Caldwell No Carbon Copy of Predecessor
INDIANAPOLIS – Jim Caldwell worked with Tony Dungy for eight years.
Caldwell, who succeeded Dungy as the Colts' head coach when the latter retired Monday, said he is similar to the franchise's all-time winningest coach in many ways. They are Christians. They value family. They are Midwesterners.
There is at least one notable difference.
"I would suspect I may be just a bit more emotional," Caldwell said with a smile during his introductory press conference at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center Tuesday. "I worked for him for eight years and I never heard him raise his voice one time.
"Now, I might break that record. There's a possibility I might break that record."
The words drew laughter, but Caldwell, Colts Owner and Chief Executive Officer Jim Irsay and Colts President Bill Polian each said Tuesday one thing was true and imant to realize as the franchise moved into a future without Dungy, who coached the team to seven consecutive playoff appearances and a Super Bowl title following the 2006 season.
Caldwell is not Dungy.
And further, Irsay said, no one expects or wants him to be.
"He's not trying to see how close he can become to being Tony Dungy," Irsay said Tuesday. "He's not really here to do anything but what all outstanding head coaches do in our league and that's blending a little bit of everyone they've been around, all of the influences they have been around.
"My thing with him as an owner is supporting him. I've always said that it's through the toughest times. When things are going the worst, when things are going the wrong way – and they do, because it's all about overcoming adversity – that's when I'm there for him.
"That's what I always make sure I give our head coach."
Added Irsay, "This is going to be Jim Caldwell's team. It's not about trying to carry forward something that Tony Dungy did."
Caldwell, who joined Dungy as quarterbacks coach in Tampa Bay in 2001 and has worked on the Colts' staff since Dungy's 2002 hiring, said on Tuesday Dungy has been a major influence in his coaching career and his life, and he said he hopes he is like Dungy in a number of ways.
"He's had a huge impact on the way I think all of us view the game of football, the game of life that you play along with it," Caldwell said. "He is an unflappable individual and that's certainly what kept our teams in a lot of ballgames when things looked a little bleak and looked like they were going to be a little tough to overcome, simply because of the fact that he never got rattled."
But Caldwell also said he won't try to be a different version of Dungy.
"I am my own person," he said.
Polian on Monday evening said of Caldwell, "You're getting a guy who is an accomplished football coach.
"He isn't Tony Dungy Lite," Polian said. "He's going to be Jim Caldwell. He is an accomplished football coach. He has worked under some wonderful people. He has developed a strong set of values in his own rite in terms of how he wants this program and this football team to operate.
"He's very firm. He's very forthright. He's very softspoken, but don't mistake that for lack of steel in his spine. He has plenty of that."
Of Dungy, Caldwell said, "There are some things I certainly don't want to run away from," Caldwell said. "I look forward to being as successful as he's been. He set an incredible path. No one can measure up to him. He's first ballot Hall of Famer. He's done an outstanding job.
Irsay said in the same way that Dungy benefited from a foundation of fundamentals, success and work established by former Colts Head Coach Jim Mora (1998-2001), Caldwell likely will benefit from Dungy's seven-season tenure, in which Indianapolis made seven playoff appearances, won five AFC South titles and won a Super Bowl.
"That was a real asset to him," Irsay said. "Jim Mora, as we all know, is an outstanding football coach, a very disciplined guy, who put together a lot of great components for the franchise. Tony inherited that and that was a plus, and I think that's a big plus for Jim, coming in and having an outstanding franchise to inherit.
"But again, this is about going forward."
Maintaining and refreshing energy and momentum is not only a yearly task, Irsay said, but one critical to long-term success.
"That's very important to me," Irsay said. "I'm excited about that aspect, about what Jim's going to bring to the table. This is going to be his team. He has a vision. Bill Polian and I are here to support him.
"I'm really excited about the possibilities of where this franchise can go."
Irsay said he has heard comparisons between promoting Caldwell, a respected assistant, to succeed Dungy to the San Francisco 49ers promoting George Seifert to succeed the late Bill Walsh, who defined the franchise in the 1980s and coached the 49ers to three Super Bowl titles.
Seifert then coached the 49ers to titles in 1989 – his first season – and 1993.
"I think there are some similarities there in terms of what George had done before, in terms of his career and what he did after that," Irsay said. "Leadership is the critical component, being a leader of men. If that is missing, no matter how much knowledge you have in terms of Xs and Os and all those sorts of things, you're going to come up short. If things aren't going well, you can't close your office door and stare at film all day. The head coach has to be ready to confront tough issues. You have to have that sort of mentality and I know Jim has it.
"It's about having to do the hard thing and do it often. I know Jim, as a leader of men, is outstanding."