Jim Caldwell’s not typically one to give us a lot of insight into him during his news conferences with the Indianapolis media.
So it was interesting that he shared one Wednesday when asked if he was feeling any additional pressure.
Here was his reply, courtesy of a team transcript:
“This business that we’re in, I’ve been coaching for a long time now. In 1978 when I first started, I knew that it’s a situation where it’s day-to-day in this business. I was at Southern Illinois University and I was on the job about two days, and the Athletic Director there was Gale Sayers at the time. He was one of my idols growing up. I loved the [Chicago] Bears and he was one of my favorites. He walked down to my office and asked if I would like to go to dinner, and my wife wasn’t there yet, because she was still in Iowa City. So he left the office and I remember picking the phone up and calling my dad telling him, ‘Hey, guess who I’m having dinner with.’ He sort of chuckled, he was always a big [Green Bay] Packers fan, but he knew I was a big Bears fan.
“So I sat down with Gale Sayers and we were just exchanging pleasantries, talking about our backgrounds and etc. Then he looked at me with a very serious look on his face, and he said, ‘Why in the world did you go into coaching?’ I kind of gave him my answer that I wanted to have an impact on young people, [I] wanted to have an opportunity to lead and direct and that was a great way for me to do so. I talked through that thing, and he asked me again, ‘Now, why in the world did you go into coaching?’ I started all over again, and he interrupted me and said, ‘Hold on a minute, I did hear that, but don’t you realize that you put your career in the hands of 17, 18 and 19-year-old young men?' I hadn’t really thought about it that way in that point in time, but he was indeed right.
“It’s one of those things that you’ve been in the business long enough to know that it’s a demanding position and it’s a challenge, but that’s why we love it as well. There are certain things that can be expected. I worked for Joe Paterno for a long time, and he won more football games than anybody in the history of college football. There was a point in time when they were trying to get rid of him. I also saw where a guy was 14-2 in this league, and got released. It’s ever-present, but it’s not something that we think about. Obviously, the challenge is something that we relish.”
It’s early to talk much about Caldwell’s future.
He’s not always strategically sound. But he didn’t choose the under-performing personnel, he’s had the team competing in recent games to the end, and we haven’t heard any dissent from the locker room. I score those things in his favor.
Still, I think he will be under fire at season's end -- perhaps he is deserving, perhaps as a scapegoat, perhaps out of the sort of politics that lead to a lot of changes in the league.
I don't think it will be because of the team’s performance in a season when it was bound to be bad once it became clear Peyton Manning wasn’t going to be around. I do think it could be because of the shift above him.
Bill Polian’s has relinquished a great deal of control to his son, Chris Polian, who is now the team’s general manager. We’ve seen big changes in other areas as the younger Polian has put his stamp on the franchise.
Caldwell was brought into the organization by Tony Dungy who worked closely with Bill Polian.
It’s not difficult to see a scenario where Chris Polian looks for a coach with whom he’s more closely aligned.
Maybe that guy is Jim Tressel, who starts with the team this week as a consultant. Maybe it’s an outsider.
Maybe I’m overreaching and Caldwell winds up fine.
There could be some Manning influence at work as well. And we have no idea who’s in good standing with him right now.