As the season has concluded, more and more has been made of Jim Caldwell's coaching abilities. Some believe that he is awful and should be fired. Some believe that he has taken this team to a Super Bowl and two playoffs, and has proven his coaching mettle. However, the truth, as always, lies somewhere in between.
Jim Caldwell inherited the Indianapolis Colts from his predecessor, Tony Dungy. Dungy, after 7 years as the Colts head coach, retired to become an analyst for NBC, writer, and parent. Caldwell was put in a very fortunate position, inheriting one of the most successful teams of this decade, headed by arguably the best quarterback of all time. The first year was an immense success, and the Colts were riding a 14 game win streak into Week Sixteen's game against the mediocre New York Jets. This is where the controversy began, as the Colts, despite hints of animosity from players, decided to rest their players instead of attempting to become the first team to go 19-0 throughout one season. Fast forward to 2011, where the Indianapolis Colts have come off another loss in the playoffs, and Jim Caldwell is one of the hot topics around the Web. Why all of the hype? What is it about this man that causes him to be such a commotion now?
Caldwell has, as has been stated by many in his defense, had success in his head coaching in the NFL. He is 26-11, with two playoff berths (as AFC South Champions) and a Super Bowl appearance. Yet, despite this "success" he faces criticism around the Web, from fans, bloggers, and writers alike. Why? In my own opinion, as well as others, there is a simple way to put it. Caldwell brings too little to the team as a Head Coach.
What is Caldwell's strength? What does he do well that warrant's him to be a head coach? Every coach has something that they are good at, and usually something that they are not so good at. Tony Dungy, for example, was a defensive guy, and good at leading and inspiring his team while being calm. He however, was very conservative, something that some people get quite agitated over. Bill Belichick, is also known as a defensive coach, and is masterful at in game adjustments. However, he is simply put, a jerk. While both have other strengths and weaknesses, both are Hall of Fame coaches, with their coaching trees producing personnel around the league. Caldwell, unlike these two men, is a mystery.
Caldwell has no identity. In fact, his identity is that he has no identity. He is known for showing no emotion, ever, for being unreadable. He does not specialize in defense, as Dungy or Belichick, nor does he specialize in offense, as Mike Martz. Even before taking over a head coaching position, he was a "special assistant" to Tony Dungy (although he was, at one point, a quarterbacks coach). He bounced around colleges as an assistant for many years, until he accepted the head coaching position at Wake Forest, where he amassed a 26-63 record. His one noticeable accolade there was introducing a good passing attack. This is the only thing that gives him any "specialty" as a coach, though it's one that most people would not know.
The in game performance by Caldwell does not seem to justify keeping him as coach either. How many times can one honestly say "Caldwell "out-coached (blank)"? His usage of timeouts has been qustionable, even downright bad at times, and he does not seem to make adjustments that allow the Colts to take advantage of teams weaknesses. There is no evidence that he fires up his team, as he is blank on the sidelines, and often looks lost. He was out-coached in the Super Bowl, called a senseless timeout in both the Jaguars and Jets games, and (as another example) didn't even realize that the Bengals punter wasn't part of their punt team as they ran a fake. He's also been very conservative, as the Colts have been content to punt, or go into half without attempting to score (as against the Jets), many times this season, even more than with the conservative Dungy.
Should Caldwell be given credit for getting to the playoffs with this team? Yes. Should he be given credit for getting to the Super Bowl? Yes. But how much? What credit goes to him, and what goes to the greatness of Peyton Manning, the other players, and coordinators? What has he done, personally, that warrants him being a coach? As fans, we cannot see all of the inner workings of the organization, but what we do see is games and results. What we've seen is poor game management, poor injury management, and a stubborn tendency to stick by his decision, no matter how silly it may seem or how poor of an excuse is given, refusing to admit mistakes.
To conclude, I don't know exactly what to do about Caldwell, as the coaching pool isn't fantastic, and he knows the system. In fact, I would agree with a comment by ATX Colts Fan, who profoundly writes:
I don’t think he needs to be fired exactly, but he is on thin ice with me and many other Colts fans until he can redeem himself. If this team is going to screw the pooch in big games, I’d rather it happen on the field than from the sideline.
In theory, having a great coach to pair with Manning would be perfect. But there is no clear choice for that position as of now. But If we can't have great, I would like a coach that, at the very least, doesn't mess things up. Hopefully, that coach has something to add as well. But so far, Jim Caldwell has hurt the team more than he has helped it. With Peyton Manning's years wind down, that is the last thing the Indianapolis Colts need.