Other names were still out there, big names, small names, recognizable names. If the Lions wanted to wait a bit longer, they could have.

Martin Mayhew didn’t want to wait, and wasn’t concerned about a public-relations battle he couldn’t win. So the question isn’t just whether you believe in Jim Caldwell as Lions coach — he isn’t a popular pick among fans — but whether you believe in the judgment of those who pushed for him, and risked their reputations to do it.

That includes Mayhew and former Colts coach Tony Dungy, who advised the Lions extensively. It includes former players, current players and NFL people, who strongly endorsed Caldwell.

Others in the Lions organization craved a bigger splash, and according to a league source, one name was high on the list — Jon Gruden. The Lions explored the possibility right up until Monday night, when they got indications Gruden was intrigued, but not enough to leave the broadcast booth.

When Caldwell is introduced today — the first African-American head coach in Lions history — there will be plenty of questions about backup plans and spotty records. The job was Ken Whisenhunt’s if he wanted it but he headed to Tennessee instead, where he has more ties. The Lions would be wise not to waste much time disputing it because they’re not going to win over anybody unless they win games, and they know it.

Mayhew and Dungy ratcheted their push for Caldwell with William Clay Ford and Bill Ford Jr., and in the process, Mayhew put his standing as the Lions’ leader to the toughest test. It looks like an underwhelming hire, from Caldwell’s age (he turns 59 Thursday), to his modest 26-22 record as Colts head coach, to his 2-14 final season in Indianapolis.

But I’d be careful making rash judgments or underestimating a coach who may be mild-mannered and soft-spoken — like Dungy — but is highly respected around the NFL for his meticulous work with quarterbacks, including Peyton Manning. Caldwell will dissect Matthew Stafford’s footwork and turnover tendencies. He spent time with Stafford during his visit here, and although it wasn’t part of the interview process, Caldwell was thorough in his analysis and tape breakdown.