INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – One day after Tony Dungy announced his retirement, Jim Caldwell confronted the most difficult question he faces as the new coach of the Indianapolis Colts: What will he change in the post-Dungy era?
“He’s very tough to follow,” Caldwell said on Tuesday at his introductory news conference. “But I’m not competing with Tony. I want to build on the success we have had and move forward.”
Separating the two coaches is tough enough.
Both are 53 years old, had long careers as assistants and only one head coaching job before joining the Colts. Both openly discuss their religious beliefs and prefer actions to words. Both embrace the importance of working in the community as much as they do winning championships.
Yet Caldwell’s first, and perhaps most challenging, task will be proving he’s more than Dungy’s identical twin.
“I am my own person and I suspect that I may be a bit more emotional, at times, than him,” Caldwell said. “I worked for him for eight years, and I never heard him raise his voice one time, so I might break that record.”
Fans are more concerned with other records.
Caldwell takes over a team that has been to the NFL playoffs seven straight seasons, won at least 12 games in six consecutive seasons and has won five of the last six AFC South division titles. He has a solid foundation with three-time MVP Peyton Manning, 2007 defensive player of the year Bob Sanders, and bookend Pro Bowlers at receiver and defensive end.
Of course, the combination also dramatically increases the stakes for a first-time NFL head coach, like Caldwell.
Owner Jim Irsay and team president Bill Polian believe Caldwell will produce similar results despite making changes.
And after watching Caldwell for the past seven seasons, particularly the past 12 months as Dungy’s hand-picked apprentice, they believe the transition from Dungy to Caldwell is comparable to the move San Francisco made in the late 1980s when Bill Walsh handed the reins to George Seifert.
“I really think it is kind of like that,” Irsay said. “It’s really about saying ‘We’ve been great, but we need to be better, push it harder, do the things we need to do to make us better.’ That’s what I’m excited about.”
Irsay has given Caldwell a four-year contract. While not providing financial details, Irsay acknowledged Caldwell would get a pay raise comparable to what other first-time NFL head coaches make.
Caldwell joined Dungy’s staff in 2001 as Tampa Bay’s quarterbacks coach, then moved with Dungy to Indianapolis in 2002. Since then, he’s been in charge of Manning and backup Jim Sorgi although his duties expanded last season when he was made the successor-in-waiting.