That means the Rooney Rule is working. "We're not talking about it as much and that's a good thing,'' said Caldwell, who was Indianapolis' assistant head coach three years ago when the Colts' Tony Dungy and the Bears' Lovie Smith were the first black coaches in Super Bowl history
When Caldwell leads the Indianapolis Colts onto the field for the Super Bowl on Sunday, he will be the fourth African-American coach in the last four Super Bowls following Dungy and Smith in 2007 and Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin last season. In addition, Jerry Reese, general manager of the New York Giants, the 2008 winner, also is African-American.
"I think the face of the league looks a lot different in 2010 than it did in 2002,'' Caldwell said as he prepared for Sunday's game. "I think a lot of that has to do with the opportunity that is being presented. There are some sharp guys out there that are certainly capable and deserve an opportunity.''
The rule was established in 2003 by a committee headed by Pittsburgh owner Dan Rooney and requires NFL teams to interview minority candidates for every coaching vacancy. The committee was established by then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue after Johnnie Cochran Jr. and Cyrus Mehri, two lawyers, pointed out the low percentage of minority coaches in the NFL compared to the high percentage of minority players.
It was expanded this year to include hirings for senior front-office positions -- there currently are five black general managers or the equivalent and six black coaches, one less than the high.
At one level, Caldwell is representative of a loophole in the rule that came up this season in Washington and Seattle.
The Redskins, who clearly were ready to hire Mike Shanahan even before they fired Jim Zorn, interviewed defensive backfield coach Jerry Gray while Zorn was still the coach, then hired Shanahan two days after the regular season ended. The Seahawks already had agreed in principle to hire Pete Carroll when they interviewed Minnesota defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.
Caldwell, meanwhile, was designated the Colts' coach-in-waiting a year ago, when he was Indianapolis' assistant head coach and Dungy announced he would retire at the end of the season. There was no requirement to interview anyone else in that situation, nor was there a requirement to hire a black coach a year ago when Seattle named Jim Mora as the successor to Mike Holmgren, who also announced it would be his last season.
Although Rooney's name is on the rule, it could just as easily be Dungy's.
His outspoken statements in 2002, when he believed a number of qualified African-American candidates were being passed over for recycled whites, led in part to the Cochran-Mehri news conference. That in turn, led to the creation of the Rooney committee.
And the four black coaches who have been in Super Bowls all coached under Dungy -- Caldwell, obviously, with the Colts, and Smith and Tomlin in Tampa Bay. Frazier, who is considered likely to be the next black head coach, was the defensive backs coach for Dungy in Indianapolis.
Fewell is now the New York Giants' defensive coordinator, and if he can fix a defense that fell apart in 2009, he'll be back as a candidate -- as Steve Spagnuolo became in 2007 when he fixed a Giants defense that ended up helping the team with the title. Spagnuolo was rewarded last year by being hired as head coach of the Rams (although you can question whether that truly was a reward).
Meanwhile, Caldwell is looking at an opportunity to become the third black coach in four seasons to win a title.
Even though he didn't benefit from the Rooney rule, he thinks it applies to others.
"It gives you an opportunity to get interviewed, to get in position, to get in front of the owners,'' he said. "I don't think it's perfect, but it's heading in the right direction.''