On the changes to be made this offseason: "Well, there's going to be a different dynamic this offseason than last. With the ability to be able to try to keep the team together, there is going to be changes. It's the fact of life in the NFL. We need to be able to be prepared to deal with those. There is evaluation that goes on every single season. That doesn't change this year as opposed to any other. Our after-season protocol when it comes to evaluating what we did well, what we did not do well, changes we need to have, what resources we have, that's not going to change. But I think there is a little different dynamic. We're not coming off a 10-6 season. We're not trying our best to hold that team together. We're coming off a 4-12 season. It's part of the NFL. Part of the whole thing is that's not good enough and there's going to have to be changes. We're not going to be able to stay on the same course. Our philosophies won't change. You know, the execution of those philosophies may change a little bit."
On if there have already been changes to the coaching staff: "Yeah, nothing right now. Again, that's all part of the process. We have some coaches that are under contract, other guys whose contracts are up. There are opportunities for coaches, there's opportunities for advancement. Again, we worked very hard to be able to keep our staff together last year, I don't know if we'll be able to do the same thing. We'll just have to wait, but that will still be a part of the same process. We'll evaluate the same things we always do and we'll go from there."
On which coaches are currently under contract: "Yeah, I don't have any comment on guys that are, guys that aren't. I didn't comment on my own and I don't want to comment on others. I think it's sufficient to say that some are and some aren't. That's nothing for us to talk about here."
On if rebuilding the defense will be a priority in the offseason: "As you mentioned, you know, where we finished at defensive tackle, that's not where we came into the season. We came into the season with four guys we felt could all play and all play at a very high level and all of them had in the past. Unfortunately, where we finished the season, three of those guys were all on IR and they weren't available. But even losing a guy like Corey Williams, Corey played one of the best games we've had from a defensive tackle in that opener against the Rams and after that it was very, very difficult to manage his knee. You know, it looked like it needed rest. We weren't able to get it rest. Since he's had rest, he's been on the IR, he's seen big improvements. But in the season you really can't do that. But when the season was over I think that put more on the other guys. They played more reps and as a result, I think we saw a couple more injuries there.
Secondary was a completely different situation. You know, like I said yesterday, we came into camp knowing that we still had some work to do there. We didn't anticipate a couple things that happened with Lou Delmas being as limited as he was. You know, he had the injury last year but it was the opposite knee. In the offseason we thought he was healing, but once training camp came, that didn't go quite to plan I guess you would say. Losing Aaron Berry, it was a necessity for our team, but that was a move on the eve of training camp, basically. We drafted a player like Bill Bentley and then losing him, even drafting two other corners in Chris Greenwood and Jonte (Green). Jonte, if you had told us during the Draft that Jonte would be the only guy that contributed out of those three, I think everybody would have been surprised at that point. But that was a situation, like I said, a lot different. There were some positions we had pretty good depth on this team. Defensive line, defensive tackle in particular, offensive line, there were some places we could go pretty deep. Other places, you know, it looked like we could go pretty deep like wide receiver. It ended up losing three players there also. So, we'll look at everything in the offseason, not just at those two positions. You know, we'll look across the board and I think the one thing that's constant in this League is you're never finished. Martin (Mayhew) always says that, you know, saying of the Draft isn't the finish line, the start of training camp isn't the finish line. You're always a work in progress with stuff like that. But the lesson that the NFL has continued to teach is that you're never set with personnel. You're never comfortable with personnel. One year you might lose three quarterbacks, one year you might have the wrong offensive line. Just because one position appears as though it's a position of strength or a position of depth doesn't mean it's done that way. It's always a work in progress."
On if he has met with the Ford family yet: "Yeah, we're on our normal end of season wrap-up and they're heavily involved in that end of the season wrap-up. But it's business as usual. Again, like I said yesterday, I'm not going to go into private conversations. But yes, we are at normal end of season and it's stayed the same."
On if he has been told that he will be back next season: "You know, I think I'll just stay where I was yesterday on that and just take an approach of not commenting on job status, contract and stuff like that. I think part of that whole thing that came yesterday was, you know, trying to get people to comment on it, trying to get people to say, including me. I think I'll just stay with what I believe in, keeping my focus on working to get this team back where we all want. Ownership, coaches, players, fans, everybody wants this team to be successful. If our focus is on that, then we're focused on the right thing."
On if any of his assistant coaches already know they will not be back next season: "We have not even had discussions. You know, we have end of season wrap-up. That's always a work in progress. There are all kinds of things that happen. I recognize that some people would like to advance and there are going to be opportunities for some. I've always taken the approach that if they have an opportunity, particularly coordinator jobs or quality control guys that can get position jobs, if we can't fill that career advancement here, I certainly want our guys to advance. I'd love for our guys to be coordinators or head coaches or move up from quality control coaches. That stuff you just have to handle as it comes along, but our end of season sort of system, it'll be over the next three days or so. You know, we have a lot of meetings and evaluations of, you know, everything that happens with a coaching staff, players, to you-name-it. We're just starting all that process right now."
On addressing the age and contract issues of the offensive line early in the offseason: "I mean, every situation is a little bit different. Take them all as they come. We really don't have a particular timetable for it. I mean, there's a long time before guys become free agents before the New Year comes as far as cap and things like that. I think that's a good thing because it gives you time to work through all the dynamics and all the different things that go along. You don't have to make rash brash decisions. You get time to step back from it a little bit. I don't want to get too much into our evaluation process or things that the coaching staff does when we evaluate the players. As we approach these next couple days we'll look at a lot of different areas, things they need to improve on and everything else - what their production was and stats. Then, when we come back, we go through all our cut-ups and watch the whole season again from a different point of view after having a couple weeks off, stepping back from and watching the entire season. Then, we go back and do the exact same thing all over again and it's interesting to see for some people the evaluation changes. Maybe somebody had a really good finish to the season but struggled early in the season and you felt better about them today than you did a month ago. Or maybe it's the opposite. Maybe somebody started off strong and then faded at the finish and your evaluation didn't take really into consideration. I think that the freshness of the season, the disappointment of our season is something that we need to temper with an objective approach. I don't know the best way to put it, but to step back from it for a little while and then be able to objectively look at the whole season. It's happened to me in the past throughout my career, you know, there are players that you feel really strong about after the season one way or the other. You go back and you look at them and you say, ‘You know, when you look at the whole body of work over the whole season, it really looks a little different than I felt at the beginning of the season. Both good and bad.'"
On changes to the roster will be more significant than last year after a 4-12 season: "I mean, it's possible. You know, last year, like I said, one of the biggest keys there was Calvin (Johnson) and his contract and the way it affected a lot of others. We had a franchise situation with Cliff Avril. It ate up a lot of our available resources. We really got one free agent and that was Jacob Lacey and there wasn't a whole lot of impact when it came to the salary cap in that situation. We drafted and Riley Reiff contributed this year, maybe even a little bit more than we really expected. I don't know, I mean our expectations are how they do, but he had an impact in the packages that he was in and started a game and finished a couple other ones. I think that he showed the signs that we all knew were there and that we feel strong about. A guy like (Ryan) Broyles we wanted to stay patient with. When it came his time to play, he showed some really good things. Unfortunately, he got hurt again and Bill Bentley with the shoulder. So, every year you say the same thing. We're going to have to get production from our Draft. I think we'll be in a position next year that we will get the benefits of some of these guys. You know, Broyles has been a hard worker. He's rehabbed well in the past. There's no reason to think that he can't do the same thing. There's no reason we can't get production out of Bill Bentley the way he showed at the end of OTAs and the end of training camp when he was one of our best three corners, arguably one of our best two at that point until the Oakland game when he dislocated his shoulder. You know, I think there's impact that can come from some different places. You know, if we can get some guys back, potentially there is more to have to juggle. That's what the coaching staff is paid to do. You know, it's not always the easiest way to get all your players back, but that's why we're paid to handle those kind of things. If that comes up, then we'll be prepared for it."
On how much off-field problems carried over to this year to the locker room in retrospect: "I think it certainly affected the view of the team. We said all along that it was a select few players and it affected the whole bunch. It became a topic of discussion for people to have to deal with. Anytime that you take focus away from the game that's coming up, or the process of OTAs, or the process of training camp and the urgency to improve and you divide players attention, I think it can have an effect. The biggest thing is that it affected the image of the team. Obviously after training camp, we didn't have any off-field arrests or anything like that after what happened with Aaron Berry over the summer. But that...I don't want to say damage was done; that's a bad way to put it. That dye was cast and it became an item with players and dealing with the media and everything else. That's the unfortunate thing - it just divided the focus of the team. It couldn't always be on the team. They were always answering those kind of questions."
On what you will tell them today about the offseason: "Everybody has personal responsibility. We've seen what happens when guys don't take care of their stuff. It can affect the team. It can also affect them personally and their professional careers. Every situation is different but as a team, off the field incidents are extremely detrimental to what we want to do. We will make every effort as a team to prepare to move on from people that make bad decisions. I think that you can't prepare for everything, but when people prove that they can't make good decisions, then as an organization we need to prepare to be able to go without them. That's no different than the way that we were when we left OTAs. That was basically the same speech. We had one player that had two incidents over the summer; he paid a price for it. Also the team paid a price for that and that's something that we can't afford going forward."
On the area he would like to improve most as a head coach: "There's evaluation every single week. You look at the way you organize, the way you practice, the offseason program, training camp, meetings, all that different stuff. That's always a work in progress. The way we prepared this year was slightly different than the year before, slightly different than the year before that. The way our offseason will go is slightly different, mainly because of rules and things like that. I think that there are definitely places for me to improve. I don't know if I'm going to sit here and list them, but we're very realistic about where we are. Four-and-12 wasn't good enough and as a head coach that's my ultimate responsibility. If there's one area that you can point to that I need to improve, its wins. Everything else is all geared toward getting those wins. We're 4-12 this year. Whether that's down from 10-6 or if it had been up from 0-16, it still not good enough and we're all aware of that."
On if there was a decision he made this year that he regrets: "Yeah, certainly throwing that challenge flag. I wish I would've had that crew last night or yesterday (at Minnesota). Like I said before, I wish I had a shoe to throw or if I had been smart enough to do that. But yeah, you learn from every different situation; every single thing that goes on. Sometimes you look back and you say, ‘Yeah that was a really good decision.' Sometimes you say. ‘I need to do that better.' That was an obvious one. It got a lot of attention, but that probably wasn't the most critical area over the course of the season. It was critical in that game but over the course of the season wasn't something that came up time and time again and everything else. There are probably other areas that are more works in progress with our team and me than that. But that certainly got a lot of attention."
On S Louis Delmas saying that players might have gotten too comfortable after going to the playoffs: "I'd certainly respect his opinion and I respect his perspective. We worked hard from the very beginning of training camp, beginning of the season, of saying, ‘Hey that's in the past and we need to keep focusing on improving.' Whether or not we were able to get that done, we obviously weren't. This is a hard-working team. Our offseason program, our training camp, our meetings; it's a very rigorous schedule. Nobody took an ‘ease-off' - I guess to try to put it in his word - nobody eased-off or let off in any of those kinds of things. But there is an expectation though. When you win, the expectation is that you're just going to pick up. And I've said after other seasons, the year before when we had gone our final four, we can't expect this momentum to carry over. We have to go in the same way this year. We can't expect an eight game losing streak to carry over. Every day deserves it respect, every day there is an urgency to improve and if we do a good job of that then we'll get back on track."
On if there is a process for WR Titus Young to get back in good graces with this team or if that door is shut: "He's still on our roster and everybody that's on our roster is still on our roster for a reason. There's some guys that started the season with us that are no longer with us that have been released or... I guess there's no other way to put it, they've been released. So there is still a window there. There's a window there and there's a chance there is a process involved there.
"He's a very talented player. Obviously he made a difference when he was on the field. Particularly with the way their injuries went, with Nate Burleson and then later [Ryan] Broyles. It affected the team not having him out there."
On what the next step for QB Matthew Stafford's progression and if a fresh set of eyes would help him: "I think continuity is important also.
"You look at Matt and he's a very, very scrutinized player, all quarterbacks are. It comes with the territory. He threw basically the same number of interceptions this year as last. His touchdowns were way down. We rushed for more touchdowns, but his touchdowns were way down. Everybody's going to have an opinion of why that was. He threw for almost the same amount of yardage. He took a few less sacks this year as opposed to last. He experienced ... last year we had a core group of players that was with him pretty much the whole year and there was continuity there.
"The only player we lost last year on offense was Jahvid Best, who was with us the first five games and not after that. But tight ends and wide outs, there was consistency, but I think we lost [Tony] Scheffler a couple games last year, but that was just about it. It was different this year. Yesterday, I think we had ten players have completions. A lot of those guys were not household names, not to say that they're not quality players and they can't be ... [Brian] Robiskie and Kris Durham had touchdown catches. Will Heller had a touchdown catch in the game. Calvin's been a big part of our offense obviously, but to get nine other guys receptions, that was just a little bit of a different dynamic.
The only progression with a quarterback is translating to wins. Like I said, his interceptions were pretty much the same as last year. He did turn it over I think twice more this year on fumbles than he did last. I think last year he had one. I think this year he had three. You guys have to check my math on that one, but I think it was three based on this last game. Regardless of all the stuff that transpired and (the media) talked about the offseason incidents last year and how that sort of put something else on our agenda as we began our offseason program and getting ready for training camp. All of the sudden there was a dynamic again to dealing with a roster and dealing with injuries and things like that.
"The No. 1 thing on this season is turnovers. Last year we had 34 defensive takeaways. We had 21 interceptions; we went to 11 this year. We had 13 fumble recoveries last year; we went to six or seven, I can't remember what it was. And then offensively, threw the same number of interceptions I think 17 this year as opposed to 16 last year. And our fumbles weren't drastically different as far as the number we put on the ground. We put 24 on the ground this year and put 20 on the ground last year, but we only gave up I think seven last year and it was 13 or whatever it was 16 this year. And you look at the close games we played. That's not a good recipe. We managed some injury situations with our secondary, with our defensive line, with our wide receivers and worked very hard as a group, as a team and as a coaching staff to work through some of those things. The turnovers were costly for us.
"Not just the turnovers on offense, but our failure to get any on defense. We didn't have the impact plays. We went from scoring seven defensive touchdowns last year to zero. We had a safety this year. It was our only defensive score. We went from a team that was near the top in points off of turnovers to having zero or having zero defensive scores. Offense has stayed about the same. I think last year we had five scores on defense against our offense. I think this year it was six. It wasn't a whole lot, but a lot's made of our turnovers, but our failure to get takeaways went hand-in-hand with that. There were so many games this year that were close games. Our opener with the Rams was another one we were minus-three and we barely won the game at the end. This last game we were minus four and we were two points down and have a chance to win. Those could easily flip if we can take better care of the ball and we can get more turnovers."
On how Stafford can get better: "Win games. I mean, he's thrown for 5,000 yards the past couple years One was a playoff year. This year was four wins. It's not about stats. If our completion-percentage went down ten points and we won six more games, seven more games we would look at the wins, we wouldn't look at the completion-percentage. Quarterbacks have to make good decisions. I think Matt's a good decision maker. They need to understand the offense. From the very beginning he's had a good grasp of our offense. He's always had a good grasp of what defenses do but more experience helps that. Even though he's only really played these last two years, the experience from those first years was definitely something that he gained from. Every time he goes around he's been in a situation before. He has more experience dealing with an area that comes up over the course of the year, a game situation, a preparation situation. His leadership every year becomes a little bit better. As you go from being a rookie and being the first pick of the draft to all of a sudden being a franchise - even though then he was a still technically a franchise quarterback - but to be that franchise quarterback, his leadership ability increases every year. There's areas we can all improve including Matt. But when it's all said and done it's all about wins and not all of them were Matt's problem but head coach, quarterback, they're always going to take those losses. Nobody talks about what a defensive lineman's record is. Nobody talks about what a corner's record is or a kicker. But they put it on head coaches and they put it on quarterbacks too, particularly playoffs."
On if Stafford has to improve his mechanics: "I think his mechanics are very good. Like I said, we took a lot less sacks this year. Part of that is him being able to get rid of the ball quickly. Some of those required that he couldn't set up and deliver a ball in classic form. We'll look at everything very hard but he doesn't have mechanical problems. He's very creative as a quarterback, throws the ball from a lot of different angles and in most ways that is very, very helpful to us. Some think that's exactly what he needs to do in order to get it done. Like I said, our sack numbers were low. Our interceptions per pass play were near the bottom of the League or top of the League, however you look at it. I think we were fourth in interceptions per pass play. His completion percentage was down a little bit this year. I think it went from 63 to about 60. But also he had to deal with a whole new cast of skill players and that was something that he did. He works very hard at his mechanics and he has very good form and part of his ability as a quarterback is his ability to create and throw on the run. But there's always ways that we can improve."
On if he expects RB Jahvid Best to return next season: "I've had conversations with Jahvid and I don't want to - and I hate playing that card - but I don't want to go into those. That's out of my hands as a coach. We talked about a protocol for as we developed a team and things that we look at and say ‘Okay this is where we need to improve and things like that. That's one area as a coach that I can't create any kind of protocol. I can't have expectation. That's up to doctors and that's up to Jahvid. We'll leave it in those two peoples' hands or those two groups' hands."
On if Stafford had any injuries that affected his delivery: "He dealt with a lot of little things that came up over the course of the season. Nothing that affected his ability to either practice or be on the field or changed his delivery."
On if he sees the top passing teams missing the playoffs as an indication to run more: "We ran the ball more yards this year. We nearly doubled our rushing touchdowns this year. I think it's all about protecting the football. Our offensive stats would have been a lot stronger if we hadn't turned it over the additional times and we had gotten some more. Every team moves the ball a different way. It's all about scoring. Our scoring was down this year. We didn't get defensive scores. We lost seven defensive touchdowns. That's 49 points. Our scoring was down about 100 points but there was some on offense and when you lose seven more, that's seven more opportunities to be able to score and it's very easy to see how our scoring went down that way. Whether it's running the football, I thought we made some improvements this year in certain areas. Explosive runs was not one of them. A couple years ago that was a problem, we got Jahvid and that was a lot different. But explosive runs, they came out of Joique Bell this year. We didn't have a lot of explosive runs. We had a lot of explosive passes. It's about scoring and however we can do it, that's the most important thing. But our scoring was down 100 points this year as opposed to last. Not all of it was the defensive scores, there was some offensive stuff particularly turnovers and particularly turnovers in scoring position in the red zone. We had some of those opportunities. This game was a little bit different because the turnovers that we had in this game put our defense in bad position and we were giving up field goals and in one case a touchdown off of those. In the past, earlier this season, a lot of those turnovers came when we were in scoring position, whether it was in sort of an under the radar fourth down attempt that's basically a turnover or an interception in the red zone or a fumble in plus territory. They took away from our ability to score."
On his empathy for coaches losing their jobs: "It's a very difficult day. But it's part of this business. It's a performance business. This is a bottom-line business. We all sign up for it as players and as coaches, it's just a fact of life and you have to deal with it and the best way to deal with it is to have success."
On if K Jason Hanson has another year left in him: "He had a good year this year. He had I think four misses, was 32-of-36. He had more attempts this year than last year so his accuracy still hasn't declined. He just set another NFL record yesterday. I think that he has been the definition of consistent. So I wouldn't see any reason that that would change. There hasn't been signs that it's in decline."
On if coaching the Senior Bowl is an option: "I think we're fifth in line. I think you asked this question last week and I didn't want to talk about it because it's something that you don't want to talk about when the season's still going on. If it would happen, we would embrace it and we would relish that opportunity. I think there is some insight involved in getting to know those guys over a course of the week and it can confirm some of our scouts' evaluations that have already worked very long and hard into getting guys evaluated this fall season and it can also maybe give us a different perspective on some other guys. Maybe we get a little bit more time with some other guys. One of the guys that came out of that a few years ago for us was Joique Bell. He was a local guy and we knew him enough from here and worked him out and all those different things because he was a local kid, but we also had him for a whole week down there. And even though he started his career in Buffalo and then he was with New Orleans, he was a guy we always sort of had in the back of our minds and our experience with him that week helped get him here. He knew our coaching staff and we knew a little bit about him, not just what we saw on film as an NFL player. He was able to go and it appears as though he was able to get his NFL career starter this year and was a contributor on offense and I think we're only seeing the beginning of Joique Bell also."