Caldwell Ready for the Job, Manning and Wayne Say
INDIANAPOLIS – He has worked with Peyton Manning for seven years.
Jim Caldwell has worked around Reggie Wayne for the same amount of time, and when Caldwell ascended from associate head coach to head coach of the Colts this week, Wayne and Manning each made one thing absolutely clear.
Caldwell is ready for the job.
"He's been very influential on me," Manning said this week, describing Caldwell as "very detail-oriented, very disciplined."
Caldwell, a 32-year coaching veteran, a Colts assistant the past seven years and the associate head coach this past season, became the franchise's 17th head coach early this week when Dungy retired after seven seasons.
"With Jim at the controls, I feel we won't miss a beat," Wayne, a Pro Bowl selection each of the past three seasons, said. "Thing is, though, ultimately, we as players have to do our thing to ensure us continuing our performances and maintaining that focus for the ultimate goal."
Caldwell, who worked as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterbacks coach under Dungy in 2001, joined the Colts in the same capacity when Dungy moved from Tampa Bay to Indianapolis in 2002. Since then, he has worked closely with Manning on a daily basis.
Manning has made the Pro Bowl every year since 2002, being named the Associated Press' NFL Most Valuable Player in 2003, 2004 and this past season. He also was the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XLI following the 2006 season.
Manning, who threw for 4,002 yards and 27 touchdowns this past season, threw for more than 4,000 yards in six of seven seasons under Caldwell, and in the span, threw for 29,210 yards and 222 touchdowns with just 84 interceptions.
"He's really helped me as a quarterback," Manning said. "He deserves the opunities, and the players will play hard for him."
Former Colts players and players who have played previously for Caldwell agreed.
While an assistant at Penn State in the early 1990s, Caldwell worked with quarterback Kerry Collins, who as a senior in 1994 won the Davey O'Brien Award as the nation's top college quarterback and the Maxwell Award as the nation's most outstanding player.
Collins, a 14-year NFL veteran, started at quarterback for Tennessee this past season.
"I was very fortunate to spend some of my time at Penn State with Jim," Collins said. "I know he's going to make a successful head coach for the Colts. What stands out about him is his professionalism as well as the fact that he is so personable."
Former Colts players spoke this week of a man with character, and one who had earned an opportunity.
"He's a guy who I have a great deal of respect for," said Tennessee Titans linebacker David Thornton, a Colts linebacker from 2002-2005. "He's very similar to Coach Dungy in his style, his personality, his ability to relate to players. He's a man of faith, a man of integrity, definitely an intelligent coach.
"Guys will definitely respond well to Coach Caldwell. He's not a guy that's closed off. He interacts with all players, so I really see him fitting well."
Said Arizona Cardinals running back Edgerrin James, who played for the Colts from 1998-2005, "Everybody who knows Mr. Caldwell is happy for him. He's been waiting patiently, and now it's his turn. He's going to be a successful coach."