ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- On Sunday in Baltimore, newly promoted Ravens Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell will be calling the plays for the first time of his 35-year coaching career.
Despite the fact that the Broncos have no tape to watch of a Caldwell-called game, there is someone on the Denver sideline who has an idea of what to expect from a Caldwell-led offense.
“Jim Caldwell had a tremendous influence on me as my quarterbacks coach,” said quarterback
Caldwell was Manning’s quarterbacks coach from 2002-07, before being promoted to associate head coach in 2008 and then head coach from 2009-11.
During the six seasons that Caldwell was Manning’s position coach, the quarterback completed 66.5 percent of his passes, throwing for 29,210 yards and 222 touchdowns for a passer rating of 100.5 – all NFL bests during that span.
Manning also earned three of his league-record four MVP awards in those years, and the Colts won Super Bowl XLI with Manning earning the game’s MVP award in 2006. During Caldwell and Manning’s time together in Indianapolis, the Colts made it to the playoffs nine seasons in a row.
“I really felt he took my game to another level,” Manning said. “He’s also been a tremendous friend to me and mentor. I miss being around him every day and I miss his friendship every day. That’s how I feel about Jim.”
While Caldwell was never Manning’s offensive coordinator, the quarterback has worked with him as both a position coach and head coach.
“As a coach, he’s very detail-oriented,” Manning recalled. “He and I are very similar that way – very routine-orientated. He and I kind of had a routine that we did during meetings and practice every day for however many years that was before he became the head coach. He’s as fine of a man as I know. I miss being in his presence every day, because that was really a fun time that he and I had together.”
Caldwell, who had been the Ravens quarterbacks coach, replaced Cam Cameron on Monday, a day after the Ravens dropped their second consecutive game.
“I have great respect for both those guys,” Manning said. “I’ve known Cam Cameron a long time. He recruited me at the University of Michigan years and years ago and, like I said, I can’t speak for Jim in that role there, I can just speak for Jim and what he meant for me and his friendship to me.”
Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said the change in coordinators will not mean a drastic change in the team’s offensive approach when the Broncos come to town on Sunday.
“We’re running the same offense,” Harbaugh said. “We haven’t changed the offense, per se. As far as how we game-plan this game, it will have Jim’s imprint on it along with the rest of the coaches and what they did for 48 hours there. So, it’s going to be fun to see how it practices today and how it looks. I know that we are all excited. I was excited, everybody’s excited about – we talked about it Monday – just going to work today and getting ready for this game, and it’s a good thing.”
Sunday’s matchup carries major AFC playoff implications. A Baltimore win would clinch the AFC North for the Ravens, while a Broncos win would keep Denver just a game behind New England for the coveted No. 2 seed and a first-round playoff bye.
The Broncos defense will try to garner as much information as it can from Manning’s experience with Caldwell during the week of preparation.
Despite the change in play caller, Broncos Head Coach John Fox is preparing for a similar Ravens offense to the one that has ranked ninth in scoring offense with an average of 25.5 points per game through the first 14 weeks of the season.
“All in all, I don’t think there are going to be wholesale changes,” Fox said. “That’s hard to do this late in the season, but we’re familiar with their offense, watching them in the offseason as well as our regular season breakdowns. I don’t think they’ll venture too far away. Possibly there will be a little more no-huddle – those types of things.”“It’ll come down to who executes the best,” Fox continued. “That’s the way it always does every week.”