Tom Lewand pulled a folded piece of paper out of the inside pocket of his suit coat and waved it briefly at the mass of reporters assembled in front of him.
"In case you didn't think we had one, it's here," Lewand said. "We had a profile laid out."
The Lions never wavered from the criteria they set forth on that paper when they fired Jim Schwartz 21/2 weeks ago, and on Wednesday, after a long-winding search that almost led them in another direction, they introduced a man in Jim Caldwell who checked off every box.
Caldwell, the 26th head coach and first African-American coach in Lions history, brings a wealth of experience, a pair of Super Bowl rings, an offensive pedigree and, as his news conference proved, a commanding presence to a team looking for a leader to make it a perennial playoff contender.
Caldwell quoted John Wooden, Fielding Yost and the bible as he talked about his coaching background and beliefs on Wednesday, and the Lions insisted they didn't settle for their second choice as coach.
"We had two really good candidates, one of who we didn't get a chance to finish the process with," vice chairman Bill Ford Jr. said. "And so, no he was not Plan (B). We had two Plan As and we were going down both roads simultaneously. That's how I would answer it."
Caldwell signed a four-year contract to be the next Lions coach on Tuesday afternoon, a day after the Lions missed out on Ken Whisenhunt, now the coach of the Tennessee Titans.
The Lions had a plane ready to fly to San Diego to pick up Whisenhunt on Monday, and while they never officially offered him the jo b they certainly would have had he made it to Detroit, met with ownership and toured Allen Park.
But Ford and team president Tom Lewand said Caldwell was a top candidate from the moment he flew in for the first interview Jan. 3.
He met with Ford and Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford during his interview, and the Lions received unsolicited calls from players like Peyton Manning and glowing reviews from Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome and former coach Tony Dungy among others during the process.
Caldwell spent the last two seasons as a Ravens assistant and worked 10 years with Dungy in Indianapolis.
Ford said he personally talked to five candidates during the search -- the Lions formally interviewed Caldwell and three others, Whisenhunt, former Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak and ex-Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak -- and Mayhew insisted the search was more thorough than it appeared.
"We had a list that was a little bit longer than the guys that we interviewed, but as we went through our list of our first choices for interviews we realized that our head coach was coming from that list so we did not continue down speaking to some other people," Mayhew said. "We sent some requests to speak to a couple coordinators that we did not actually speak to, so the list was a little bit longer than what people actually thought."
Ultimately, the Lions' decision came down to Caldwell and Whisenhunt, the former San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator who once was a teammate of Mayhew's in Washington.
Mayhew said having an experienced coach was important for a team on the cusp of contention.
"I think one important thing that this team needs, that these players need, is credibility, confidence," Mayhew said. "Somebody to come in that knows what they're doing, that they've been there and they're confident and we've been down the road of a younger coach, of a young coordinator coming in. I've been here 13 years, so I was here with Marty (Mornhinweg). I've been here with Jim (Schwartz). Whether it takes two weeks or it takes two months, there is a period of time in there for a first-time head coach where things are a little bit of a challenge, and I felt like this team needs somebody with extensive experience in the NFL or extensive experience as a head coach."
A coaching lifer who spent time on both sides of the ball in college before finding his niche developing quarterbacks, Caldwell won Super Bowl rings as an assistant with Indianapolis and Baltimore and went 26-22 in three seasons as the Colts head coach.
He was Dungy's hand-picked successor in Indianapolis and led the Colts to the Super Bowl in his first season, but lost his job two years later when Manning missed the season with a neck injury and Indianapolis went 2-14.
He worked closely with Manning in Indianapolis and Joe Flacco in Baltimore, and will play a hands-on role in developing Matthew Stafford in Detroit no matter who he hires as offensive coordinator or quarterbacks coach in the coming days.
Caldwell said his Lions teams will play fast and physical, be disciplined in their play on the field and their behavior off it, and he championed a strong running game and attacking defense as he promised immediate results.
"From Day 1, I understood and understood thoroughly that winning and winning a championship is the ultimate goal," Caldwell said. "That is our goal. That is what we set out for every single year and there is without question no compromising that. It's a challenging job, it's the job that we chose. I've raised a family doing what I do and we know there's some risk in it, but there's a lot more reward."
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