Caldwell Makes First Appearance as Head Coach at NFL Combine
INDIANAPOLIS – Jim Caldwell said he hasn't been surprised by much during his first month on his new job, exactly.
But make no mistake:
This new position of his? Being an NFL head coach as opposed to being an assistant?
Well, it's definitely a change.
In terms of responsibility.
In terms of profile.
But mostly, Caldwell said, in terms of time.
"The big surprise, more than anything else, is in this position you could literally work 24 hours a day," Caldwell said Thursday morning at the NFL Scouting Combine, being held this week at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis.
"There's always something to do. I've found that to be a real challenge, but a lot of fun also. It certainly is going to take away some of my time that I used to spend on the golf course in the spring.
"But I certainly relish the opunity to work within the framework of our organization."
Caldwell, an assistant with the Colts the past seven seasons and the associate head coach last season, ascended to the head coaching position last month, replacing Tony Dungy, the team's head coach the last seven seasons.
Caldwell spent much of the last month meeting with coaches and personnel officials, and this weekend is attending the combine with the rest of the team's staff. One change, Caldwell said, is spending the combine in what he refers to as the "central core of authority," meaning that rather than observing he is involved actively in decisions.
"Last year I was outside of that core," Caldwell said. "This year, I'm in that central core."
As far as how many of the 24 hours he has been working, Caldwell said he wasn't exactly certain.
"I couldn't give you hours, but we're in there a pretty good amount," Caldwell said, smiling.
Caldwell said he has spoken with Dungy on several occasions since the latter's retirement last month.
"He has been a great resource for me," Caldwell said. "I've talked to him a couple of times and he has been back a couple of times. He came back through on a book tour, so we had an opportunity to visit and chat. Before he left town, he was here for a couple of weeks after I took over. It was a great opportunity then for me to ask some questions.
"But I got a lot of my questions out last year during the time I was the associate head coach. He was gracious enough to lend his ear and pass on some of the knowledge and information he had."
Caldwell said he recently mailed a letter to Colts players outlining the offseason workout program, which is scheduled to begin March 16.
"Basically, that was it," Caldwell said. "I didn't talk a whole lot about philosophy. I'll wait until I get an opportunity to visit with them. The great majority of the team certainly has some experience with me. At a given time, we'll certainly be able to express ourselves a bit more."
And Caldwell said while the first month as a head coach has had its share of challenges, the overriding truth of the NFL is no matter the situation – and no matter the position – there will be challenges of some level.
"This guy who's a little over five-feet tall is walking around in the woods one day," Caldwell said. "He's whistling away and he bumps into this guy who's eight-feet tall. He looks up at this big guy and says, 'You know what? If I was as big as you, I'd walk into those hills and find the biggest bear I could find and kill it with my bare hands.' The big guy looks down and says, 'You know what? There are some little bears up there, too.'
"My point is there are big challenges and little challenges all across the board."
Caldwell addressed several topics during a 15-minute meeting with media covering the combine, including:
o Thursday's announcement that the Colts have agreed to terms on a contract with cornerback Kelvin Hayden. "Kelvin's been playing extremely well for us throughout the years," Caldwell said. "He's done a tremendous job. He's a guy who certainly gives us some stability and some leadership, so we're certainly glad to have him. He's done an exceptional job and he's certainly in the prime of his career. He's 26 years old, so he's certainly at the right age, Those factors were considered, but also, his overall play has been outstanding." Caldwell said the determination of Hayden's status will allow the Colts to focus on the rest of their free-agency strategy. "Kelvin was obviously one that was like the domino effect," Caldwell said. "What happened with him will certainly have an affect on what we'll be able to do from this point on. Right now, we're kind of working our way through this free agency process, which begins here shortly. We'll see. We're working through some things from different vantage points and see if we can put together a package where we get guys back on the field that we certainly need and desire."
o The running game and run defense. The Colts ranked 31st in the NFL in rushing and 24th in the NFL in rushing defense. "We have to obviously be able to run the ball more effectively and more consistently," Caldwell said. "We have to certainly be able to stop the run. We have to look at ways to be able to improve those in the offseason."
o The possibility of eight-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Marvin Harrison returning for a 14th season. "We certainly hope so," Caldwell said. "That's what we anticipate. Free agency in itself is an event this time of year, so we're not quite certain what's going to happen, but we certainly would love to have him back." Harrison, a Pro Bowl selection from 1998-2006, caught 60 passes for 636 yards and five touchdowns last season. "What I saw is a guy who's as quick as he's been and he's still a guy with the outstanding hands that he always has shown," Caldwell said. "He still has the same ability to create some space for himself and get open. It was a couple of little things that happened during the course of the season where some looking from the outside in had a different perception of that. We did not see any diminishing in terms of his skills and ability."
o His level of confidence that three-time Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday will return. "My mindset is that he's still with us," Caldwell said. "That's what I go by day to day as we look at our plan. Until further notice, that's the approach we're going to take." Saturday, a 10-year NFL veteran, is scheduled to become a free agent at the start of the league year. He has been critical to the Colts in recent seasons partly because of his knowledge of the Colts' offense and his ability to make line calls at the line of scrimmage. "He's been and we certainly anticipate him continuing to be a very, very important part of our offense," Caldwell said.
o The ability of last year's rookie offensive linemen – Mike Pollak, Jamey Richard and Steve Justice – to form the core of the line in the future. "Historically, what we've been able to do is regardless of what people we're dealing with, we've had people who have been able to step up," Caldwell said. "Week in and week out, we've always had young guys who have learned and who have developed within the system, who have learned and done a great job. We don't anticipate that changing."
o New Defensive Coordinator Larry Coyer. "He's a great talent and exceptional in terms of pulling things together," Caldwell said. "He's an intelligent man with a great fire and desire to succeed. He certainly has proven that through his 45 years of coaching, but he's an outstanding coach." Caldwell played under Coyer at Iowa from 1974-76, and spent a season under Coyer as a graduate assistant with the Hawkeyes in 1977. "I go back to the time when I had hair and mine was black. He still has hair, but his was a little different hue."
o Coyer's replacement of Ron Meeks, who spent seven seasons – 2002-2008 – as the Colts' defensive coordinator. Meeks is now the coordinator in Carolina. Coyer was the defensive coordinator in Denver from 2003-2006 and Caldwell said Coyer's defense there had principles of the Tampa 2 used by the Colts. Coyer spent the last two seasons with Tampa Bay, which utilizes the scheme. "Schematically, we're not going to change," Caldwell said. "Obviously, he has had some experience with that in a couple of different locations. He did something similar to it in Denver, and adjusted where he had to. Tampa's system is similar to what we've done here as well over the years. He has been within the system, understands it well and he'll modify what we need to modify. There's going to be some tweaking, obviously, but the overall scheme is going to stay the same."
o New special teams coach Ray Rychleski. "That was one where we thought we had some areas we could improve in," Caldwell said. "Ray's going to be able to get us headed in that direction. He's creative. He has had a variety of experiences, although a number of them are in college. He'll make the adjustment like a lot of other coaches have made."
o The possibility of the Colts pursuing a high-profile free agent, such as Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who is scheduled to become a free agent at the start of the new league year late this month. "Obviously, we have to be realistic, too," Caldwell said. "Just in terms of what we're able to do and in terms of salary-cap issues and things of that nature – we're always fiddling with them and seeing where we can improve our squad. We have room to do certain things, but it's not fantasyland, either. I think (Colts President) Bill (Polian) and (Vice President of Football Operations) Chris (Polian) and (Director of Player Personnel) Tom (Telesco) do a great job of managing that aspect and letting us know what we're able to do in those areas."