The Detroit Lions offered what many around the NFL thought was one of the two best coaching opportunities this offseason, rivaled only by what Houston could offer. Their next head coach was going to benefit from stable ownership, a relatively new stadium and two of the game's most dynamic players in Calvin Johnson and Ndamukong Suh. The Lions' next head coach also would inherit a talented young quarterback in Matthew Stafford, an electric running back in Reggie Bush and an offensive line trending in the right direction.
The fact that the Lions leveraged all this for Jim Caldwell, who might not have had a future with the Baltimore Ravens regardless, will not invigorate the fan base. Reports suggesting the Tennessee Titans outbid Detroit for Ken Whisenhunt reinforce perceptions the Lions settled for Caldwell. These initial perceptions make Caldwell's hiring an easy target for derision. Those familiar with Caldwell's tenure as the Indianapolis Colts' head coach from 2009 through 2011 know he suffered from poor game management at times. They know Peyton Manning drove the Colts' success, and because of that, it's tougher to figure what role Caldwell or any other coach might have played. It's also true that Caldwell could be going into the job with a couple of first-time NFL coordinators.
There are certainly questions surrounding this hire and whether it's a good one for the Lions' long-term future. I'm not sure what kind of head coach Caldwell will make in Detroit, but I do think Stafford could be a big winner based on what I've heard from people familiar with Caldwell's approach to the position. That is a start, and no small detail.