Carolina Panthers senior assistant Jim Caldwell, one of the faces of the NFL in terms of Black head-coaching hires the past few decades, said he doesn’t plan to pursue another head-coaching job.
“Right now, the only job that I’m concerned about is the job I do here, right here and now,” the former Indianapolis Colts and Detroit Lions head coach said on Tuesday. “I’m not worried about the future or anything else. I don’t plan on being a head coach from this point forward.”
Caldwell, 68, was fired as the head coach of the Lions after the 2017 season. He has interviewed for more than half a dozen head-coaching jobs since, including the Panthers’ and Denver Broncos‘ openings this season.
Frank Reich hired Caldwell as a senior assistant to report to him on all phases of the game after getting the head-coaching job following Carolina’s search that included nine candidates.
“When I didn’t get a head-coaching job, I immediately sort of changed the plan in terms of what I was looking for next,” Caldwell said. “I knew I was at the stage where I wanted to be back in the building somewhere.
“And so, I did have some opportunities to kind of look at, and I was happy when Frank called.”
Of the five teams with head-coaching openings this offseason, only the Houston Texans hired a minority coach — DeMeco Ryans. Only the Texans, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington Commanders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers currently have minority head coaches among the 32 teams.
Caldwell said he will continue to strive to get more Black head coaches in the league. He just won’t be part of that group.
“When you look at the numbers, they speak for themselves,” he said of the league’s track record for hiring Black head coaches. “There’s been volumes and volumes of articles written and reporting on television about the lack of diversity in terms of the head-coaching position.
“But there’s been a lot of things in the background to try to improve that.”
Caldwell applauded the effort of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent for “trying to scratch and dig and find different ways to enhance” minority hirings.
Caldwell said he will remain part of the Quarterback Coaching Summit aimed at getting more offensive-minded Black coaches in the college ranks ready for the NFL and head-coaching positions.
Caldwell said that seems “to be the avenue to reaching a head-coaching position.”
One reason Reich, the original quarterback of the Panthers in 1995, was hired by Carolina owner David Tepper was his experience as a playcaller.
Reich confirmed on Tuesday that he plans to continue calling plays for the Panthers with the goal to one day turn over that job to new offensive coordinator Thomas Brown, who is Black.
Reich also hired a Black defensive coordinator in Ejiro Evero, who had the same role with the Broncos last season.
Those are all steps that Caldwell says will help pave the road for Black coaches to become head coaches in the future, but for him, his time as a head coach has passed.
“My focus is on doing the absolute best job for this organization at this particular point in time,” said Caldwell, who has called North Carolina home since 1993, when he was the head coach at Wake Forest in Winston-Salem. “Me, at my station in life, I want to be as good as I possibly can at this.”
Caldwell is one of two former head coaches on Reich’s staff. The other is Dom Capers, the original head coach of the Panthers, who is a senior defensive consultant.
Reich has put together one of the most veteran staffs in the league. With only a tight ends coach yet to hire, his staff has 191 years of NFL coaching experience and another 75 years as players.
That group has a combined 10 Super Bowl rings, including two won by Caldwell, in 2006 as the assistant head coach of the Colts and in 2012 as the offensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens.
Caldwell joked that he didn’t have to give reporters an evaluation of the Carolina roster because when you’re not the head coach, “there’s some questions I don’t have to answer.”
Reich also was vague on the roster, particularly at quarterback, the team’s biggest need. Asked if Carolina would pursue former Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, he said “that’s an interesting question,” adding it’s too early in the process to answer.
That Carolina currently is on the lower end of the NFL in salary cap space will influence that.
But Reich did thank Tepper for living up to his comment that there’s not a salary cap on hiring coaches as it pertained to putting together a staff of veteran coaches like Caldwell.
“That doesn’t mean it was an open checkbook,” he said. “It just means we were willing to do whatever we needed to get the right coaches.”
Caldwell, who was on the Indianapolis staff when Reich first became a coach there in 2006, is thankful for his new opportunity.
“You have to have a level belief in that person,” Caldwell said of Reich. “You have to have a pretty good understanding of what his character is like as well. All those were known factors with me and Frank.
“Plus, the role in itself. I really like this role. It was tailor-made just for me. It was ideal because I can use all the gifts God has given me in this role.”