Jim Caldwell in Demand

Jim Caldwell, the Colts assistant head coach/quarterbacks coach, is a popular man these days -- both the Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Falcons are reportedly interested in him for their coaching vacancies. What are Caldwell's chances and what do the endorsements of Manning and Dungy mean?

As the lead man at Wake Forest from 1993-2000, Caldwell has head coaching experience.

Under his tutelage, Peyton Manning has transformed from a statistical juggernaut to a Super Bowl champion and one of the greatest quarterbacks of this or any era, and despite numerous injuries at key positions, Caldwell has kept the players and Manning focused this season.

When Manning needed help refining his footwork between the 2005 and 2006 seasons, he turned to Caldwell for guidance.

He's obviously an excellent leader and a gifted teacher and received a glowing recommendation from his quarterback and his head coach.

Dungy has presided over playoff teams during each of his six seasons in Indianapolis, won five division titles, appeared in two AFC Championship games, and won last year's Super Bowl.

Generally, teams that are that successful have their coaching cabinets raided every offseason.  That hasn't happened with the Colts in the Dungy era, though.

One reason for the Colts' ability to retain coaches is that a great deal of the credit is given to the head coach, and deservedly so. Dungy gets a lot of credit for the team's defense, where Ron Meeks continues to do a fantastic job with a great deal of turnover on his side of the ball during his time with Indianapolis.

Another factor is that, with talented players on the offensive side of the ball and a natural talent such as Peyton Manning, it would seem that any coach could be successful with the players Tom Moore coordinates and, specifically, the player that Caldwell coaches.


Jim Caldwell talks to an official in 2005
Otto Greule/Getty Images

However, Brian Billick was granted the head coaching job at Baltimore despite calling plays for some of the most talented offensive players this side of the 2007 Patriots and working under offensive guru Dennis Green.

Jack Del Rio was hired in Jacksonville after coaching several talented defensive players to greatness and Josh McDaniels of New England is considered a hot candidate even though he has a great deal of firepower in his offensive arsenal.  The same goes for Eric Mangini, who intelligently yielded to his head coach, Bill Bellichick, in tight situations.

The truth of the matter is that the current trend in the NFL seems to be leaning towards hiring younger assistants and coordinators as first time NFL head coaches.  Moore turned 69 this November, Meeks will be 54 when next season opens, and Caldwell will be 53 before the Super Bowl.

Even though Cleveland's Romeo Crennel earned his first top spot well into his career, the jobs simply don't appear to be there for older men who do not already have head coaching experience at the highest level.  It could simply be that Caldwell just doesn't interview well.  He could possibly give too much of the credit for the Colts success to his fellow coaches and Manning.  But, it could be something deeper.

Since Atlanta holds a top five pick in next year's draft, they could use a coach that will teach and guide a potential franchise quarterback to greatness at a position of turmoil for that club.

Team owner Arthur Blank knows he could use a steady hand and a calm demeanor to guide his club into next season after a rocky 2007 campaign.

Will they buck the trend or will they decide to go with a younger alternative with more upside?  Only time will tell, particularly since the Falcons will probably choose a general manager before they hire a new head coach.

That general manager could be Chris Polian, Bill's son and the vice president of football operations for the Colts. If the Falcons decide on the younger Polian, an offer to Caldwell would probably be close behind.

The good news for Colts fans is that the ringing endorsement that Dungy gave Caldwell seems to indicate that he doesn't see his assistant head coach as a possible successor to his job any time in the near future.  While the NFL forbids organizations from keeping assistants and coordinators from pursuing head jobs, Dungy could very well have said either very little or nothing — in hopes of grooming his successor.

Dungy's recommendation shows promise that he doesn't intends to go anywhere for a while. This is especially good news for Indianapolis on the Dungy front, considering that retirement rumors have swirled around the head coach for a couple of years and intensified after the Colts won Super Bowl XLI.


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