teams that went to the SB the year after he left. (In addition to the SB he won himself)

    – Oh and btw..has one of the best coaching trees in recent NFL history. Producing a few names you might have heard:

    Lovie Smith
    Herm Edwards
    Mike Tomlin

    – And really…just all around nice guy.

    Of all the guys in or around the NFL that you’re gonna hate on Dungy is probably not the best target.

  26. Why do you suppose Tony Dungy felt it was important to get it out there that Mayhew asked him if he we were interested? Nobody asked him, and apparently Mayhew was never going to disclose it.

    Boy, for a guy who never intends to coach again, it sure does seem important to him that everybody knows he could get another job if he wanted one.

  27. It just seems like every year we have a new profile we are going for, it just hasn’t worked out yet. Maybe things will be different this time. We still need an overall philosophy overhaul.

  28. You’re blaming Suck-for-Luck on Caldwell? Even with that owner-mandated campaign, the guy is still above .500 in winning percentage with 2 SuperBowl appearances. Bite him.

  29. Let’s tap the break pedal here kids and give Caldwell a chance. Only time will tell whether or not he will be successful. Enough of the sarcasm and over reaction – it’s a football hire – plain & simple.

  30. At best, Caldwell is qualified to be a QB coach.
    Why is he qualified to be a head coach? Let’s examine:
    • His record at Wake Forest was 26-63 (.292) over 8 seasons; he had 3 wins or less in 6 of those seasons; the high water mark was 7-5 and the next year his team collapsed to 2-9. He achieved over 25% of his total wins in ONE SEASON. Barely anybody is even talking about this!!! So you say he gets a free pass because it is Wake Forest and they are not a football school anyway? The coaches that bookended Caldwell were Bill Dooley and Jim Grobe. Dooley was 29-36-2 (.448) over 6 seasons and Grobe was 77-82 (.484) over 13 seasons. Not stellar but respectable given that WF is not a football school. Sure looks like a crap Caldwell sandwich to me.
    • His record as Indy’s HC with Peyton Manning: 24-8, with losses in the Super Bowl (to the Saints) and to the Mark Sanchez / Rex Ryan led Jets in a terrible loss for a one and done year.
    • His record as Indy’s HC without Peyton Manning: 2-14, which enabled Indy to draft Luck, so good for them.
    • His accolades / accomplishments as an OC at Baltimore effectively come down to the fact that Joe Flacco and Jacoby Jones got lucky on a bomb (with terrible coverage) in Denver. Miss that throw, catch and run and no one is talking about how Caldwell saved that offense in 2012.
    • What did he do for an encore this year? Direct the 29th ranked offense in the league. Last time I checked, there were only 32 teams in the league, so this year’s showing was horrible for Baltimore.
    • In summary, Caldwell seems to be a good coach when he has Peyton Manning running his team. And Stafford is no Manning. He is the frat boy who was doing keg stands until 4am on game day in college and hasn’t changed since. He doesn’t put the work in and he is not a leader.

    My prediction:
    Caldwell is fired in January 2017 with an aggregate record of something like 15-33 and no playoff appearances.
    Mayhew and Lewand are fired along with him.
    WCF is dead by then (hopefully the walking corpse finally kicks it).
    The next GM is hired and makes a plan to part ways with Stafford, who is gone after the 2017 season.
    Bill Ford wises up and sells the franchise.
    The new owner relocates to either LA or London prior to the 2018 season.
    They spend the next 5 years building a winner from the trenches out and correcting the salary cap sins of Lewand.
    Super Bowl champs by 2023.

  31. Why did the Lions listen to Tony Dungy? Don’t they know its much wiser to listen to a bunch fans who are not asked to express their opinions about football subjects without first obtaining a user name and password? Same ole Lions. [sarcasm]

  32. thanks tony dungy for ruining the lions for the next 5 years, and blowing any chance for calvin johnson playoff success.

    caldwell went 2-14 when he didnt have peyton manning. the year after he was fired the colts made the playoffs with a rookie QB.

    caldwell was about to be fired in baltimore due to terrible offence this year.

    dungy just wants his friend to have a job. he doesnt care about the future of the lions.

  33. LOL, where would ALOT of these so called Great Coaches be without star players? You cant say there overrated because of Manning, what about Bradys coach, or Marino’s coach, or Montana’s Coach, stop with that Manning mess!

  34. Phil, although Dungy was a great coach, making the Bucs a contender across several seasons and doing the same with a Colts team that couldn’t win in the playoffs at all with Jim Mora, and is developing a nice coaching tree with Lovie Smith and Mike Tomlin, you also forgot to mention that his tree includes Rod “0-16” Marinelli.

  35. As a pro coach Caldwell has gone to a SB and lost, and won a SB as a offensive coordinator. As a a pro coach Whisenhunt has gone to a SB and lost, and won a SB as a offensive coordinator. Yet the fans here see Whisenhunt as a genius but Caldwell as a failure.

  36. I’ll say this much the Lions have wasted some good years with some very good talent, now the clock is running as some of this talent will soon be on the downside of their careers.

  37. bluepike says:
    …”are you interested at all” doesn’t sound like a job offer to me



  38. I’ve listened to and read a lot of opinions about this hire. The opinions can be categorized two ways: 1) those from people who have actually received a pay check from an NFL franchise; and 2) those from people who have never received a pay check from an NFL franchise. I am sure it is no coincidence that those who have received a pay check from an NFL franchise seem to uniformly think this is a good hire, while all the negativity is coming from people who have never received a pay check from an NFL franchise. Why is that?

  39. Well, this guy did take Cam Cameron job as offensive coordinator for that struggling Ravens regular season last season and what do you know they won a Super Bowl. Give this guy some credit besides his recent stint at Wake Forest and Indie. Not saying this guy gonna be good or bad. Lets just watch.

  40. After the way the Ravens offence lit it up this year, I’m not surprised they went after Caldwell. HaHa same old lions!

  41. Aw, that’s cute. The Lions mattered for about a season and a half. Now it’s back to decades of irrelevance.

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