ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —** Lions head coach Jim Caldwell understands that his career trajectory gained a lot with Peyton Manning at the helm during his time together in Indianapolis, where Manning won a Super Bowl and led the Colts to playoff appearances in 11 of 14 seasons.
The Broncos wide receivers got plenty of reps to start the second practice of the week and lead off our practice gallery.
"It was extremely beneficial because of the fact that we didn't lose a whole lot of games back in those days," Caldwell said. "Any time that you're winning and winning consistently, it certainly, indeed, helps your career. He was a big part of that."
From 2002 to 2008, Caldwell was the Colts' quarterbacks coach and assistant coach, and then became the head coach in 2009. In that first season leading the team, Caldwell helped the Colts go to the Super Bowl again.
"He and I just sort of developed a routine in meetings, in practice, pregame—we always kind of had a purpose to everything we were doing," Manning said. "He really helped me with that. I really felt like my game just sort of took another notch upward just because of that consistent routine and the attention to the fundamentals and the techniques, doing the little things right. That just had a huge impact on me."
But Caldwell's success didn't end when he left Indianapolis following a 2-14 season in 2011 when Manning missed the entire year recovering from a neck injury. The Ravens moved quickly to hire Caldwell to coach their quarterbacks and by the season's end, he had been elevated to offensive coordinator and helped the Ravens win Super Bowl XLVII.
In 2014, the Lions gave Caldwell his second head-coaching opportunity. With him at the helm, Detroit returned to the playoffs three years after its last appearance.
Though the Lions are off to an 0-2 start, Manning doesn't foresee that winless streak lasting defining Detroit's talent or Caldwell's coaching ability.
"[It's] no surprise that he's gotten Detroit back going again," Manning said. "They had such a great year last year and they're really a great team. Their record obviously is not what they want it to be, but I don't see them as an 0-2 team. He's a great fundamental teacher, very patient coach, and I know that's really helped Detroit kind of get it going."
Since they each left Indianapolis, Manning and Caldwell have been on opposite sidelines three times when Caldwell was with the Ravens, and what the Lions coach has seen in Manning do in a different uniform is not much different than what he saw 13 years ago.
"All that I know is that he's still very effective," Caldwell said. "He's still throwing touchdown passes, he's still winning and he's on the verge of shattering almost every record that there is, in terms of passing, in the league."