Jim Caldwell will return as coach of the Detroit Lions next season, the NFL club announced Friday, while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will promote offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter to head coach.
The moves and others Thursday leave two NFL coaching vacancies, with the Tennessee Titans considering interim coach Mike Mularkey among others and the Philadelphia Eagles reportedly set on Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson, who cannot make such a deal until his team is eliminated from the playoffs.
Lions new general manager Bob Quinn, who survived a house-cleaning of executives by owner Martha Ford during the 7-9 season, said he and Caldwell have a similar mindset on how to improve the club.
“After spending a significant amount of time together, it is clear that our football philosophies are very similar,” Quinn said. “Consequently, I am convinced he is the right man to lead our football team moving forward. Jim’s entire body of work is impressive.”
Caldwell, 60, was hired two years ago and put the Lions into the playoffs with an 11-5 record in his first campaign in the US Motor City.
“Not only did he lead the Lions to the playoffs his first season here, but when you look at how the players responded the second half of last season, under difficult circumstances, it’s clear to me that this team believes in him and responds positively to his leadership,” Quinn said.
Calvin Johnson, Detroit’s top receiver, is a supporter of Caldwell and is pondering his own future. Johnson is set to make $16 million next season should he return.
“I am obviously thrilled,” Caldwell said. “I genuinely appreciate the faith Bob has shown in me, and I really look forward to working together.”
Koetter, 56, guided Tampa Bay’s attack last season under Lovie Smith, who was fired last week after two seasons as coach.
“When I started this search for a new head coach, the focus was on finding someone that could be a strong leader as well as a consummate teacher, and Dirk is both,” Bucs general manager Jason Licht said. “He brings the passion and drive that will re-energize our organization and help us establish the winning culture that will help us become the championship-caliber team that our fans deserve.”
Koetter worked well with rookie quarterback Jameis Winston last season as the Buccaneers went 6-10 and should add another talented newcomer from the NFL Draft.
“Any coordinator, quarterback coach in that role with a quarterback, particularly Jameis, a young quarterback, that’s an important bond. That’s a strong bond that they need to have,” Licht said.