Caldwell enjoying Colts’ Super Bowl journey
AP Sports Writer
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) – Colts coach Jim Caldwell would rather keep his private talks, well, private.
Good luck during Super Bowl week, when everyone is expected to speak into a microphone.
“Obviously, it is not my favorite thing to do,” he said Friday. “I think when you get in situations like this, you have to be able to find some enjoyment in it.”
Holding daily news conferences. Providing regular injury updates. Answering questions that range from the mundane to the inane.
This is fun?
It’s not exactly a vacation in the Florida sun, but Caldwell is getting used to it.
“I don’t mind it, it’s just I rarely have to do three or four in a row,” he said.
Caldwell’s soft-spoken, quiet style is a perfect fit for Indianapolis.
Fans in America’s heartland prefer old-fashioned values to big-city arrogance, and nobody complains when a team is winning.
Caldwell has succeeded at both, helping the Colts reach Sunday’s game against New Orleans.
He graduated with honors from the Tony Dungy school of public relations and the milestones are already piling up.
Since replacing Dungy in January, Caldwell has set the NFL record for most consecutive wins to open a career (14) and become the fifth rookie coach to make the Super Bowl. A win Sunday will put him on the short list of rookie winners – San Francisco’s George Seifert and Baltimore’s Don McCafferty are the only ones to win as first-year coaches.
What’s more impressive is that the 55-year-old Caldwell has done it his way.
He preaches humility. He demands perfection. He shows compassion, and when he runs out of words, he cites passages from the Bible or Chinese proverbs or books to make his point.
“Often times I use things that mean something to me, that I can relate to and hopefully they can understand why it means something to me,” he said. “I do it often. I read as much as I possibly can. I am constantly in search of knowledge. I think, particularly in the game we play, communication is key and you have to find ways to be creative in that area.”
Even if you make those points behind closed doors.
Some in Indy expected Caldwell to be Dungy’s twin. He’s not.
Caldwell changed defensive coordinators and special teams coaches within a month of replacing the Super Bowl-winning coach. In April, he was adding the 300-plus-pound defensive tackles Dungy rarely wanted.
At training camp, Caldwell took a tougher tack by benching left tackle Tony Ugoh for the versatile Charlie Johnson. Three months later, he did it again, moving the unheralded Kyle DeVan into Mike Pollak’s spot at right guard.
The coaching transition, scripted in January 2008, couldn’t have gone any smoother.
Indy won another division title, completed a 23-game winning streak and had a shot at a perfect season before pulling its starters in Week 15. The results could prompt other successful teams to consider following the Colts’ lead.
“From continuity’s sake it could be good, but it can be costly,” Colts owner Jim Irsay said. “I had to pay Jim much more immediately than he would have been making in the position he had been in. I think in some organizations you’re going to see, if there’s been a lot of success and there’s a clear candidate, you may see a team protect their guy.”
Other victories could make a more lasting impact.
Caldwell is the fourth black head coach to reach the Super Bowl in four years. Dungy and Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin both won. Two black general managers, Arizona’s Rod Graves and the Giants’ Jerry Reese, also have made it over that span.
So the usual questions about black coaches have dissipated. Last week, in Indy, Caldwell took only two questions about the issue, a dramatic change from four years ago when the biggest storyline was Dungy and Lovie Smith being the first black coaches to reach the Super Bowl.
“The fact that it is not a big subject is a sign we’ve made progress,” said NFL executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson said. “But we still want the Rooney Rule in place so there isn’t any slippage.”
Another sign of progress: Black coaches are starting to getting more chances in the college ranks, too.
“When you see the success Tony Dungy, Lovie Smith, Mike Tomlin and Jim Caldwell have had, it makes things a lot easier,” said Floyd Keith, executive director of the Black Coaches and Administrators. “That means we’ve come forward as a culture and the quality of a coach and a person is the thing that’s being judged. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.”
Caldwell has never considered himself a trendsetter.
But the man who grew up in Beloit, Wis., who coached in small towns such as Carbondale, Ill., who worked with championship coaches such as Joe Paterno, Bill McCartney, Howard Schnellenberger and Dungy, is focused on one thing.
Winning in his own eloquent way.
“This game, which I’ve said before time and time again, does not take great speechmakers. It’s not inspiration by exhortation,” he said. “There’s an old passage in the Bible that says ‘When words are many, sin is not absent. He who holds his tongue is wise.’ So I kind of like to hold my tongue as often as I can.”