DETROIT -- One of Martin Mayhew's first calls when the Lions started their search for a new coach was to Tony Dungy, and one of Mayhew's first questions to Dungy was if he'd be interested in coming back to the sidelines.
"He said, 'I got to start this off, are you interested at all?'" Dungy told the Detroit Free Press on Tuesday. "And I said, 'No, Martin, I'm not.' And then we went on. We were able to talk about what we needed to talk about."
Dungy gave Mayhew and others in the Lions' organization a glowing recommendation of Jim Caldwell, his former assistant and hand-picked successor with the Indianapolis Colts, and the Lions ended a 2 1/2-week search when they named Caldwell their 26th head coach on Tuesday.
Caldwell went 26-22 in three seasons with the Colts and worked alongside Dungy in Indianapolis for seven more years.
He joined the Baltimore Ravens as quarterbacks coach last year, was promoted to offensive coordinator late in December for the team's Super Bowl run, and many around the league say Caldwell is a lot like Dungy, the man who brought him to the NFL in 2001.
"He's a leader of men, I like that term a lot," said Lions offensive tackle Corey Hilliard, who played parts of the 2007-08 seasons for both in Indianapolis. "He's one of those quiet coaches who you don't want to make -- some guys, there's a lot of fear when you get yelled at, but with him it's you don't want to disappoint. It's kind of like what Dungy had. Dungy wouldn't yell at you, he was just disappointed at you and it felt even worse than getting yelled at. He's kind of got that to him."
The Lions will officially introduce Caldwell as their next head coach in a 4 p.m. EST press conference Wednesday at Ford Field, though Lions owner William Clay Ford said in a statement Tuesday he was "thrilled" with the hire and praised "the thoroughness of the coaching search" conducted by Mayhew and team president Tom Lewand.
The Lions held four known formal interviews for the position, with Caldwell, former San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, ex-Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak and former Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak, and hired Caldwell a day after they missed out on their top choice, Whisenhunt, to the Titans.
Dungy said he had "a long conversation" with Mayhew shortly after Jim Schwartz was fired, and he spoke several times to Lions vice chairman Bill Ford Jr. throughout the process.
"One time we had a phone conversation and we just talked about what they were looking for," Dungy said. "I really talked more to Mr. Ford about (Pittsburgh Steelers chairman) Dan Rooney and the way Dan went about his search. Dan's hired three coaches in 40-some years. They haven't been big-name guys when they've been hired, but they fit the profile of what he was looking for, and that's all I told Bill. I said I think from talking to Martin you've got a profile, you know what you're looking for, get the guy who fits that. Don't worry about what the media thinks, what the fans think, what anybody else thinks. Fill your profile and you're going to be fine, and I think that's exactly what they've done."
While Caldwell's hire was met with skepticism by a large portion of the fan base, he checks off much of what the Lions were looking for in a coach.
He won a Super Bowl as an assistant in Indianapolis in the 2006 season, took the Colts to another Super Bowl in his first season as head coach, and won another ring calling plays for Baltimore last year.
A four-year starter at defensive back as a player at Iowa, Caldwell also has the offensive pedigree the Lions wanted as they try to harness the considerable talents of their quarterback, Matthew Stafford.
Caldwell helped develop Kerry Collins at Penn State and worked closely with Peyton Manning in Indianapolis, and Manning has long credited Caldwell with fine-tuning his game as a quarterback.
Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, who worked on Caldwell's staff in 2011, said Caldwell was a "visionary" for Manning throughout their 10 seasons together.
"Peyton would have 9,000 questions," Tressel said. "He'd want to go back to the 2002 game against the Vikings when the defensive coordinator was the guy that's now the secondary coach of the team we're playing and he remembers a coverage, so Jim was always kind of the guy that visionated with Peyton as I listened (to people talk about their relationship).
"I think Peyton really counted on him to be that researcher with him because Peyton loved to research."
Caldwell, whose playcalling came under fire in Baltimore this year, is expected to hand those duties over to his offensive coordinator in Detroit. Kansas City Chiefs assistant head coach David Culley, Indianapolis Colts quarterbacks coach Clyde Christiansen and Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor are among the leading candidates for that job.
John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance which promotes diversity in NFL coaching and front-office searches, said Caldwell plans to hire Ravens secondary coach Teryl Austin, a former assistant at Michigan, as his defensive coordinator, and Rutgers offensive coordinator Ron Prince as one of his offensive assistants.
Along with his coaching acumen, Dungy said Caldwell was a fit in Detroit because of the leadership qualities he'll bring to the position.
Mayhew said that was the foremost trait he was looking for in this hire.
"I think the way that he's like me, he's a different personality but he really believes in what it takes to win," Dungy said. "That you win with not only talent, but you win with good people, you win by doing things the right way, by treating people right and building the team atmosphere, and I think he's going to do all that. And he's going to be great for the city of Detroit, just having a leader of high integrity on that team and Christian values. I am, I'm really fired up."
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