By Andrew McNeil
Who has had the sweetest gig in the NFL since 2009? Most people would say Jim Caldwell. He inherited a former Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts team with its core still intact, more importantly the team had Peyton Manning as their quarterback. Manning is frequently referred to as the teams “coach on the field” or it’s Offensive Coordinator due to his in-depth knowledge of the playbook and his infamous routine at the line of scrimmage where he chooses a play to call from a set of three. This relieved an immense amount of pressure off of Caldwell and allowed him to not become overwhelmed with the pressure of being a NFL head coach.
In his first year of being the head coach of the Colts, Caldwell had one of the best debut seasons for a head coach in NFL history, finishing with a 14-2 record. The Colts stampeded to an undefeated record through their first 14 games of the season. With the AFC South title and the top seed in the AFC playoffs locked up, Caldwell opted to sit out his starting players the last two games of the season (both losses), costing them a chance to become only the second team in NFL history to finish a 16-game regular season undefeated. The Colts ended up losing in Super Bowl XLIV to the New Orleans Saints in Caldwell’s first season as head coach 31-17. The following season the Colts made the playoffs again under Caldwell, but they lost in the first round.
Fairly or unfairly, many perceive that Caldwell does not really do much to contribute to the team’s success, especially since long time assistants Tom Moore and Howard Mudd returned to the team. Now Caldwell and the Colts franchise face their biggest obstacle since 1998, Peyton Manning will not be their quarterback for the foreseeable future. After his 3rd neck surgery in 19 months, Manning is going to have to miss significant time and the pressure has turned squarely to Caldwell.
They have replaced Manning with NFL seasoned-veteran Kerry Collins and now its time to prove that the team is a little more than just Manning and a bunch of guys who catch passes and coach the team. The widespread opinion is that this Colts team is no more than a three win team without Manning and that has to be a slap in the face to the other members of the organization. No one can deny the greatness of Manning or his impact on his team. More than likely the Colts streak of 9 consecutive playoff appearances will come to an end this year, but Jim Caldwell can prove a lot to everyone if he can get this team to compete and play hard for him for all 16 games.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.