Former Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell joined Glover Quin’s YouTube show “The DB Room” on Thursday night and had a nice, candid conversation with the player he used to coach. Topics ranged from how he went from player to coach, his time in Detroit, and his recommendations for some of his favorite books.
It’s a fantastic 70-minute interview that I would recommend watching if you have the time. But if you don’t, here are the six biggest takeaways I had from the interview.
Jim Caldwell is feeling much better
Caldwell had to take a leave of absence from his job with the Dolphins due to an unspecified health concern. Right off the bat, Quin asked him about it, and, thankfully, Caldwell seems to be doing a lot better now, two years later.
“I’m feeling great, actually,” Caldwell said. “Almost back to fighting weight, but I feel good. I had an issue that popped up that really was something that could be corrected without surgery, and just a matter of getting more rest and watching my diet.”
Caldwell credits his plant-based diet, of which he’s been doing for “well over a year,” for his rebound of health, saying he’s lost 32 pounds in the process.
On dealing with difficult players
This one is probably going to resonate with Lions fans, seeing as players like Glover Quin, Darius Slay and Quandre Diggs left the team on less than good terms under Matt Patricia. Caldwell—while not directly talking about Detroit—spoke about the insanity of getting rid of talented (and manageable) players.
“I don’t believe in getting rid of good players. I see that happen all over the league. It’s crazy. I see guys run guys out of the building that are excellent football players. I’m not just talking about Detroit, okay? I’m talking about all around the league. I could name some places.
I don’t understand that. It’d take you four, five years to find another player like that, and you’re going to run that guy out of the building. Find a way to work with that guy.
Now if it was just somebody who’s just absolutely, you can’t deal with because he’s doing so many things that don’t make sense, he’s tough to handle, that he’s arrogant, that he can’t be coached, that’s different. But for guys that are manageable and they can play, it makes no sense to me. That’s counterproductive. If I was GM or the owner of the team, I’d fire him. Getting rid of good players? That’s ridiculous. It’s too hard to find good players.”
Taking over a new team
Along those same lines, Caldwell seems to have a bit of a different philosophy than the current regime about taking over a new set of players.
“Oftentimes, guys come in and take over programs, and they immediately want to get rid of everybody. They want to immediately wash their hands and say, ‘Let me get my guys in here,’” Caldwell said. “When I come into a program, you know what I say? ‘These are my guys. These are my guys, and we’re going to win with these guys.’”
In Caldwell’s first year, he took “his guys” from a 7-9 season in 2013 to an 11-5 season in his first year in Detroit. Sure, he was helped out by a pretty solid roster—which he credits then general manager Martin Mayhew for—but it speaks to his overall philosophy.
Confirms he wasn’t the Lions first choice—Ken Whisenhunt was
As you may remember from 2014, the Lions were courting Ken Whisenhunt pretty hard at the time. Caldwell basically confirmed that Whisenhunt was the Lions’ first choice for head coach at the time, but he ultimately turned down the Lions.
“I don’t think I was the first choice. I really don’t,” Caldwell said. “And I think that oftentimes happens, but I think it ended up being the right one for me. Ken Whisenhunt, I believe, turned that job down. They may have offered it to him—that’s kind of what I understand.”
He thinks Bob Quinn would’ve fired him on Day 1
When the Detroit Lions made a general manager change following the 2015 season, Bob Quinn had a tough decision to make. Stick with Caldwell—who was coming off a 7-9 season, but finished by winning six of the last eight games—or bring in his own guy. Caldwell believes if the decision was up to Quinn alone, he would’ve been gone. Alas, some pressure allowed Caldwell to stick around for another couple years.
“Bob came in and I think, without question, that had he been left to his own devices, I probably would’ve been gone the day he came in,” Caldwell said. “Just kind of the feeling I got, even though, obviously, we went through a two-week process—an interview process with him in order to keep my job.”
Quinn obviously came to the conclusion of keeping Caldwell around, but after just two seasons—back-to-back- 9-7 years with no playoff wins—Quinn decided to change coaches.
“I think he wanted to get his own guy in there,” Caldwell said. “He wanted to get someone who spoke the same language that he speaks. He wanted someone that he was comfortable with, and that’s what he got.”
THE TWO-WATCH MYSTERY HAS BEEN SOLVED
For whatever reason, Jim Caldwell loved to keep the reason why he wore two watches on gameday in Detroit a complete secret. Despite it being one of the most-asked questions, Caldwell always passed the buck.
But in front of Quin, he finally acquiesced. The first watch provided him with all the information he wanted and needed (ie: barometer). The second was a sentimental gift from Lions owner Martha Ford.
“Mrs. Ford had a watch that was made for certain individuals, and one she had made for me,” Caldwell said. “I think William Clay Ford had a similar watch, and so on gameday I always wore that watch in honor of her and what it meant to her.”
Watch the entire interview below: