AFC South: Bil Faircloth
|Kevin Terrell/Getty Images|
|New Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell will likely follow in the footsteps of Tony Dungy. |
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Those who know him say Jim Caldwell will be much like the man he replaces as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.
Like Tony Dungy, Caldwell is an even-keeled, faithful leader.
"He's a guy who I have a great deal of respect for," said David Thornton, the Tennessee linebacker who jumped to the Titans from the Colts as a free agent in 2006. "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."
The Colts have called a noon press conference on Tuesday, where their new coach is likely to speak in that role for the first time. Caldwell, who turns 54 on Friday, has been a Dungy assistant since Dungy's final year in Tampa, 2001.
Before that he spent eight seasons as head coach at Wake Forest, where he compiled a 26-63 record -- hardly record setting, but good enough to tie him for fourth in wins the program's history. In 1999 he took the Demon Deacons to their first bowl game in seven years. During his tenure the team ranked in the Top 25 in passing four different times.
Caldwell's stops as a collegiate assistant included a seven-season stint under Joe Paterno at Penn State, where he helped steer Kerry Collins to major awards and was part of a national championship team.
"Jim Caldwell was one of the best assistant coaches I've ever had at Penn State," Paterno said through the university's sports information office. "I thought he did a great job as the head coach at Wake Forest and Jim will do a great job as head coach of the Colts."
Doug Marsigli was a Demon Deacons offensive lineman when Caldwell arrived on campus, and played for him for four seasons, serving as a captain as a senior. He's now a physical therapist in Rocky Mount, N.C.
Monday evening he was typing up a congratulatory e-mail and bragging to his three kids that the guy he played college ball for was now the coach of the Colts.
He remembered that Caldwell had a policy against swearing and that the coach and his staff were committed to making penalty payments for violations of the rule.
"He's a first-class man, he established a good, sound basis for the program which I think coach [Jim] Grobe has built on," said Marsigli. "He established more accountability than we had been used to... We were responsible for each other. He never cursed and he held us accountable for that, which is, of course, a lot for college kids. He actually had, I believe, a jar and if any of the coaches cursed they would have to put money in.
"And coach Caldwell said, I believe, that if you ever heard him utter a curse word that he would put a lot of money in there. It kind of went up every year, $1,000 to $2,000 to $5,000 -- I believe those were the type of numbers. And of course we never had a big party off of coach Caldwell because he never said any curse words. He was tough, but positive and encouraging."
Bill Faircloth, Wake Forest's assistant athletic director for football since 1983 and a 1964 graduate of the school where he played, said Caldwell was a good delegator, organizer and leader who made sure his players took advantage of their educational opportunities.
"He was a great representative for the university while he was here," Faircloth said. "He's a fine human being. He was a really good coach and I think he'll do a real good job."
During his farewell press conference, Dungy spoke very highly of Caldwell. After a year together in Tampa, Caldwell followed his boss to Indianapolis in 2002 where he was quarterbacks coach before adding the expanded title of assistant head coach in 2005 and associate head coach last year.
Seven NFL head jobs have opened since coaches were fired during or after the season, not including Seattle where Jim Mora was in place as a successor in a similar framework to the one the Colts had with Caldwell and Dungy.
"I'm not going to speak for [owner] Jim Irsay, but in my personal opinion, if Jim Irsay was looking for a coach and interviewed all these guys that I am seeing being interviewed, he would interview Jim Caldwell and say, 'T
hat's the best guy out there,'" Dungy said. "And the fact that Jim has been here for seven years, knows the organization inside-out, has the respect of our players and our coaches, there is no question in my mind he is the best guy for this job."
Dungy said the plan that named Caldwell as the heir to the job made it easier for him to think things through and make the right decision. But he promised that Caldwell was not going to be a clone. He expects Caldwell to tweak things and put his own stamp on the Colts moving forward.
"He is ready," Dungy said. "He's going to be fantastic. We're going to keep winning."