Panthers’ Caldwell on role with team

Panthers senior assistant Jim Caldwell doesn’t plan to pursue head coach vacancies in the future.

The former Detroit Lions and Indianapolis Colts head coach interviewed for the Panthers’ top opening in January. But after being hired by the man who eventually landed the head coach job, Frank Reich, Caldwell has turned the page on any hopes of landing another top position.

On Tuesday, Caldwell, who turned 68 last month, made it clear that he is all in on his new position in Charlotte.

“First of all, I think often times in your career, you’ve got to do resets once in a while,” Caldwell said. “Right now, the only thing that I’m concerned about is the job that I do here — right here and now. I’m not worried about the future or anything else. I don’t plan on being a head coach from this point forward. But my focus is on doing the absolute best job for this organization at this particular point in time, and I won’t look any further. Some of the younger guys, it’s a little bit different, right? But me, my station in life, I want to be as good as I can be in this setting.”

Caldwell — who also interviewed for the Denver Broncos’ vacancy during this year’s cycle — has worked as a consultant for teams over the past couple of seasons.

The veteran coach has also worked with the NFL Quarterback Coaching Summit, an event which offers education and exposure to minority college and NFL assistant coaches looking to climb the NFL ladder. New Houston Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans and New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh took part in the event before their eventual promotions, according to Caldwell. New Panthers offensive coordinator Thomas Brown also worked with the program last offseason.

Caldwell — who is among the most notable Black coaches in the NFL — was asked if the league was doing enough with the Rooney Rule and other programs to increase the presence of minority coaches and general managers in the NFL. Caldwell noted that he was encouraged that the league was going beyond talking about the lack of diversity and actually addressing the problem behind the scenes.

“When you look at the numbers, they speak for themselves,” Caldwell said. “There’s been just volumes and volumes of articles written, reporting on television, about the lack of diversity in terms of the head-coaching position. But there’s been a lot of things done in the background to try to improve that.”

Reich — who previously worked under Caldwell during his first coaching stint in Indianapolis from 2006 to 2010 — raved about the importance of Caldwell’s presence on the staff. Caldwell arrived in town last week, and Reich noted that the longtime head coach is already benefiting him and his staff.

“Jim was a huge hire — just a wealth of experience,” Reich said. “Obviously, Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell were the first coaches that hired me (as a coach), gave me my start — and I worked for Jim, so I saw first-hand his brilliance as an offensive mind. He’s a leader, he’s got great wisdom — so he’s a very experienced and successful person in everything he’s done. I’ll lean on him as a former head coach, as an offensive ‘guru’ in a lot of ways — I already have. It’s been a short time, and I already have.”

Reich said Caldwell’s role will be unusual because of his experience in all phases of a coaching staff. The head coach wants Caldwell to offer input in everywhere that he sees fit.

Since Caldwell has been a head coach in both college — at nearby Wake Forest — and in the NFL, he will be able to look at the entire team “more globally” than a senior assistant assigned to just one group.

“I’m just going to be a little bit of everywhere in terms of the offense, working with the defense some, and then also with the special teams unit,” Caldwell said.

When Reich called Caldwell about the job on the Panthers’ staff, Caldwell was excited about the opportunity.

Despite his NFL coaching stops in Tampa, Indianapolis, Baltimore, Detroit and Miami since leaving Wake Forest, Caldwell and his family have called North Carolina home since 1993. Caldwell’s children and grandchildren remain in the state, and he has maintained a home in the state.

The proximity to family and his relationship with Reich were key factors in Caldwell’s decision to take on his new role with the Panthers.

“It makes sense in a bunch of different reasons,” Caldwell said. “When you say, outside of the relationship with Frank, I think that’s one of the main reasons. A guy who I’ve worked with — who I know — he knows me, he knows my strengths, he knows my weaknesses as well — and there are many (smiles) — so that’s a huge reason. But then also, the organization. As you well know, I had the opportunity to visit with (Panthers owner David Tepper) and (GM Scott Fitterer) and the rest of the crew that were doing the interview process, and felt a really good synergy there as well. So that was also part of it.”

Mike Kaye covers the Carolina Panthers for The Charlotte Observer. Kaye previously covered the entire NFL for Pro Football Network, the Philadelphia Eagles for NJ Advance Media and the Jacksonville Jaguars for First Coast News. He is a graduate of the University of North Florida.

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