ALLEN PARK — Jim Caldwell was his calm, steady self on Tuesday, less than 24 hours after the Lions’ 24-10 road win at the New York Giants.
Under “unflappable” in the dictionary you’ll find a photo of the Detroit Lions coach.
It’s the first time the Lions have started a season 2-0 since 2011 but that doesn’t really excite Caldwell.
“Only thing it guarantees you is that you won’t be 1-15, that’s about it, so still got a lot of work to do,’’ Caldwell said at his press conference.
It was an impressive win and could put the Lions on a path to earning national respect. They don’t get much, never have.
“I don’t think anybody’s ever been glowing in appreciation of us in which we don’t expect. That’s just how things are,’’ Caldwell said.
Indeed, the ESPN power rankings for Week 3 dropped the Lions from tenth to 12th after the Giants win. Four teams with 1-1 records are ranked ahead of Detroit.
Here are five differences he sees in this team:
1. They have built and developed a team that has multiple personalities, a requirement of a successful NFL team. A good team can’t always win with passing or a run game, the defense needs to be flexible too. The opposition can dictate that. “Like my old basketball coach used to always say to us, if we had a right-handed guy, make him play left-handed. So, we’d overplay that right side and make him go to the left if he’s a guy that was dominant right side, and he’d better be able to dribble with that left hand and have some balance and pass or otherwise his evening was going to be a rough one. And the same thing happens in this league,’’ Caldwell said. “They end up taking away some of the things that you think are your staples or things you’d like to do. So, you have to be able to adjust.’’ He added in every game at least two of the units — offense, defense or special teams — need to be dominant.
2. Caldwell is most impressed with how this group prepares. “That’s the bottom line. How our guys do a very, very good job of working at it, paying attention to the details, and the older guys are doing a tremendous job I think of setting examples for the younger ones, mentoring along the way,’’ Caldwell said. “And we got a serious group of young guys that have some talent that want to work at it and want to become good at their craft, so those are the things I’m most impressed with, is how hard we work.” The roster does include a good mix of veterans and young guys including rookies and second-year players. The veterans teach the youngsters while those young guys help invigorate the guys who have been around.
3. The coach has tried to mold this bunch into an indoor team with an outdoor mentality. He wants them to be able to win anywhere in any circumstances. “The reason why we feel that way is because you’re going to have to be able to be that way in order to win, and win consistently, so you have to be accustomed to practicing outside versus under all circumstances,’’ Caldwell said. “And you also have to be able to play on the inside as well, and play well, but speed is not something that you ever sacrifice, that’s the difference in this league. Guys can run, so you better be able to move, so Bob (Quinn) and those guys have been doing a great job of finding guys that can run for us.”
4. The Lions run game which has been an issue more or less since Barry Sanders retired took a step forward on Monday night. The Lions had 138 rushing yards (86 for Ameer Abdullah) and were able to ice the win by running the ball for long stretches in the fourth quarter. “I think overall we performed better. Not quite where we want to be yet, but we’re better. And I think Ameer is getting back into his old form. He ran hard and guys were patient with the running game, so our offensive line did a nice job there creating some holes for us, but we still got a ways to go in that area,’’ Caldwell said.
5. The ESPN broadcasters — Jon Gruden, in particular — were so impressed with the Lions during the game, they were campaigning for Bob Quinn to sign Caldwell to an extension. He’s in the final year of his contract. Caldwell has made it clear he doesn’t want to talk about it. He has not changed his tune. “Just like I’ve said before, I’ll say it a thousand times, I’ve told you guys I’ll answer it the same way now and you ask me eight weeks down the road, I’m only concerned about a couple things. It’s my men and my mission. And our mission is to win. Everything else will take care of itself,’’ Caldwell said. “And they aren’t worried about anything else other than that. So, that’s our focus.”