INDIANAPOLIS — New Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell learned a valuable lesson during his last season as Indianapolis Colts coach - how important it is to have a dependable backup quarterback in the NFL.
Caldwell was fired after a 2-14 season with the Colts in 2011, when Peyton Manning missed the year with a neck injury and Indianapolis shuffled through backups Dan Orlovsky, Kerry Collins and Curtis Painter.
"You want to have, if you can, a guy that can step in there and win you a few games," Caldwell said this week at the NFL combine. "You hope that your guy stays healthy, but the reality of it is that it may not happen, so you've got to have a guy that's capable in that spot."
The Lions are in the market for a backup quarterback this off-season.
Matthew Stafford is the no-question starter, but veteran Shaun Hill will be an unrestricted free agent March 11, and Kellen Moore, the No. 3 quarterback the last two years, has never taken an NFL snap.
The Lions made it a priority to re-sign Hill when he reached free agency two years ago, but general manager Martin Mayhew said the plan at that position is "still kind of defining itself" this off-season.
Hill turned 34 earlier this year, and gone is offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, who was with Hill during the early part of his career with the Minnesota Vikings. Orlovsky, Painter and Luke McCown, who was with new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi with the New Orleans Saints last year, are among other free agents.
"We'll get into the free agency market and see what it looks like and see if there's a veteran out there that's right for us that we feel comfortable with," Mayhew said. "And if not, then we'll go into the draft."