It turns out that Tony Dungy played a notable role in the Detroit Lions' coaching search -- in a couple different ways, really. For starters, when the coaching search first began, Dungy told Lions general manager Martin Mayhew that he wasn't interested in returning to coaching. Had Dungy actually wanted to come back, chances are the search would have ended right there and Dungy would have been named the new head coach.
Since Dungy wasn't interested in coaching again, the search continued. It finally came to an end on Tuesday with the Lions hiring Jim Caldwell, who got a big-time recommendation from Dungy (and Peyton Manning, apparently). This isn't a surprise considering Caldwell was an assistant under Dungy in Indianapolis, and Caldwell ended up taking over as head coach of the Colts following Dungy's retirement.
Now that Caldwell is the head coach in Detroit, it's also no surprise that Dungy thinks the Lions will be a playoff team next season:
I'm excited for Matthew Stafford & the Detroit Lions. I think he's going to flourish under Jim Caldwell. Lions will be a playoff team in '14
— Tony Dungy (@TonyDungy) January 14, 2014
Dungy is obviously biased, but I certainly hope he's right. I also hope he's right about Matthew Stafford really taking his game to another level under the guidance of Caldwell. From the Lions' official site:
"I also think this team, very much like our team in Indianapolis, there was so many offensive weapons in place that you want a system that can maximize that. I think what Jim believes in, in terms of offense, is just going to fall in line with the skill set of the players there. You have a young quarterback to develop in
Matthew Staffordand it reminds me of when we (got to Indianapolis).
"Peyton Manning had put up a lot of numbers in Indianapolis his first three years in the league, but his career really started to take off after Caldwell became the quarterbacks coach."
Priority No. 1 for the Lions was to find a head coach who can elevate Stafford as a quarterback, and if Caldwell can indeed do that, Detroit will probably be a playoff team next season.