When the Detroit Lions brought on Jim Caldwell as their head coach last year, it was tough to get overly excited about the hire. Although Caldwell had experienced a lot of success over his career in various roles, the lasting memory most people had was of him leading a Peyton Manning-less Indianapolis Colts team to a 2-14 record. Despite taking the Colts to a Super Bowl in his first season as their head coach, and despite winning a Super Bowl as offensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens, the Lions' move to hire Caldwell just wasn't a very inspiring one at the time.
The lack of enthusiasm surrounding the Caldwell hire was reflected in NFL.com's head coach power rankings from last July. Despite his track record of success with multiple teams, Caldwell was only ranked 22nd among NFL head coaches going into the 2014 season. Needless to say, there was a lot of skepticism surrounding Caldwell and the Lions franchise as a whole.
As it turned out, Caldwell was exactly the type of coach the Lions needed. His cool and calm demeanor and excellent leadership abilities helped the Lions go 11-5 in 2014 and return to the playoffs. Many people are still skeptical of Caldwell's coaching abilities despite a successful first season in Detroit, but he moved up to 16th in this year's head coach power rankings on NFL.com.
Within the NFC North, Caldwell is ranked third among the division's head coaches. The Green Bay Packers' Mike McCarthy is unsurprisingly at the front of the pack at No. 4 overall, and he's followed by new Chicago Bears head coach John Fox, who is ninth overall. Caldwell is next at No. 16, and the Minnesota Vikings' Mike Zimmer is last in the division at 24th overall.
As a whole, the NFC North seems to have a pretty solid group of head coaches, and that will only add to Caldwell's challenge of building on last year's success in his second season as head coach of the Lions. As we saw with Jim Schwartz, getting to the playoffs is nice, but things can fall apart quickly if you're not careful. For Caldwell, he will have to keep his team on track in 2015 if the Lions are going to truly become a more consistent franchise.