DETROIT — Jim Caldwell was coy, just days ago, when asked about whether he had signed a contract extension with the Detroit Lions.
Turns out, he had.
The Detroit Lions confirmed Saturday they signed their coach to a multiyear deal months ago.
Caldwell has a 29-21 record in Detroit over three-plus seasons. He is 0-2 in the playoffs with a franchise that has won only one playoff game in six decades.
Caldwell helped the Indianapolis Colts reach the Super Bowl in his first year as an NFL coach and was fired two years later with a 26-22 record. He lost his job after the Colts went 2-14 in 2011 while Peyton Manning was out with a neck injury. He went on to work for the Baltimore Ravens, starting off as a quarterbacks coach before getting promoted to be their offensive coordinator when they won the Super Bowl on Feb. 3, 2013.
The NFC North-leading Lions (2-0) host the Atlanta Falcons (2-0) on Sunday in a matchup of two of the NFC’s four undefeated teams.
When Detroit beat the New York Giants on Monday night, the broadcasters were saying Caldwell deserved a contract extension. The next day, Caldwell insisted he wasn’t aware of the on-air conversation and said the topic wasn’t raised before the game with the broadcast crew. And, he dodged other questions about his status with the team at his weekly news conference.
“I’ll answer it the same way now and you ask me eight weeks down the road, I’m only concerned about a couple things. It’s my men and my mission,” Caldwell said Tuesday. “And our mission is to win. Everything else will take care of itself. And they aren’t worried about anything else other than that. So, that’s our focus.”
Caldwell also acknowledged he wouldn’t tell the media if he had signed a contract extension.
“That’s the honest truth,” he said.
When the Lions hired Bob Quinn shortly after the 2015 season, he chose to keep Caldwell around for a third season.
Caldwell had relative success in his debut season in Detroit, helping the franchise win 11 games — its most since 1991 — and earn a spot in the playoffs for just the second time in 15 years. The Lions went 7-9 in his second season and 9-7 in his third, falling out of first place in the NFC North with a late-season slide and holding onto to a spot in the playoffs.
Soon after he was hired in Detroit in 2014, Caldwell created connections with players by taking them out to dinner, by position group. He let them pick the restaurants and got to know them by asking questions about their favorite books and movies.
“The more you know about them, the better you can serve them,” Caldwell said before the 2014 season. “I’ve always believed coaching is a service business.”
Caldwell’s coaching career started as a graduate assistant in 1977 after playing defensive back for Iowa. He went on to work as an assistant coach at Southern Illinois, Northwestern, Colorado, Louisville and Penn State. Caldwell earned his first chance to be a head coach at Wake Forest, where he was from 1993-2000, before going to the NFL to work for Tony Dungy in Tampa Bay and Indianapolis. When Dungy retired after the 2008 season, Caldwell succeeded him and won 14 games as a rookie NFL head coach.
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