Two NFC North rivals of the Bears, the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings, have officially named their newest head coaches, with the Lions hiring Jim Caldwell and the Vikings tabbing Mike Zimmer for the job. The Bears will be playing against these men twice a year, so what should the team, as well as the fans, expect from these new hires?
Caldwell is best known for his tenure as head coach with the Indianapolis Colts. In his first season, the season immediately after Tony Dungy’s retirement, Caldwell helped lead the Colts to the Super Bowl, which they ultimately lost to the New Orleans Saints. Caldwell decided to sit out his starters in the second half of the Colts Week 16 match-up with the New York Jets, when the Colts were 14-0. This decision epitomizes Caldwell, a stoic and unemotional coach that would rather win a Super Bowl than go undefeated. That decision was unpopular, as was Caldwell by the time of his departure.
Caldwell was the unfortunate coach that had to deal with the Peyton Manning injury. In his final season, the Colts went 2-14 with Curtis Painter starting most games at Quarterback. He was fired following the season and moved on to Baltimore to coach the Quarterbacks, specifically Joe Flacco. When the team’s offense became stagnant during the 2012 season, Caldwell replaced Cam Cameron as Offensive Coordinator and helped lead the Ravens to a victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl 47. After one more season on the job, he was hired by the Lions.
As fans will find out, Caldwell is the anti-Jim Schwartz. Schwartz was fiery and never could seem to control his team. Caldwell, as mentioned, is always calm and stone-faced. He won’t allow players like Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley to take stupid penalties that could cost the team games. While his resume isn’t great, that fact alone may be all the already-talented Lions need to get over the proverbial hump and into playoff success.
The Lions’ hire, Mike Zimmer, is a defensive coach, who has been coaching since 1979. For the past six seasons, he has been in charge of the Cincinnati Bengals’ defense. This season, the Bengal defense was third in Total Defense, allowing 305.5 YPG, while ranking fifth in Scoring Defense, allowing 19.1 PPG. This has become a normal occurrence for the Bengals, who have been a Top 10 defense in both categories each of the past three seasons. While the Vikings have their problems on offense, their defense has some major holes. Unlike the offense, who has players such as Adrian Peterson, Greg Jennings, and Cordarrelle Patterson, the defense is lacking in star power and playmakers. Replacing Leslie Frazier with another defensive coach is a great move. Zimmer, however, has no head coaching experience.
While the Bears didn’t make the playoffs, the offensive turnaround was apparent under Marc Trestman. If Zimmer has as much of an impact on the Viking defense, they will be giving the Bears fits for years to come.
Both coaches come from the extremely physical AFC North, and as we saw with the Bears defense last season, physicality is their downfall. Teams were able to throw the Bears around in the trenches last season, and if the coaches bring the hard nosed style of football usually played by the Ravens and Bengals, it could spell disaster for the team.
While the two coaches have had little to no success as head coaches so far, their styles of play and attitudes make them both very legitimate hirings for both teams. This isn’t to say they will overtake the Bears anytime soon, but both teams are only a few personnel decisions away from becoming legitimate contenders in the NFC North.