ESPN reported Friday that the former head coach of an NFC North Division rival turned down a request to interview for the Minnesota Vikings open position. One day later, that coach said publicly that he did no such thing.
Jim Caldwell, who led the Detroit Lions for four seasons between 2014-17, took to Twitter Saturday morning to refute a report from Dan Graziano stating that Caldwell was not interested in the Vikings head coaching position or the same job with the Las Vegas Raiders.
“I would like to correct an erroneous report that I turned down opportunities to interview for the head coaching job with Minnesota and Las Vegas. Those reports are not true,” Caldwell wrote. “I have profound respect for both organizations and for the Wilf and Davis families, and I did not decline any opportunity to interview with them.”
ESPN Gets it Wrong on Caldwell and Vikings
The mistake came in an article co-authored by Graziano and fellow reporter Jeremy Fowler. It was filed under the ESPN+ section of the website and labeled “exclusive content,” as the two long-time NFL insiders dug into open head coaching jobs across the league and the top candidates to fill them.
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The piece was a mix of reporting and speculation, though Graziano cited several unnamed sources when contending Caldwell had given both the Vikings and the Raiders the proverbial cold shoulder.
The following is the full excerpt from the article, published on January 21:
According to multiple sources, the Raiders and Vikings both reached out to former Colts and Lions coach Jim Caldwell this week to request to interview him, and he declined both requests. This indicates strongly that Caldwell believes he will get one of the other open jobs, and my understanding is that he’s in the mix in both Chicago and Jacksonville and already is reaching out to candidates for his staff.
If I had to bet right now, I’d say Caldwell ends up in Chicago, where former Colts general manager Bill Polian is helping direct the search, though it’s obviously interesting that Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus is scheduled for a second interview there. The Bears were interviewing Bills defensive coordinator and former Vikings coach Leslie Frazier on Friday, and I’m told there’s still support for Frazier in their building. Former Eagles coach Doug Pederson is also someone to watch in Chicago if Caldwell doesn’t turn out to be its guy.
Caldwell Has Strong History of NFL Success
The pool of potential head coaches on the market for eight NFL vacancies is deep, but it could be argued that Caldwell is the cream of the crop.
Over four years in Detroit, Caldwell put together a winning record (36-28) and kept the Lions relevant every season during that stretch. Literally no other coach of that franchise in this century can make a similar claim.
Detroit went to the playoffs twice on Caldwell’s watch, in 2014 and 2016, losing road games in the Wildcard Round to the Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks, respectively.
Before Detroit, Caldwell captained the Indianapolis Colts for three seasons between 2009-11, replacing head coach Tony Dungy following the team’s Super Bowl win over the Chicago Bears the year before. Caldwell was wildly successful during the first two campaigns, amassing a record of 24-8. However, the Colts fell to the New York Jets in the Wildcard Round of the playoffs his first season and failed to make the playoffs the following year, despite winning 10 games.
Colts quarterback Peyton Manning then suffered a neck injury and missed all of 2011. Caldwell and the Colts were an abysmal 2-14 that season and his time as the head coach in Indianapolis ended after that year.
There has been no official announcement from the Vikings to date involving a request to interview Caldwell for the team’s open head coaching position. As of Saturday afternoon, Minnesota had not commented on the ESPN report of Caldwell turning down an interview ask from its front office or on the coach’s comments refuting that assertion.