Detroit Turned Upside Down With Jim Caldwell Hiring

Motown is now officially Bizarrotown.

At least, that's how Detroit Lions fans were feeling after the hiring of Jim Caldwell as their new head coach.

Detroiters were pleasantly surprised when the Lions hired their first black coach last week, replacing the fired Jim Schwartz.

The only thing probably more shocking is that Detroit now also has a white mayor, Mike Duggan.

If you think most never thought Motown would elect a white mayor again – its first in 40 years – many never thought they'd see a black man lead their football team.

And while there have been a number of African American coaches hired in the NFL the last 15 years, many weren't sure of they'd see one at Ford Field.

Just like the selection of Duggan to lead the city out of bankruptcy, many are optimistic about what changes Caldwell will bring. The Lions have been at a deficit for decades, winning just one playoff game since 1957.

For sure, Caldwell wasn't the sexy pick – that tag belonged to Ken Whisenhunt – but Caldwell is a solid pick.

Make no mistake about it. Black Lions fans noticed Caldwell's skin color almost as much as his resume. It was such a sense of pride.

Caldwell, who turned 59 Thursday, has everything the Lions need. He has experience. Caldwell was the Indianapolis Colts' head coach for three seasons. He has a winning pedigree, going to three Super Bowls and winning two rings.

Caldwell has been a quarterback coach and offensive coordinator. He's worked with Super Bowl-winning QBs in Peyton Manning and Joe Flacco. Just the medicine Matthew Stafford needs.

Better yet, Caldwell's a no-nonsense, even-keeled man. That's something the Lions sorely need.

For sure, Caldwell, a quiet man, reading from basically a prepared speech and quoting the Bible a few times, didn't win his press conference last Wednesday.

Lions fans didn't call up Ford Field looking to buy season tickets after his formal introduction.

But then again, it's not about that. Theater doesn't work in football. Former general manager Matt Millen and Schwartz made people feel great when they were hired, as if the Lions' history of being losers was going to end. Both crashed and burned. 

Maybe the Lions, drowning in a sea of wrong choices for decades, will finally get a break with this choice.

Maybe, just maybe, the Lions made a smart hire, even if it wasn't what they wanted to get at first.

There's no doubt they wanted Whisenhunt. It's the reason president Tom Lewand even mentioned Whisenhunt at the press conference.

There was no way he could have ignored it. It was truly the elephant in the stadium.

Lewand dismissed the notion that the Lions settled for Caldwell. "He fits our profile to a "T," Lewand said. "There's no doubt about it.

"Anyone one who thinks we settled for Jim Caldwell doesn't know anything about Jim Caldwell."

The Rolling Stones may have sang, "You Can't Always Get What You Want." But the Lions might have finally gotten what they need.

Caldwell has a real chance to win in Motown, much better odds than Schwartz and Rod Marinelli, the last two coaches here.

 Not only is the talent on this team better than they those guys took over, Caldwell has been a head coach before. This isn't his first rodeo.

"I believe this is the right fit for me," said Caldwell, who was 26-22 with Colts.

His mission is simple: win a playoff game.

Before people get caught up in the Lions winning the Super Bowl, they have to take baby steps. The team's first postseason victory since 1991 would be a good start.

"I'm excited and proud to have Jim Caldwell as my head coach," said Lions general manager Martin Mayhew, who is also black. "(He) has expertise, has the experience."

There was talk that there were issues between Mayhew and Schwartz. The two weren't always on the same page. Mayhew doesn't believe that will be the case here.  "Everybody told us what a great guy Jim is to work with," Mayhew said.

The Lions expect results right away,  this isn't a rebuild. Caldwell understands that. "There's a reason I'm here, to win a championship," he said.

For once, the Lions hired a coach that honestly has a chance to get the job done. And he just happens to be a brother, too.

Rob Parker is a columnist for The Shadow League. He is also an analyst for Fox Sports 1 in Los Angeles. He co-hosts The Odd Couple on Fox Sports Radio and is also an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California.