INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -Jim Caldwell is the perfect transitional figure.
Quiet and unassuming, he lacks the big ego of most NFL head coaches. He rarely becomes rattled, has a life outside of football, and isn't prone to making power plays, even if he is ready to become an NFL head coach.
Sound familiar? It should. Caldwell's personality is a virtual carbon-copy of Tony Dungy, which is one reason the Indianapolis Colts designated Dungy's top assistant as their new head coach-in-waiting Monday.
``Without question, he was the person we felt was best qualified to succeed Tony,'' team president Bill Polian said in announcing the decision.
Caldwell couldn't have created a better script.
He gets to apprentice under one of his most trusted friends, Dungy, and with team officials, notably Polian and owner Jim Irsay. Someday, he has been assured, he will take over as coach of the only franchise in league history with three straight 7-0 starts and five straight seasons with at least 12 wins.
There's the added bonus of working with two-time league MVP Peyton Manning and 2007 NFL defensive player of the year Bob Sanders for many more years, as well has having most of the other Colts' key players - Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Dwight Freeney among them - locked up with long-term contracts.
``It's not very often you get an opportunity to take over and be involved with an organization that has been as successful as this one,'' Caldwell said. ``Typically, you go into a situation where you have to restructure, rebuild.''
Had Caldwell gotten a head coaching job with Arizona, Atlanta or Baltimore, all teams that have interviewed him over the past year, that's precisely the predicament he would have faced.
Those who know Caldwell best, believe the transition will work because of Caldwell's disciplined nature.
``I think he's a lot like Tony,'' Colts receivers coach Clyde Christensen said. ``He has a very quiet demeanor with a very funny personality. They're both men of few words, but they're great listeners and both have a certain playfulness about them.''
Irsay and Polian saw the same traits, which was enough to persuade them to take a chance on Caldwell.
This season, Caldwell will become more involved in the team's decision-making by participating in salary cap meetings, draft consultations and the like. It does not mean, however, his vote will carry as much weight as, say, Dungy.
Clearly, there will be questions about Caldwell's limited head-coaching experience.
In eight seasons at Wake Forest, his only other head coaching job at the pro or college level, Caldwell was a dismal 26-63. He also lost 28-13 in the only Colts game he coached, while filling in for Dungy at Seattle in December 2005.
Of course, Wake Forest has hardly been a traditional college power, and the 2005 loss came during a week in which the Colts were emotionally reeling from the death of Dungy's 18-year-old son, James, and playing primarily backups after wrapping up the AFC's top seed.
If the Colts learned anything over Dungy's first six seasons, it's that hires are about more than wins and losses.
``We had an opening for a quarterbacks coach (in Tampa), and it took 15 minutes for me to figure out he was that special person,'' Dungy said. ``I wanted him to come here with me in '02 when we came and he's just continued to grow. I think he's going to be a great leader for this organization at some point.''
Manning and Dungy both offered strong endorsements for Caldwell when he was doing the interview rounds this month, and Manning's father, Archie, has raved about how much his son likes working with Caldwell.
That part of it is not expected to change in 2008.
``In terms of my duties, they will not change,'' Caldwell said. ``I'm still going to be working with the quarterbacks like I've always done, and I'm certainly here to do anything that my boss asks me to do.''
It's also unlikely the 53-year-old native of Beloit, Wis., will change his approach.
``I have a unique opportunity to learn from men that know this business inside and out,'' Caldwell said. ``As a head coach, there's probably no better example in this country than the man I work for and support.
``It's going to be a real pleasure to hang around here for an extended period of time.''

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