Who here remembers December 30, 2013? This was the day after the final game of the 2013 NFL season. This was the day that the Detroit Lions fired Jim Schwartz. An article printed by Forbes that day called “What To Do When Your Star Hits The Wall” was also published that day.
The piece goes into a lot of things that seem like a distant memory now. For example, Stafford’s early avoidance of a quarterback guru. It has a lot to do with Matthew Stafford’s ego. At the time, many thought was the problem. Here’a a guy that apparently just wanted to get paid and didn’t care.
What I see now, looking back, is a quarterback that clearly was still young and clearly needed someone to help guide him in the right direction. I used to say that Matthew Stafford needs to be rewired like a VCR. I don’t know why VCR’s needed to be rewired, but that’s the electronic I went with. Then this happened.
Jim Caldwell watched film with Matthew Stafford during interview with Lions http://t.co/z4hahNQSB6— Around The NFL (@AroundTheNFL) January 4, 2014
While everyone freaked out that Matthew Stafford sat in on Jim Caldwell’s interview with the Lions, they all missed this important part of it. Jim Caldwell’s big impressive thing that he did in his interview was show what he could do to help fix Matthew Stafford. That was something that sold Caldwell to me immediately.
Why wouldn’t it? What we know about Jim Caldwell as a head coach loudly screams over what we know Jim Caldwell can do with quarterbacks. I’ll say it right here and now Jim Caldwell is not the right man for the Lions head coaching job. He may not be right for any head coaching job.
He has a penchant for making bad decisions and straying away from making good ones. He may have an issue with taking the reins when the reins need to be taken, and he flat out has an issue getting his team prepared for a game. But I’ll be damned if this guy can’t make a quarterback great.
Jim Caldwell has worked with some of the best quarterbacks in NFL history... and Brad Johnson. Okay, so Joe Flacco isn’t one of the best in history, but it’s clear that Caldwell made him good enough to get a ring when he was with him. Flacco improved in every single category when Jim Caldwell became the Ravens offensive coordinator.
But the big one to pay attention to is Peyton Manning. The man that some consider to be the greatest quarterback of all time. He was once far from that. There was a time when Peyton Manning was the 2013 Matthew Stafford of his time. A guy with all the talent in the world but without the ability to put it together.
There was a time when Peyton Manning had thrown for 111 touchdowns and 81 interceptions in four years. There was time his passer rating was just 85.1 and he was completing just 61 percent of his passes. That was the first four years of his career. The next four with Caldwell by his side saw him throw for 133 touchdowns and 49 interceptions while sporting a completion percentage of 67 percent and a rating of 102.4. But could he do that with Stafford?
The answer was and is yes. Take a look at the statistical differential.
2009-2013— Mike Payton (@POD_Payton) December 29, 2017
59.5 comp %
64.5 comp %
That’s an unbelievable difference across the board. Not one stat is similar to the other apart from touchdowns.
Here we are in 2017 and Matthew Stafford is unquestionably one of the top five quarterbacks in the NFL and the reason the Lions are even playoff contenders for the last four years. You have to give Jim Caldwell the credit for this.
Caldwell came in and put handcuffs on Stafford. No longer was Stafford allowed to just wing the pig down the field without regard. Caldwell helped Stafford learn how to go through his progressions, move his feet, and, most importantly, know when to not try to force something.
As you can see from the stats above, it’s working. And it’ll continue to work regardless of whether Caldwell remains in Detroit or not. Stafford is approaching 30 years old and the game is slowing down for him, and he’ll always have Caldwell’s advice tucked away.
As we approached what many believe to be Jim Caldwell’s last game as the Lions head coach, I think it’s important to remember all of the things he was not able to get done. Most importantly, he did not win this team a championship despite making that the bar he set for himself and this team.
“My job when I came here was not playoff talk,” Caldwell said this week. “My job when I came here was to win it all.”
Despite never really coming close to accomplishing that goal, I also think it’s important to acknowledge the goals he set and met when he was in Detroit. None were more important than making Matthew Stafford what he is today.