Tony Dungy: Lions contacted me before Jim Caldwell


The Detroit Lions' hire of Jim Caldwell on Tuesday was viewed by many in the Motor City as an underwhelming, reactionary move after missing out on Ken Whisenhunt.

If the now-Tennessee Titans coach was Lions general manager Martin Mayhew's choice over Caldwell, it doesn't sound like even Wiz was the top candidate.

Tony Dungy, it appears, might have been the man Mayhew wanted all along.

The former Indianapolis Colts coach told the Detroit Free Press' Dave Birkett that he talked with Mayhew early in the Lions' search.

"He said, 'I got to start this off, are you interested at all?'" Dungy said. "And I said, 'No, Martin, I'm not.' And then we went on. We were able to talk about what we needed to talk about."

The two men talked about Caldwell's attributes.

Since the hiring, Dungy has run the gauntlet of media interviews on the positives his former assistant coach brings to the table.

Before the hiring, it is clear that Dungy had a heavy influence over Lions owner William Clay Ford and the team's brass selecting Caldwell.

"One time we had a phone conversation and we just talked about what they were looking for," Dungy said. "I really talked more to Mr. Ford about (Pittsburgh Steelers chairman) Dan Rooney and the way Dan went about his search. Dan's hired three coaches in 40-some years. They haven't been big-name guys when they've been hired, but they fit the profile of what he was looking for, and that's all I told Bill.

"I said, I think, from talking to Martin, 'You've got a profile. You know what you're looking for. Get the guy who fits that. Don't worry about what the media thinks, what the fans think, what anybody else thinks. Fill your profile and you're going to be fine,' and I think that's exactly what they've done."

The success of Caldwell's hire can't be fairly judged today, tomorrow or even nine months from now. This was not a "win the press conference" move by the Fords.

Fans aren't thrilled, but former players give the hire rave reviews. The only things that matter are quarterback Matthew Stafford's improvement and wins.

One final note:

The Lions wanted Dungy and settled for his understudy. Where have we heard that before? Oh, yes, back in 2001 when Detroit wanted Steve Mariucci and instead signed Marty Mornhinweg.

The latest "Around The League Podcast" featured discussion on Championship Sunday and an interview with Panthers star Greg Hardy.