Jim Caldwell (right), an effective teacher, was a natural choice for Tony Dungy as quarterbacks coach
You step into Jim Caldwell's office at One Buc Place to chat with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' new quarterbacks coach. You grab a chair, spin it around to face Caldwell's desk, take a seat.
Turns out you're sitting in Shaun King's chair. You're surprised it's not uncomfortably warm.
Over the coming months, King will spend hours in this chair, studying video with Caldwell, discussing technique, learning the Bucs' reconditioned offense. It will be the first offseason together for King and Caldwell, who was just added to the Bucs' staff last week, after former QB Coach Clyde Christensen was promoted to offensive coordinator.
The chair may be normal, but King is certainly on a hot seat, as is Caldwell. That's the nature of business in the NFL. Quarterback is generally considered the most crucial position on the field, and it's the first place people look when a team is teetering between moderate success and the ultimate prize.
"It is a position that is highly scrutinized," said Caldwell. "(Penn State Head Coach) Joe Paterno used to always say that it's a position that gets too much credit when you win and too much blame when you lose."
King has won 14 of his 21 regular season starts since joining the Bucs in 1999, certainly an impressive start. It's up to Caldwell, the head coach at Wake Forest the past eight seasons, to help King, and the Buccaneers, advance to the next level.
A highly successful veteran of 19 coaching seasons, Caldwell accepts such pressure casually, quietly confident in his teaching abilities and the skill of his charges. He has been with the team for only a few days, learning the offense, surveying the roster, watching game tape. He's getting a feel for the Buccaneers. Let's take a moment to give Buccaneer fans a feel for Jim Caldwell.
You've had a long and successful career coaching on the college level. Had it always been a plan of yours to one day try your hand in the NFL, and how did you end up with the Buccaneers?
"I always had an interest. A number of guys that I've coached with had coached in the NFL and enjoyed it. Dennis Green and several others that I've known through the years, even some guys that were on my staff, had been in the league and thought it was a great challenge. I certainly did think about it from time to time.
"At that time, after leaving Wake Forest University, I had begun to explore some options and had talked to a few people in regard to some opportunities (in the NFL). I guess there was probably some research on (the Bucs') end. They were looking for a particular type of individual and had looked at a number of different options. It just so happens that I had expressed an interest, and things worked out."
Have you had an opportunity to do any review work on the Bucs' quarterbacks yet?
"I've had a chance to review some of the film. I'm still going through that process of familiarizing myself not only with the players, but schematically as well. I'm assessing as I go along, but it's certainly a great group of guys to coach. I've talked to most of them already by phone or in person. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to work with them."
Do you have any early impressions regarding starter Shaun King?
"You can tell he's a very bright and intelligent guy, and he certainly has ability. I've had a chance to go out on the field with him already, work on some fundamentals. We threw the ball the other day, sat down and watched some film, got to know each other a little bit. I'm really looking forward to coaching him."
Did you have any previous experience with any of the Bucs' quarterbacks?
"I'm familiar with Joe Hamilton. I had Joe at football camps when I was coaching the quarterbacks at Penn State, when he was a young guy. Then, obviously, we competed against him for his four years in college, so I've had a chance to see him up close and personal a couple of different ways. I met him when he was in the eighth grade and he was certainly well beyond his years in terms of maturity level.
How would you describe your coaching style?
"I'm not certain I could classify it for you. I am certainly a detail-oriented guy – I think you have to be any time you coach in any position. I love to study and investigate and try to find every opportunity to gain an advantage. My teaching style is such where I teach at a fairly quick pace. There's no question these guys will be able to keep up, they're a bright group of guys."
Clyde Christensen and Tony Dungy believe that Shaun King is likely to make his biggest professional improvement this offseason, between his first and second full seasons as a starter. Does that belief add any pressure to your position?
"No, no. In this game, there's always pressure. There's certainly no more pressure that could be added on top of what those of us who love the game put on ourselves. I don't expect this situation to be any different."
Well, then, do you agree that this will be a critical offseason in King's development?
"I think every year is critical. This one is, no question about it. It's very, very important to improve every year, and I think he's well on his way to doing just that."
What's your interpersonal approach with your players on the job – laid back, straightforward, aggressive, friendly, etc.?
"Well, this is my first experience on the NFL level, but coaching is coaching. One of the things that is extremely important to me is teaching and teaching fundamentals. I'm not a bashful guy, but I'm also not a guy that screams and yells. I do think I can communicate, get my point across and teach in a fashion that will help the players understand what we're trying to get accomplished as an offense."
Are there any technical aspects of the position that you always start with in teaching quarterbacks?
"It depends on how advanced they are. I look at everything, every little detail, from grip to ball location to you name it. In a lot of cases, there are certain phases that your guys have total control of and understand. So we try not to nitpick but we stress the fundamentals. That's extremely important, so every phase of what we do will be looked at.
"There are basic fundamentals in terms of delivering the football. In college, a great majority of the guys that came to you had a good idea of how to throw the ball, but there certain things that maybe they needed coaching on. That's regardless of what level you're at. You can get into bad habits whether you're 20 or 50."
Do you believe your head coaching experience at Wake Forest is a plus in terms of approaching this new position?
"Certainly I think eight years in that arena have given me the opportunity to see things from another vantage point. That experience was invaluable and I can appreciate things from both sides."
The Bucs' offense will apparently continue to focus on the run and look for many of their long pass plays off the play-action. Do you believe play-action is a strength of King's?
"We haven't had a chance to throw with receivers and the rest of the offense, so that's tough for me to assess at this point. Obviously, I can look at film and see that he has been able to throw the ball well off play-action in the past. He has an ability to do a number of things extremely well. That will certainly be a focal point of what we do with him."
Speaking of King's strengths, do you believe he will be encouraged to be mobile in the offense this season?
"Well, we're just in the basic stages of formulating the offense right now, and Clyde is putting it all together. We'll look at those individuals and try to determine what they do best and put them in the best possible situations, athletically. That's for every player, including the quarterbacks. Clyde has stressed that on several occasions already, and that's the process we're involved in right now. We're looking at all of our players, determining what they do best and trying to build an offense around that."
What type of offense did you run at Wake Forest?
"It depended on the year. When we first got there, we were undersized and we didn't have guys on the front line that could control the line of scrimmage. So we were more of a passing team. We were pass-happy, actually; we threw the ball all over the place. We did that for a few years until we got to the point where we were physical enough and big enough to maintain a presence on the line of scrimmage. Then we ran the ball a little bit more, and we certainly performed better when we had a good, solid running game.
"Actually, the best year we had there, in 1999, we were more of a run-oriented team. We turned the ball over less, put the ball in the end zone more and played a solid, field-position game. And we won more games that year than we had ever won before (at Wake Forest)."
You're in the process of learning the Buccaneers' offense, even as it is reshaped. Are you familiar with the components that you're seeing?
"Somewhat, but not totally. Like I said, it's changing a little bit as we talk. What I do know is that there are a lot of fine players on this squad"
What are your some of your interests outside of football?
"Well, in this game, we don't get a lot of time for outside interests. I'm coming off a period of eight years where I had about two or three weekends off a year. My wife and I have four children, so a lot of that time is spent on family time. When I get a chance, I enjoy reading, I enjoy playing golf – I'm not very good at it because I don't have much time to practice."
What do you sense as the attitude around team headquarters in your first few weeks?
"Great optimism. It's tremendous. This is a great organization. The quality of the people in the organization is quite evident as soon as you walk on the grounds here. The administration, the coaching staff, even the players I've met so far are quality individuals with great character."