In an interview with Jay Glazer on Fox's NFL playoff coverage, Reggie Bush didn't pull any punches when he talked about what the Lions needed in a new head coach. Better preparation, an improved culture and an improvement in the expectations - for a team that dropped like a rock out of the playoff picture - were the three things the veteran (Super Bowl Champion) running back pointed to specifically.
This interview took place three days before the Lions hired Jim Caldwell, but it would appear that Bush and the rest of the team got, not only got what they wanted, they also got what they needed. Forget about the plane that never left the hangar for Ken Whisenhunt - he wanted to play a 3-4 defense, he wanted roster control and his wife didn't want the D - you can't weigh the fish that got away.
For the foreseeable future, it's Caldwell and his soon to be assembled staff, who will be charged with not only wining the first playoff game for this franchise since Wayne Fontes, but also trying to win back a disgruntled fan base that turns its back on the team, more often than Kim Kardashian changes shoes.
With that challenge ahead of him, the 59 year old father of five takes over a team that impaled itself on the weight of playoff expectations then subsequently tripped down the yellow brick road trying to catch the Wiz. Fairly or not, the first and toughest challenge facing Caldwell will be flipping the public narrative on his runner up status. Lions President Tom Lewand has said time and again, they don't care about winning a press conference, but this time may be different.
Caldwell actually has a better record than Whisenhunt in the regular season and at last check he has one more Super Bowl Ring than the new head coach of the Titans. Caldwell also comes highly recommended by his former boss and an equally respected, Tony Dungy and has earned nothing but praise and positive accolades from his former players.
Like most coaches in the NFL, Caldwell has won, 14-2 in his first year as Colts head coach - and Caldwell has lost 26-63 with Wake Forest in the 90's. But like all head coaches, Caldwell's fate will be directly tied to his quarterback like it was with the Colts, who hadn't won a playoff game "with Peyton Manning" until Caldwell and Dungy arrived in 2002. And he wasn't just a one trick pony in Indy, Caldwell has a proven track record for getting the most out of his quarterback at every stop he's made (See Super Bowl XXVII MVP Joe Flacco). And after all, isn't that what fans want?
Long before he ever steps to the podium at Ford Field to be introduced as the Lions new head coach, Caldwell has already spent endless hours pondering the $64 thousand dollar question here in Detroit, "What's wrong with Matt Stafford?" And with a tool box full of knowledge (every pass Stafford threw in cut ups in 2013) and just as much experience, he'll have his shot to turn this thing around.
And maybe then the fans will final embrace him, not as the runner up - but the best man for the job.
WJBK-TV | Fox 2
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