Manning's call played part in Lions hiring coach

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 15, 2014 at 7:21 pm •  Published: January 15, 2014

DETROIT (AP) — Jim Caldwell's body of work put him in a position to get another chance to be an NFL coach.

A call from Peyton Manning helped, too.

Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said the Denver Broncos quarterback called him — unsolicited — during the team's two-week search to support his former coach.

Mayhew said Manning raved about what a great teacher Caldwell was as his position coach and head coach with the Indianapolis Colts.

Caldwell's top priority will be to use his expertise and experience to help Matthew Stafford cut down on mistakes. The QB led the league in turnovers during a late-season slide that knocked the Lions out of the playoff picture and cost Jim Schwartz his job after five years.

Caldwell prepared for his interview with the Lions by watching each of Stafford's throws last season.

"I gave him my opinion of what I saw and I also talked to him and listened to him about what he thought he needed to work on," Caldwell said after being introduced Wednesday as the franchise's 26th coach.

The Lions gave Caldwell a four-year contract to help them win a championship. They haven't won their division since 1993 and have only one playoff victory since winning the 1957 NFL title.

After talking and texting with Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Ndamukong Suh, the new coach shares a sense of urgency with those returning players.

"They believe and I believe the time is now — not two years or three years from now," Caldwell said.

Lions vice chairman Bill Ford, whose father owns the team, was impressed by that statement.

"Every coach I would assume expects to win right now, but most of them won't put themselves on the line to say it," Ford said. "He did."

The Lions also acknowledged — before being asked — that Ken Whisenhunt was a finalist for the job. Mayhew also said he asked Tony Dungy if he was interested in coaching the team before going on to ask him about Caldwell, one of his former assistants.

Ford and team president Tom Lewand both said Whisenhunt, who was hired Monday night by Tennessee, wasn't offered the job in Detroit in part because he wouldn't fly to Michigan for a second interview.

"We had two really good candidates, one of whom we didn't get a chance to finish the process with," Ford said. "We had two Plan As."

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