Colts comfortable with change
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- Jim Caldwell is not Tony Dungy, but he appears very comfortable in his own skin for a guy who is replacing a coaching legend.
"I can't imagine an organization that prepared better for a transition like this," said Caldwell.
In fact, while quarterback Peyton Manning acknowledged that Dungy's principles as a coach are almost like a steady whisper circulating throughout the team, he also believes that the Colts are in capable hands with Caldwell, who has served as his position coach.
"I guess I've always looked at Jim as more than a position coach," Manning said. "This feels very natural."
It's because Jim Irsay, who has surprised many by rising to an elite status among NFL owners, and president/GM Bill Polian, a five-time executive of the year, had a plan.
"Tony had been talking about an endgame to his career for three years and he came very close to retiring two years ago," Polian said. "At that point I asked Tony if he would mind if we started to take Jim through a process of being our next head coach. Tony, being Tony, didn't hesitate and said, 'Absolutely, it's the right thing to do.'"
So after the 2007 season, Caldwell vacated his job as Manning's quarterback coach and was named the associate head coach. Caldwell said he shadowed every step Dungy made, even when there were player disciplinary issues where Dungy would say, "Here's the situation. Here are the facts. What would you do?"
"And the one thing Tony stressed to me is that no matter what, I always had to remember that any decision had to be in the best interest of the Colts," Caldwell said.
Polian explained: "We took Jim on a head-coaching seminar for a full year, from camp organization, practice organization and administrative organization. We took Jim through every meeting, every situation, as if he was the head coach. That included personnel discussions, draft evaluations, sitting in on every draft meeting and a seat at the table for the two days of the draft.
"So when it was time to take the torch from Tony, he had been through real rehearsal, so to speak."
Dungy, though, was proven. Polian likes to say of young players, "Looks good in practice, but let's see what happens when it's for real."
"Jim Caldwell has served under Tony for nine years in the NFL, eight years under Joe Paterno at Penn State -- both Hall of Fame coaches -- and he was a head coach for seven years at Wake Forest where he took that team to a new level whether people want to acknowledge that or not," Polian said. "I can go through a catalog of things Jim has done and prove that whenever he's had a challenge he has risen to the occasion."
What I saw and learned while visiting the Colts, the seventh stop on my training camp bus tour:
Chris Mortensen is a senior NFL analyst for ESPN.
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MORT GOES TO CAMP
ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen's 21-team bus tour of training camps is over. Mort's trip started in Arlington, Texas, where he met Dallas owner Jerry Jones at the team's new stadium and ended in Miami Gardens, Fla., for a visit with the Dolphins. Mort camp page