INDIANAPOLIS – Bill Polian won’t say the Jaguars’ path to competitiveness will be easy. Nor will he say it will be short, necessarily.
What he will say he is this:
The person responsible for guiding the Jaguars along that path, David Caldwell, is the right person for the position. Of that, Polian has no doubt.
“He’s more than ready,” Polian said during the NFL Scouting Combine, which will continue through Tuesday at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis.
Polian, a five-time NFL Executive of the Year, hired Caldwell into the NFL with Carolina in 1996. Caldwell also worked under Polian for 10 years in Indianapolis, helping the Colts to eight playoff appearances from 1999-2000 and 2002-2007 and to the Super Bowl title following the 2006 season.
Caldwell, named the Jaguars’ general manager in January, faces a difficult task, Polian said during the combine. The team that finished 2-14 last season and holds the No. 2 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft needs enough difference-makers that competitiveness may not come immediately.
But Polian this week said Caldwell in time can change the direction of the franchise.
“He’s a great young guy – a thorough professional, a really good judge of talent, very organized and a hard, hard worker,” Polian said.
Polian, now an analyst for ESPN, said not only does Caldwell have strong football values and a knowledge of what it takes to win, “he’s going to do what it takes to win.”
“He’s going to attack the problems that the Jags have on the personnel front aggressively, but he’s not going to be foolhardy,” Polian said.
Caldwell this week reiterated a point he and Owner Shad Khan have made since Caldwell’s hiring in early January – that the Jaguars’ rebuilding will be done, particularly initially, through the draft with free agency mostly a supplement.
Polian, who took a similar approach when he took over the Colts in 1998, supported that approach.
“He’s well aware of the cap issues that impinge upon growing your roster, so he’s going to make wise investments along those lines,” Polian said.
“He’s absolutely ready,” Polian said. “He’s ready to step in and handle that job. There’s nothing he’s going to face that he hasn’t seen before. I’m confident he’ll do a good job.”
Tom Telesco, who worked with Caldwell in Indianapolis and who recently took over as general manager in San Diego, said on Thursday Caldwell was a strong evaluator of talent with outstanding communication skills.
Polian agreed, and said Caldwell’s time in Atlanta helped prepare him for the Jaguars’ position.
Caldwell worked under Polian until leaving for Atlanta in 2008. He worked in an executive role with the Falcons, serving as director of college scouting from 2008-2011 and director of player personnel this past season under General Manager Thomas Dimitroff.
“It’s good to know how another club operates,” Polian said. “It’s good to take the bedrock values that you learned in one situation and then apply it and test it against what other people do. He’s had a thorough grounding in the Colts’ system, and then he’s had grounding and executive experience in the Falcons’ system. You can’t do much better than that.”
Polian also said Caldwell was strong as a talent evaluator, and just as strong in the other areas managing a football operation.
“He sees it and sees it well,” Polian said. “He understands the nuances. He understands draft management. He’s well-prepared for it. He’s had experience with two systems and two types of leadership.
“He’s checked every single box, including the clubs he has been with having outstanding success. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be a success in Jacksonville.”
Polian said that while that’s true it’s just as true that there is much rebuilding to do. He estimated that the team needs about 12 key difference-making players, a number difficult to reach in a single offseason.