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Dan Miller: Jim Caldwell's first impression counts

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Martin Mayhew, Jim Caldwell and Tom Lewand at Ford Field on Wednesday. Martin Mayhew, Jim Caldwell and Tom Lewand at Ford Field on Wednesday.
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By Dan Miller
FOX 2 Sports Director

DETROIT (WJBK) -- Ok, let me start with a disclaimer. I am the voice of the Detroit Lions. While I am not paid by them, I do work "for" them. So if you think I tend to look for the positives in what happens with them, guilty as charged. That being said, I think if you listen to our broadcasts on Sunday, (Jim) Brandy (Brandstatter) and I are never shy about criticizing them when it's warranted.     

Moving on.  It's been a very strange week. From the Whisenhunt lay-up that wasn't really a lay-up to the hiring of Jim Caldwell, fans have been on a roller coaster.  And frankly, it's a roller coaster that made many of them sick to their stomach. To say that there was a divided opinion when it came to Caldwell's arrival would be accurate. To say that the local reaction was overwhelmingly negative would also be accurate.

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Curiously, the national reaction was different. There were still critics who said the hiring ranged from awful to uninspiring. But around NFL circles it was more highly regarded including the numerous Caldwell backers that reached out to the team on his behalf. I thought one of the coolest examples of that was Peyton Manning calling Matthew Stafford to fill him in on what to expect. Stafford is a huge Manning fan and I'm sure that call meant a lot.

Anyway, emotions ruled for a couple of days and I think they did at the press conference as well. I didn't talk to anybody inside Ford Field that wasn't impressed with his presentation.  Honestly, I was. More than that, I was floored. And again, honestly, I think it's because my expectations were very low. I expected the guy that I'd seen on the sidelines on Sundays.  Void of emotion, almost appearing detached. He was anything but what I expected.
I went from worried and skeptical to inspired.

I think he "won" the press conference. That's a term that teams in professional or even college sports will use when they make a hire. You want a buzz, you want people to walk out feeling good. First impressions last, both good and bad. It was important for fans to get to know him and understand him better and I thought he hit it out of the park.

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But, and let's be honest here, today will just end up a footnote in the Jim Caldwell story.  Like Bobby's bus tickets, or Marty's bars, or Mooch's Easter Egg hunts, or Rod's pad level, or Jim wanting to find the next Bobby Layne. Some funny moments, some inspiring moments, some confusing moments, but in the end, just memorable parts of a much bigger story.

VIDEO: Dan Miller talks Caldwell hire with GM Martin Mayhew

So where does that leave us? Some people will remain angry about the hire. They have a right. They can point to his time at Wake Forest, rumors that he was going to be fired in Baltimore or questionable in-game decisions he's made in the past.  

Others, like me, may point to today and take it as a sign of hope that this guy can execute the game plan he laid out and turn a talented "group of players" into a talented "team."
We can argue at the bar, on twitter, in the grocery store or at the gas station. Bottom line is one thing will dictate whether or not the Lions got it right.  The results next fall and the results next January and, hopefully, beyond.

We can fortify our camps for the offseason. The battle to determine where Jim Caldwell will rank among Lions' hires will truly begin to yield tangible results when they start keeping score again.

VIDEO: Miller, Lewand talk Lions future

Here's the cool thing. Most of the people that hate the hire, want to love it. Because that would mean the team is winning. That's most of them. Some would like to see the team lose so that they can say "I told you so." The truth is though that most believers, semi-believers and skeptics want the same thing: to see this team succeed.

I feel better tonight than I did this morning. I understand all too well though that the true test will be how I feel every Sunday next season. And I can't wait. 

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