Detroit Lions: Jim Tressel

DETROIT -- Detroit Lions president Tom Lewand said he would do something almost sacrilegious when it comes to someone who graduated from Michigan.

Tressel
If it meant the Lions would win, he would tattoo a "buckeye" on his forehead. As in an Ohio State Buckeye. The questions, of course, came in response to whether he would be fine with former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel on a potential Lions staff.

"If it helps us win, I will tattoo a Buckeye on my forehead," Lewand said.

New Lions coach Jim Caldwell had no staff announcements Wednesday afternoon during his introductory press conference and declined to speak about specific potential hires when meeting with the media afterward as well.

But Tressel's name has been linked to Caldwell since he became a plausible candidate for the Detroit job, especially since the two worked together during his time in Indianapolis when he was a replay-review consultant during Caldwell's final year with the team.

He didn't rule out hiring Tressel but didn't make it sound likely, either. Tressel is working as an executive vice president for student success at his alma mater, Akron.

"I'm not going to talk about staff, but I did say I think Tressel's perfectly happy doing what he's doing right now," Caldwell said. "Even though he worked with us in Indy, good friend as well, but I do think he's really pleased with where he is at this stage."

While Caldwell wouldn't discuss names of candidates or coordinators, Baltimore defensive backs coach Teryl Austin has been mentioned as a possible defensive coordinator and Rutgers offensive coordinator Ron Prince has been mentioned as an offensive assistant.

Lewand said Caldwell will meet with Detroit's current staff Thursday to discuss their futures. The goal is to have as many assistants in place as possible before next week's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

"It's an ongoing process right now," Caldwell said. "At this particular point in time, we're working and some things will start to take shape here shortly."
Jim Caldwell is the new Detroit Lions coach, and though there has been a lot of consternation about the hire, the Lions will succeed or fail based upon his decisions and his ability to develop players, notably quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Caldwell will meet with the media for the first time Wednesday, and based on what I’ve heard and been told about his interview on Jan. 3, he has a detailed plan for how he is going to fix both the Lions and Stafford.

Those are his two most important tasks as Detroit’s head coach. If he is unable to do that, he’ll join the line of Marty Mornhinweg, Steve Mariucci, Rod Marinelli and Jim Schwartz as coaches who couldn’t quite reach the level the team wanted.

[+] EnlargeMatthew Stafford
Tim Fuller/USA TODAY SportsDeveloping Matthew Stafford is one of the most important tasks facing new Lions coach Jim Caldwell.
If he can succeed, he’ll have a chance to do something only one coach in the Super Bowl era, Wayne Fontes, has even come close to doing with the Lions: turn the team into a consistent winner.

Here’s a look at five things Caldwell will have to do early in his tenure with the Lions.

1. Hire a competent staff: He could have some names as early as his introductory news conference, but Teryl Austin is a name I’ve been told multiple times as a likely defensive coordinator. Bill Lazor was a name for offensive coordinator, but h has been hired by Miami. If Caldwell doesn’t put together a strong staff, that will be an issue early on. Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel also could end up on Caldwell’s staff.

2. Make smart decisions about free agents with GM Martin Mayhew: Dominic Raiola and Brandon Pettigrew are two of the bigger free agents for the Lions. Raiola is a strong presence in the locker room, and it might be smart to bring him back for continuity on an offensive line that was one of the best in the league last season. Pettigrew could be interesting. He is an important cog, as was Dallas Clark, Caldwell’s tight end in Indianapolis and with the Ravens this season. Of course, Clark is also a free agent, so Caldwell might push to get him to Detroit.

3. Matthew Stafford: Part of the reason Caldwell was hired was to work with Stafford, with whom the coach met on his interview. Stafford, according to receiver Kris Durham, seemed to like Caldwell. That relationship will be critical to any success Caldwell has in Detroit. He believes he has a plan to fix Stafford -- both Joe Flacco and Peyton Manning are high on Caldwell's ability to help quarterbacks -- and the coach will have to be able to implement that plan as soon as possible.

4. Keep at least two current assistants: This goes with the first point. John Bonamego did a really good job with special teams almost all season, including finding strong gunners in Don Carey and Jeremy Ross. Jeremiah Washburn turned an offensive line with two rookies on the right side into one of the top groups in the NFL, and players seemed to really like him. Jim Washburn and Kris Kocurek did a good job with the defensive line, and Matt Burke was strong with the linebackers. Consider at least some of them to keep some continuity.

5. Get out in the community: This might sound silly, but Caldwell is not a popular hire with the Detroit fan base. By all accounts, he is a good, well-intentioned man, so by doing a lot of community outreach early on, he could turn some people who are currently not pleased about the hire. Of course, the best way to do that is to win games, but getting out in the community would be a strong start.

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