Via the Detroit Lions, here is a transcript of Jim Schwartz's comments at yesterday's season-ending press conference:
On the severity of the injuries this season:
"It was difficult to deal with. Playing three quarterbacks and having all three of them get hurt. I think in particular, when you look at what our offensive line did as far as protection, I thought our protection was much improved over last year. I think it showed in the statistics, not only the overall sack numbers but the hit numbers and also the percentage of sacks per pass play. We were much improved in all those areas. But we had to deal with three different quarterbacks so that made it very difficult. We saw early in the year and in preseason what Jahvid Best is and what he will be but we didn't see that for most of the remaining part of the season except for glimpses over the last four games or three games. There were significant injuries at every position. There's also been some good signs. The fact that you lose your starting quarterback and the guys that go in give you a chance to win. We didn't always win those game but they gave us a chance to win.
"We lost Gosder Cherilus who had had a very good season; very consistent season, very consistent training camp. And Corey Hilliard stepped in and we didn't see a significant drop in play. Corey played very good football over the course of that time. We had a very big signing in Kyle Vanden Bosch and he made a huge difference to this football team. But because of the depth that we had, the other guys stepping up, you didn't notice a big drop-off when he went out. Our defensive back situation was fairly well documented. We played Tye Hill, Eric King, Prince Miller; those were our corners in our last game, and even Nathan Vasher before he got hurt, and we were able to stay playing consistent football, not always great football, but consistent football with those guys. So it was obviously an issue to overcome. We didn't always do a good job with it but at the end of the year, we're probably in a little better place in some positions because of the injuries we've had. We know a little bit more about some younger players and we're a little bit more prepared to be able to deal with things like that in the future."
On if there is concern that DE Kyle Vanden Bosch may not return from his neck injury:
"Not a concern. A lot of people have come back from that same thing. We anticipate a full recovery. He's already chomping at the bit. He was lifting weights 12 hours after surgery, or whatever it was. That's not a long term concern."
On not needing to overturn the roster this upcoming offseason like the previous two:
"Even last year, we turned over significant portions of the roster, particularly defensively, and rightfully so after where we finished last year. We were able to add pieces on offense and (we're) counting on a lot of continuity on the offensive line and at the quarterback position. This year I think across the board offensively; defensively, we're still looking to improve our roster. We're looking to improve our starting 22, but we're not looking at overhauls. Even at positions where we do have a need; it's not like defensive back last year where we erased everybody but Louis Delmas and started over. We have a lot of guys that we'll continue forward with; they might not be starters, but we'll continue forward with; same thing with linebacker. I've talked a little bit before about having to address your starting 22 before you address depth. What's happened this year, sort of in relation to what (was) just asked, is we've been able to address a lot of the depth issues. It's a little bit like the defensive line last year; depth wasn't the issue coming into this year. We had some players that could step up and play depth. We needed front line players. I think that's probably the position we're at, or a situation we're at (with) a couple other positions also."
On establishing team identity:
"You know the identity will be a little bit different every single year and it will be because that identity will be foreign to the players that are on that team and who's in training camp and the offseason program and their personality and also their skill set. There's always going to be a little bit of a difference each year, but I think that we took a big step in some areas, like defensive line. In 2009 we had to blitz to get pressure on the quarterback. I don't know where we were, I think we had about 26.0 sacks last year, we had 44.0 this year. We obviously took a big jump there. Our blitz percentage went way down and as a result we didn't give up as many big plays. We still, early in the year, gave up more big plays than we did at the end, but you look at this last game, our ability to shut Adrian Peterson down, our ability to stop their passing game and things like that. A lot of it had to do with (the fact) that we blitzed on our terms rather than having to blitz to get pressure. I think that's on the defensive line and Kris Kocurek and the progress that they've all made there.
"I think offensively, as far as a personality, I think we have a lot of complimentary weapons that if teams try to take one of them away, we have other guys that can make them pay. If we have injuries we can go to other areas. Early in the season we lost Nate Burleson; that was a big setback, but Tony Scheffler was able to step in and play a lot of those slot roles. This last game we lost Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson stepped into Calvin Johnson's role; Schef stepped into Nate Burleson's role. You saw a lot of production stay up. I think there is something to be said for the team being consistent through the year. We didn't have that game where we lost 45-3, even our worst loss of the year, (to) the Patriots, we were within seven with 10 minutes left, whatever that was, and driving the football before we had the offensive pass interference penalty. We didn't finish that game as well as we finished other ones, but we were in every single game. There was never a game where we didn't have a good game plan, the players weren't ready to play, we got outclassed early and couldn't finish the game and I think that's a tribute to a couple of things: No. 1, the coaching staff, No. 2 the resiliency of the players and No. 3 the talent level of the players. There was never a time... there's one thing of having a good game plan, there's another thing of having players that could execute that game plan.
"I think that we're well on our way to being the multi-dimensional team that we invasion that we want to be. A team that can run the ball if that's what we need to do. A team that can pass the ball if that's what we need to do; we can go to different weapons. Then on defense we can go slug it out with an Adrian Peterson one week and then come back and play Green Bay and take their pass game away another week. I think that's the way you need to be in this division (and) in the NFL. You'll see in the playoffs that the teams that last are the teams that are multi-dimensional, that aren't one-trick ponies because one-trick ponies are easier to shut down."
On if there is additional excitement or optimism because they were able to win in spite of injuries:
"Well, winning's always important and it does give some validation to what you're going through and the process and the things that you're doing behind the scenes: the way you practice, the way you prepare, all those things. I'm not the guy to come up on the podium and say, ‘We really practiced good on Wednesday,' or ‘Hey that was really good' because that really doesn't matter. But it does give validation to that.
"I think I said the same thing when we beat St. Louis and we had been 0-4 and we came back and we beat St. Louis in a blowout. It was, ‘Hey, you're not just a team that's playing close, you're a team that can actually go out and win.' I think you're on the right track when you say, ‘with all the other things' because it would be one thing to finish in a four-game winning streak if we were at full strength, maybe we were playing some teams that had nothing to gain; maybe a team that sat all their starters the last game of the season and you could look at that and say, ‘Hey, is that fool's gold?' I've been in that situation before. You win some games at the end of the year and you have to really look at how you won them, why you won them. But Green Bay had everything at stake; Tampa Bay had everything at stake; Miami had just come off a loss that knocked them out of the playoffs but we were on the road on a holiday week.
"There (were) a lot of different circumstances that came up. None of them were gimmies. None of them were a team that had already solidified a playoff spot that were sitting all of their starters or doing something like that. So, being shorthanded, playing teams that were battling in there - I think there's a lot of confidence that comes from that because we're going to be in that situation again. It's going to happen again. We're going to be in a situation where you've got to play a game in December and Calvin Johnson might not play. Hopefully that's not for a long time in the future. There's a lot of other people that have proven that they can play in that kind of environment at that point of the season when there's a lot at stake. I think there's definitely some confidence that comes from that."
On how close he believes the Lions are at overtaking the NFC North and making the playoffs:
"I mean, we'll see next year. You can't say that now. Those teams are still playing, we're not. There's a lot of offseason, there's a lot of training camp, there's preseason games, there's all that different stuff. Our goals and things like that are not really important right now. But how we go in the offseason and how we develop and things like that ... I think the one thing that we did over the last four games is we did - and I'm not a big believer in the carryover from one year to the next, but I do think that there was sort of setting the table for the next year. I think that we have set the table. Now it's up to us to run that table rather than to just count on the momentum coming from the end of this year."
On LB DeAndre Levy's future at the MLB position:
"That's why we drafted him; we drafted him to play that position and at the end of his rookie year, he finally got a chance to play it and played well. Most of the year this year he was dealing with injuries and we saw over the last three or four weeks, we saw him play the way we expected him to play."
On Levy dealing with his injuries this season:
"He had a lot of bad luck this year. He started training camp with really bad back spasms and couldn't get out there. Then all of the sudden he got a groin injury in the third or fourth preseason game as soon as he got off the back (injury); then he had a high ankle sprain, then the groin was back - it was just a very, very difficult situation. He wasn't at his best."
"We've had a lot of players that way. We talked a little bit before about Jahvid Best, but he wasn't at his best the whole year - he wasn't even close to it. But he went out and battle through and even if he didn't always look like the play that he could, just like DeAndre, he still went out and played hard for his teammates and did what he could to contribute to the game. DeAndre is that kind of guy; he's smart, he's tough and we really like DeAndre. Hopefully we can get some more (players) like him."
On whether he can quantify what QB Matthew Stafford means to this team and what it would have meant to have him more this past season:
"Well going forward it means everything. Quantifying what it would have meant this season, I'll leave that to everybody else.
"I know this: he played three games for us, he won one and left the other two with the lead. He was the guy that, when we started this, he was the guy that we were building around. He was our No. 1 draft pick and the guy we were going to build around with a very keen eye toward when we acquired offensive talent, we were acquiring it with Matt Stafford in mind, and how those guys fit in with what Matt's skills were at quarterback and the way he can lead this team. He's very, very important going forward. You can never put too high of a value on a quarterback.
"What would have happened this year? I don't know. I just know that he played three games and he played well for us. We just need to keep him healthy and have him out there for 16 (games) rather than for three games."
On how much of an advantage it is to have a staff together and working with front office heading into a ‘strange' offseason with uncertainty for next year:
"Hopefully (it) won't be strange. Hopefully, it'll be business as usual. But, if it isn't, you have to be prepared for that. I think one of the best ways to be prepared for it is to have continuity. We have continuity on the coaching staff, in the organization. I think all of those things are very important. People have worked together. I know a lot of teams are going through coaching changes right now; that would be a very difficult time. It's a difficult time for any organization, but it would be more difficult if the schedule changed in the offseason."
On how having the 13th overall draft pick is different than having a top pick:
"It's easy to have a list when you're picking No 2. You can say ‘who's the best player in the draft? Let's take him.' When you're picking No. 2, you say, ‘Okay, who are the two best players in the draft?' You can't miss. By definition you're going to get one of those two guys. Thirteen, obviously you're going to have to have thirteen. Its spread a little bit more thin, but I think that's good.
"There's a lot of trends that you like with this team; a lot of things. We gave up a lot less points than last year. We scored a lot more points than last year. We won more games than last year. There's turnovers, all of these different things where we're much improved. But I like the direction that the draft is going; going from drafting one to two and now thirteen. The draft is very important to what we do. We need to continue to make good decisions in the draft. A little bit what (what was) talked about with the continuity in the front office and the continuity on the coaching staff, everybody knows each a little bit better. The scouts know the way we use players. Coaches understand and communicate that well. When scouts go out on the road, they know from experience what they're looking for and they don't have to worry about, ‘Okay, hey I'm getting somebody Scott Linehan is going to be able to use and then he's no longer the offensive coordinator or Gunther Cunningham.' Too many times that's the issue, and that had been the issue here. Continuity will mean a lot in the draft. We'll need to continue to select good players in the draft."