Jets coach Todd Bowles talks after his team’s 38-3 loss to the Patriots on Dec. 30, 2018 in Foxborough Mass. Bowles was fired hours later..
North Jersey Record

Jim Caldwell, the former Lions and Colts coach, interviewed with the Jets on Monday for their head coaching job. He’s the fifth known candidate the Jets have sat down with, joining Eric Bieniemy, Adam Gase, Mike McCarthy and Kris Richard. 

The 63-year-old Caldwell has an extensive résumé and fulfills a lot of the qualifications the Jets as they search for Todd Bowles’ replacement. But there are also some issues and red flags that would make him a risky hire. Here’s what you need to know about Caldwell.

He won in the pros

He has experience coaching in college (eight years at Wake Forest) and coached seven seasons in the NFL for the Lions and Colts. Caldwell took over for the retired Tony Dungy in 2009 and led the Colts to a 14-2 record and an AFC championship — they lost to the Saints in the Super Bowl. The next year the Colts went 10-6 but lost to the Jets in the Wild Card game. He was fired in 2011 when the Colts went 2-14. 

In Detroit, Caldwell did something no Lions coach has done since the early 1970s: post a winning record (with more than one season coached). He went 36-28, but lost both of his playoff games and was not brought back after a second consecutive 9-7 season in 2017. In total, Caldwell has a 62-50 record as a NFL head coach and finished above .500 in five of his seven seasons. 

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Quarterback background

Caldwell worked with Peyton Manning from 2002-11, as his quarterback coach and then his head coach. He deserves at least some credit in helping Manning become one of the greatest quarterbacks in history. Matthew Stafford also improved during Caldwell’s time has his coach, logging his two most efficient seasons in 2016 and 2017. 

One of the Jets priorities is maximizing the development of quarterback Sam Darnold, and Caldwell would certainly provide a stable platform for the 21-year-old. That’s the biggest plus of his candidacy.

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Has he reached his ceiling?

Caldwell got a dream situation in Indianapolis and couldn’t make it work. He got another chance to turn the Lions into a perennial contender, and he could never get them over the hump. We’ve reached the point where it’s fair to wonder why things would be any different with the Jets. 

He also had major problems with game management in both Detroit and Indianapolis. It’s hard to imagine that he’ll get it all figured out the third time around.

Right personality?

Fans grew tired, and eventually angry with Bowles’ stoic demeanor on the sideline and in press conferences. And the same will be true of Caldwell, who might be even less fiery than Bowles. Caldwell will earn the respect of the players in the locker room, and some of the fans with the way he comports himself. But if the Jets go through a rough patch, the any good will will evaporate immediately. 

Bowles’ flat-line personality became an issue during his tenure, and the Jets shouldn’t want to go through that again. Caldwell is not a hire that is going to get the fan base excited. 

Final word

Caldwell is a qualified coach, and upon close examination his résumé is not a bad one He’d provide a stable environment for Darnold to develop. But he’s never proven that he can take a team to the next level. It didn’t happen with the Colts. And it didn’t happen in Detroit, even if his record was better than most there.

Hiring Caldwell would be a safe choice, he’d ensure the Jets of a return to at least mediocrity and probably a winning record. But shouldn’t they be seeking something more?