BRONCOS

Jim Caldwell joins the chat: Denver Broncos interview Peyton Manning’s former head coach

Jan 11, 2023, 10:00 AM

Jim Caldwell guided Peyton Manning to some of the best seasons of his career. He bled three winning seasons out of the Detroit Lions, who have just six winning campaigns in the last quarter-century. He’s the only full-time (non-interim) head coach to leave Detroit with a winning record in the last 50 years.

And yet, another chance has not come since the Lions dismissed him after 2017.

But the 67-year-old coach appears to be back on NFL radars. Two days after he interviewed with the Carolina Panthers, the Broncos interviewed with him as part of their current coaching search.

CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson first reported the news Wednesday morning.

Like five of the other six reported Broncos candidates, Caldwell possesses head-coaching experience. And like Jim Harbaugh, Sean Payton and Dan Quinn, Harbaugh has guided a team to a Super Bowl. With Manning at QB, Caldwell guided the Colts to Super Bowl XLIV. They lost, 31-17, to a New Orleans Saints team led by Payton.

But it’s Peyton — not Payton — who really matters when discussing Caldwell. For it was the longtime QB guru whose arrival as an Indianapolis Colts assistant in 2002 helped Manning soar to the elite status he maintained for nearly all of the final 14 years of his career.

It was Caldwell’s attention to detail that meshed with Manning’s similar mindset. As reported by The Washington Post last month, after their first season together, Caldwell put together a tape of not only Manning’s interceptions, but the ones that could have been picked off if the defender had made the grab, as well as times when Manning held the ball too long or missed potential touchdowns.

“Me and Jim Caldwell were built very much the same way,” Manning told the Post.

Caldwell saw that footwork was an issue. So, he crafted drills to help Manning improve. He would throw blocking bags at Manning’s feet to help settle him down.

The result? Manning won his first of five MVPs after an offseason of that film work and those drills.

Caldwell had success with other QBs, too. Matthew Stafford’s career passer rating was 83.1 before Caldwell arrived in Detroit in 2014. It was 93.7 with Caldwell. Stafford’s completion percentage rose by 5.1 percentage points. His touchdown rate rose. His interception rate fell. And two years earlier in Baltimore, Caldwell ascended to offensive coordinator late in the regular season, tweaked Joe Flacco and sent the Ravens on a run to Super Bowl XLVII that saw Flacco earn the game’s MVP award and a massive contract extension.

All that is why Caldwell is a fascinating option as the Broncos not only look for a head coach, but attempt to kick-start the process of getting Russell Wilson back to his old form.

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