LIONS DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR TERYL AUSTIN
Opening statement: "Very happy and honored to be here. You know, Jim's (Caldwell) given me an opportunity to come in and run a defense, which means he trusts me. I think that's an important part of our business and it's the same thing with our players. The more they trust in you and trust in what you're doing, I think you'll get the best out of them."
On what he has learned about his personnel since arriving in Detroit: "Well, I think we have some good personnel on defense. I think, obviously, you have some difference-makers in certain positions and then there are some other positions where we want to try to shore up, you know, to try to make them stronger. Maybe we can do that with what we're doing scheme-wise or something of that nature. But I think personnel-wise, like all teams, we have good personnel, but there are some areas where we probably need some improvement in. When you look at it you have some difference-makers up front, obviously, in Ndamukong (Suh). Nick Fairley, when he's on top of his game, boy, he's really good. I mean really good. (DeAndre) Levy is outstanding I think as a linebacker. As you're moving back, (Stephen) Tulloch had a heck of a year. I know Louis Delmas - watching him play, he can be a difference-maker. So, I think the thing we have is we have some difference-makers at each level and we have to try to strengthen those up and if we can, add a few more difference-makers and try to strengthen the defense that way."
On his definition of an ideal cornerback: "Well, I think everybody's a little different. I think as the League has changed, I think you have to try to get, if you can, a bigger cornerback - a guy that can match up with the big receivers, a guy who has some physical toughness to him that's not afraid to tackle and a guy that has great ball skills. I think because of the amount of throwing in the game, if you have a guy that can't intercept the ball, teams will attack him because they know he won't intercept it. The best he's going to do is maybe knock it down. But if you have a guy that can intercept the ball and change the game, I think that's what you want. So, we'll be looking for those things and it doesn't necessarily mean that every guy has to look that way. I coached a guy for the last three years named Lardarius Webb who was a smaller stature, but boy he possessed a lot of great qualities. I think you try to look at size first, but if you don't, if you come across a smaller guy who's got great play-making ability, he has something exceptional, then you have to take that into consideration because if he brings that exceptional talent to you and it gives you an opportunity to win, you've got to go with it."
On what people have had the biggest influence on his career: "Well, obviously Jim (Caldwell) and I go way back. Jim holds a special place in my heart because, you know, I was a young guy. I had just finished trying to play. Went to Penn State and was a GA and was just trying to learn the game from the other side. I didn't know if I was doing well or doing bad, I was just trying and he gave me an opportunity to go with him at Wake Forest. It wasn't easy there when we first got in. I learned and I took a lot of lumps in terms of learning and learning how to relate with guys and all those things. So, Jim obviously, he's helped me tremendously in that regard.
I've got a special place for Lloyd Carr. Working with Lloyd was one of the highlights of when I coached in college. He was outstanding. I still consider him one of my better friends. I love talking to Lloyd, he's always got a good story for me. I might have heard them a few times, but he's always got a good story for me. In the NFL, Ray Rhodes was outstanding for me. The biggest thing with Ray, you know, you could learn all kind of scheme, you could learn that stuff, but I think Ray really taught me how you relate with the NFL player because it's different than college. You know, a lot of times you run across in college and you can yell at a guy, do whatever, however you do it, but it's kind of the ‘my way or the highway system.' You learn that in the NFL it's not that business. It's not that way. You're dealing with grown men, so you treat them as grown men. You've got to figure out how to balance that and get them to do what you want. I think he was outstanding in that.
Then lastly would be Chuck Pagano. When I was with Chuck, and I had known Chuck for a while, but the one thing I saw with Chuck when he was calling defenses, it didn't matter. If the last one didn't work, that doesn't mean the next one won't work. So, he always kept an aggressive mindset and his deal was, ‘Hey we're going to continue to attack until we just can't attack anymore.' I think that was something that I learned because sometimes we all get a little gun-shy, you call something, it doesn't work and you're afraid to go back to it. That was never his deal. He said, ‘Hey, you know what? It didn't work and here's why it didn't work. Let's get it fixed and let's move on. We're still going to play this defense because it's good for us and our guys believe in it and we don't' want to show that we don't believe in something.' So, those are the guys that really kind of throughout the course of my career meant a lot to me."
On his defensive philosophy: "I think that there's, like anything, you want to have a good mixture of just four-man and some pressures. It's like anything, you can't pressure all day and you can't just play four-man all day. So, we'll try to mix those things up and I think what it will do in the end of it, it will give our four-man guys a little bit better rush because they know it's not always four and they won't be getting chipped all the time because there's a threat of somebody else coming. So, we're going to look at those things, but obviously we have to be able, if we are going to pressure, we've got to be able to cover them in the back and give our guys some time to get home. So, we'll work on those things. We'll kind of iron those things out and see what's best for us as we move forward, but I can promise you this. We won't be blitzing every play and we won't be four-man rushing every play."
On the potential of having blitzing linebackers in this defense: "Yeah, we're going to probably stay more in a 4-3 in terms of what we have personnel-wise. So, our pressures with our linebackers will be coming from different angles, different things that way instead of a per se ‘rush' linebacker that I'm used to dealing with. I think we have some guys that probably have some ability to rush the passer from off the ball, and we'll look at those things as we get going in our offseason and OTAs."
On if cornerback is an area of need on this defense: "My feeling is this. In the NFL, you can't have enough corners. We had three pretty good corners last year and we had our work cut out for us. So, I think that obviously, that would probably be an area that we would want to make sure we strengthen up. I think we have some good young pieces. You know, as we watched the tape, one of the young guys, (Darius) Slay, I looked at him and you go, ‘Boy, he had his ups and downs.' You know, he had some things, he had some growing pains. There were some times he didn't look very good and there were some times he looked outstanding. Our goal is to try to get him to be consistent, to be a consistent player. That way, that talent will start to take over, but I think he's a guy that has the ability out there and we probably want to try to improve. But we want to improve in all areas."
On last year's defense not recording more sacks: "Well, here's what you see, and I agree with you. I think sack numbers were down. They were not as good sack-wise, but there were a lot of hits on the quarterback, a lot of the quarterback scrambling trying to move out of the way. So, that's the good part of it. We'd like to get some more sacks and, you know, that's our job trying to generate some more sacks. But I was pleased, when you watch them overall. I thought Ziggy (Ansah) is learning how to rush and is going to get better. Obviously, the two inside guys can get pressure and it just becomes a matter - sometimes the quarterback just gets the ball out fast. So, we've got to figure out in that situation, maybe we can get a little bit better coverage and he's got to hold it for that extra second and it gives our guys a chance to get there. But I think, you know, you mentioned that there were three first-rounders. I think those guys have a chance to be really good and really put some pressure on some people and get some sacks. I think our sack numbers will go up this year."
On if he has talked to DT Ndamukong Suh: "Yeah, I've seen him a few times around, so we've talked a little bit. You know, we didn't talk about scheme, we didn't talk about anything. We just talked, you know, what he liked here, what he does in the offseason and we'll have plenty of time to talk about football. But the one thing I can tell, you know, talking to the guy is he really wants to win. I think that's really the most important thing. It's not so much if he goes to the Pro Bowl or he does this and that. I think that he really and truly wants to be part of a winner. So, that's good. That's what you want. You want your best players to be for the team and to be able to say, ‘Hey, listen. The most important thing for me is winning and not how many awards I get or anything like that.' So, that was really good. You know, I kind of felt that from him."
On developing DT Nick Fairley: "I think it's like anything as a coach. You know, our goal is we want to make sure our guys - we give them the opportunity to play the best that they can all the time. We have to figure out how we can motivate, how we can get him to do that. Whatever it is that touches him that makes him do that, that's what we have to find out. Obviously, we haven't had a chance to sit down and talk about all those things or do those things with Nick, but the time will come for that. I think that, you know, we'll do whatever we can to try and help him be more successful because he is. He can be a really dominant player and we just have to have him try and be a dominant player for 16 games. That's really our goal."
On maintaining a strong run defense: "Well, I think the thing that we are is we are aggressive up front. We create havoc in the opponents' backfield and I think that's something that Kris (Kocurek) and Jim (Washburn), you know, our guys play hard, they play tough and they're disruptive. We'll continue to try to do that. I think if we continue to do that and then the linebackers play well and tackle well, we'll have a chance to really be a good run defense again. That's our goal."
On how the defense can become game-changing: "I think the way you become a game-changing defense is you cut down on the amount of big plays because those are demoralizing to your defense. You try to create some more turnovers. I know that's an area that we weren't as good as we want to be. So, if you can do those things and continue to improve - I believe we were No. 1 in red zone defense. So, what that does if you start tying all those things together, basically what happens is you become really good in scoring defense. You don't let teams score on you and if you create some turnovers, then you give our offense the short fields. If you give your offense short fields, then all of a sudden you're able to play with the lead. When you're able to play with the lead, then all those pass rush stats, all those sacks, all that stuff starts to go up. That's really going to be the challenge for us."
On how to generate more turnovers: "Yeah, I think that it's always an emphasis. Like most teams do in camp, you always have a couple turnover periods. But I know with my guys in the secondary in particular, the way we did it was if a receiver catches a ball we always go for the strip. If a running back comes through, we're always trying to poke the ball out. If the ball's in the air, if we have an opportunity to intercept it without colliding and hurting our own player, we always try to make the catch. We don't like to go for pass break-ups in practice. I always tell my guys to go for the interception now so you learn how to do it so when you get in the game it's not the first time you've tried. So, that was my emphasis and I'm sure that our defensive line, our linebackers, we all had the same type of emphasis in different ways. We'll do the same thing here. I think it's something that is born out in practice. You don't just go to the game and say, ‘Okay, I'm going to go intercept that ball now.' Well, you have to practice it just like every other thing you do. So, we'll practice that, we'll work it and hopefully the results will show this year."
On what CB Darius Slay needs to improve on most: "He needs to improve in a lot of areas, but a lot of it is growing pains. I'll use an example of a guy I just coached, Jimmy Smith, who we (Baltimore) drafted in the first round. Jimmy didn't become a full-time player until this year. He was a lot like Darius. He kind of flashed and has some tremendous talent. He would flash, but he didn't quite play as consistently as you'd like. But then he finally, like a lot of them, sometimes it just clicks. It takes reps, it takes time and when it does, he starts improving in certain areas and everything else picks up. That's the thing. We'll work on Darius. He's got a lot of talent, he's got a lot of room to improve and so we'll try to just kind of improve on this area and this area and keep working the areas. Hopefully the improvement will show and he'll be able to play an important part for us this year."
On how to limit personal fouls: "Well, I think that when you do that, like you're saying, if you tolerate them, then they'll keep making them. I think the worst thing you can do for a guy is if he continues to make the same mistakes, I always tell them you can come sit by me. You can come stand by me. Guys don't want that because I'm on the sideline, so that's what, in the past, we've done. If a guy continues to make the same mistake, then what we do is we say, ‘Hey, listen. You obviously aren't doing the things we need you to do for the team. You can come stand by me for a while until you figure out how to do this right.' So, I think every case is unique and every case is different. But that will probably be the message we'll try to send. I'm not saying we're going to bench a guy right away, but if it becomes a pattern and he continues to do that, then we'll obviously have to take that into consideration because he's doing something to hurt our team and not giving us an opportunity to win. The one thing you learn, once you get here, it doesn't matter when you were drafted. You have to perform. Performance is I think the most important thing in this League. I mean, we signed guys that were free agents - Corey Graham played in front of that first-rounder, Jimmy Smith, for a year. He started in front of him because he was better than Jimmy at the time. I mean, I think as a player, when you come in the locker room, if you know that the best guys are going to play, not the guy that was drafted ahead of you just because he was drafted, you'll have a better locker room and you'll cut down on some of those mistakes."
On how to create genuine leadership similar to what he worked with in Baltimore: "You know, that's hard because Ray Lewis, he was unique in that regard and how he led. Again, I think it's something you just develop. You can identify who the guys gravitate to if they're a good leader. Then you kind of try to push those guys and give them a role that way. I think one of the things we did that helped foster leadership was we had a player mentoring program where I know in our room we had James Ihedigbo, he would take one of the younger safeties and say, ‘Hey, listen. Here's how things are done. Here's how we do it. This is right, this is wrong.' We tried to mentor our guys that way and that helps develop leadership within the room. Once you get it within the room, the guys who have the strongest personality or best leadership qualities, they'll kind of start taking over that way."
LIONS OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOE LOMBARDI
Opening statement: "Well, this is definitely a new part of the job description, but I'm excited to be here. I'm very impressed with the offensive staff. You know, we've already started working on the playbook and it's a great room, intelligent men and I'm excited to get going. I know there's a lot of talent here. My wife was born in Bay City, Michigan, so she can't wait to get up here too. It's going to be a good time and we're looking forward to it."
On if he has had conversations with QB Matthew Stafford yet: "Sure. He was around maybe my first or second day that I was in the office. He came up and we chatted, you know, introductory stuff, getting to know each other. But I was very encouraged. He's clearly a bright, young man. Football is very important to him. He's a hard worker and I knew before I ever met him how talented he was. So, it seems like he's really got all those characteristics that make up great quarterbacks. So, I'm very excited to get going with him."
On if he will call plays this season: "Yeah, I believe so. It's always a collaborative effort, though. I think a lot of the play calls get done during the week in game-planning. No matter who is calling plays, certainly a lot of suggestions are being made on game day. But yes, I think I'll be the one that will."
On calling plays for the first time in his career: "Well, it puts a little extra pressure on you. I think certainly the last few years I've always been in that mode of, ‘Hey, what play would I call here?' As we're setting up the game plan, it's very situational. You know, ‘Hey in this situation here is what we are planning on calling.' Then you certainly have your game day adjustments based on how the defense is playing you and what you expected. But it's something that I certainly feel I'm ready to do."
On if he will coach from the sideline or the coaching booth: "I think we're still investigating exactly how we want to do that. I think some of that will depend on who the quarterback coach is. I've been up in the box and I'm very comfortable up there, but other times in my career I've been down on the field."
On if he is close to naming a quarterbacks coach: "Well, I think we're in the process. I'm not exactly sure what the timeline is for that. Coach Caldwell could probably answer that better than me. But we're in the middle of that process right now."
On if he feels he needs a quarterbacks coach: "Probably. I certainly would like one. You know, clearly, Coach Caldwell has a ton of experience with that and I've been doing that the last seven years in New Orleans. But there is a lot of work that goes into a coaching staff and I think one of these Hall of Fame quarterbacks was talking about there are a lot of different quarterback coaches and what they bring. So, if you can find a talented guy to come into that position, I think that's always helpful."
On how similar this offense will look compared to New Orleans': "I think there will be a lot of similarities, but there are going to be some differences. Like I said, I came in and sat in on that first offensive staff meeting and I was the only one who really knew our terminology and the way we did things. As you start talking about the offense and presenting it to the staff, all of a sudden these ideas start coming at you and, you know, you think about them. I think there will certainly be some adjustments. Like I said, I'm very impressed with the staff. Curtis Modkins was the run game coordinator last year and they were doing some really creative things here that I'm sure we are going to incorporate. Ron Prince has been a coordinator - our tight end coach and assistant head coach. He's a very bright coach, so he's bringing in some things that they did at Rutgers last year and maybe even Virginia when he was there. Jeremiah Washburn, our offensive line coach, some of the things that they did in protections that maybe we didn't do in New Orleans are pretty exciting. So, you're going to see some differences, but, you know, the playbook that we're starting from is the Saints playbook. So, it will certainly be similar."
On who will be the most involved in coaching Stafford: "Well, I think it's important that Jim (Caldwell) and I and the quarterback coach are all on the same page. I mean, we had something similar in New Orleans. You know, Sean (Payton) certainly knew a lot about coaching quarterbacks. Pete Carmichael had been the quarterback coach before I became the quarterback coach and he moved on to coordinator. So, there were three voices there, but I learned from Sean and Pete and Pete had learned from Sean, so we all spoke the same language. There wasn't any pull. We're going to have the same situation here and I'm sure those relationships will evolve a little bit. But, you know, there's a process to playing quarterback and that process is going to start day one of the offseason when Matthew gets in here. I guarantee you that Coach Caldwell, myself and the quarterback coach will be on the same page as to how we want that process to go, the language that we're using with him. All those things will be consistent."
On Stafford's biggest issue last season: "Listen, every quarterback could tighten up some of his footwork issues. Matthew's got such a talented arm that I think there are times where he's making throws where you'd say, ‘Well, maybe you shouldn't have thrown that because of the position of your feet or what not.' But, look, I looked at every single one of his interceptions in-depth and not every single one was something Matthew did wrong. You know, there were interceptions that happened because a receiver breaks his route off too early or it goes through the receiver's hands, gets tipped at the line of scrimmage. So, I was a little encouraged after watching that that this was not an interception machine. Now, like every other quarterback, he needs to get better. Peyton Manning is sitting right now thinking, "How am I going to play better next year?' I guarantee you Drew Brees is thinking about how he's going to play better. So, by no means am I saying that he's the perfect quarterback, but like I said, he's smart, he works hard and he's talented. We're going to have a process that's going to start on day one and work through the end of the season that is going to help him learn the system, learn defenses, how we want to attack defenses and that's going to make him into a better quarterback."
On how he expressed creativity as a position coach: "It was mostly in the game planning. You know, it was a collaborative effort in New Orleans. If you had a good idea, it made it on to the call sheet. So, I was very heavily-involved in that from Monday through Sunday just saying, ‘How are we going to attack this defense? How are we going to come up with the 65 to 75 plays that we're going to run on Sunday that are going to give our team the best chance to win?' What I really learned in New Orleans is it's about personnel. You know, scheme's important, what you do is important, but how you're doing it and who you're doing it with is most important. You know, we had a saying, ‘Don't tell me what a player can't do, tell me what he can do.' So, when we get our offense together, we're going to find out what these guys do well. If you're lucky, you've got a Calvin Johnson who does everything well, alright? But most players have strengths and weaknesses. We're going to identify those strengths, we're going to maximize them. We're going to minimize their weaknesses. You know, I think that's the thing when people look at the Saints offense is what they see - the number of different personnel groupings, all the different formations in order to help put those players in the best position to be successful."
On if a career in football was always his plan given his family name: "No, in fact, I think when you come from a football family, you're encouraged not to get into football. You know, my dad went off to college and told his dad that he was going to be a football coach and he was going to major in physical education. His dad said, ‘Well, that's fine, but I'm not paying for a cent of your college then. You're going to be a lawyer.' So, my dad went to law school. Same thing with me. He said, ‘Hey, listen. Do something else. There is a lot of stress involved, it's hard on the family.' So, you don't go to the Air Force Academy with the thought that you're going to be a football coach. But when I graduated and that first football season came around where I wasn't involved with a football team, it felt like something was missing. My dad said, ‘Look, if you can live without it, do it. Don't coach. If you can't live without it, then I don't know what to tell you.' I felt like I couldn't live without it."
On when he comprehended the impact his grandfather, Vince Lombardi, had on the game of football: "Yeah, that's a hard question. It was something that you always remember being a part of your life. In some ways, not knowing my grandfather, he was to me maybe like he was to a lot of you, you know, someone that you saw on NFL Films or ESPN specials. Certainly, I had a little more insight listening to my dad's stories of growing up with Vince Lombardi as a father, you know, certainly had its challenges for him. But I fondly remember my grandmother and my Aunt Susan and it's always something that I remember having. So, I don't remember an exact moment where it really struck me."
On the challenges his father faced being the son of Vince Lombardi: "Well, I think some of the challenges were his dad was a lot as a father like he was as a coach. So, he was tough on him, which my dad appreciates now. So, that was more of the issue. You know, he certainly tells stories of moving to Green Bay from New York and my dad's 5-9, maybe he played football at 190 (pounds) or something. But he was built as a 6-3, 240-pound All-American when he was going to Green Bay. So, there were certainly some expectations he had to deal with, and I think that my dad prepared us very well as children to handle that pressure. You know, I knew when I became a coach that no matter how well I did, I was never going to be Vince Lombardi. So, I don't have that pressure hanging over my head. I'm just going to try to be the best Joe Lombardi I can."
On what he learned from his father about being a coach: "You know, he was in management, so he wasn't necessarily a football guy. But I think that certainly had a profound influence on me because I was always around football as a young man. That's probably, in addition to my grandfather being a coach, I remember being four, five years old and throwing the ball around with Steve Largent at the Seattle Seahawks training facility. I remember being a ball boy for the Michigan Panthers back in the USFL days, you know, watching Anthony Carter and Bobby Hebert throwing the ball around. So, those memories were so good for me that I think that's one reason why I was drawn to football."
On preserving WR Calvin Johnson's health heading into next season: "I think you always have to be aware of the wear and tear of this game on your players. It's something that, you know, I don't want to call it a pitch count, but you're always cognoscente of how much are these guys running in practice, how many hits they are taking, who is coming across the middle to catch this pass that's going to possibly get him hit. So, you know, I think that's always, regardless of how old a player is, you're always aware that this game is a tough game played by tough men. By the end of the season everyone's got a little something, so I think that it's a good point that you have to be aware of those things."
On how Johnson compares to Saints TE/WR Jimmy Graham: "Well, I would say Calvin is a lot faster than Jimmy. Jimmy is, I don't know if I'm supposed to say he is a tight end or not. I know he's got that situation going on. But I think they're both exceptional players that force a defense to adjust the way that they play. You know, a defense has always got to be aware, ‘Where's Jimmy Graham?,' and they've always got to be aware of where Calvin Johnson is. It can really provide some challenges to us, challenges we like to have, meaning as you're studying a defense, there's always that question, ‘How is this going to be different because we have Calvin?' You know, ‘How are they going to play Jimmy?' was always a question that we had to ask and there wasn't always evidence on film. So, a lot of times, you'd get into the game and have to watch and say, ‘Okay, I see what they're doing. How does our game plan match up now?' So, that can be a challenge, but they're certainly challenges that we like to have."
On what he looks for in a tight end: "I think first and foremost, I don't know if there are any needs. There are a lot of wants. I think it's important to have a guy that can block the point of attack. That's important. A lot of teams are going to back-or-forths these days and you need a tight end that can hold up against those guys. And then you want a guy that can be a pass receiver, so you're always looking for those well-rounded guys. But again, I've never been in the mode of I wanted to find exactly what this player is and then you have to go find him for me. Go find the best player you can and if it's Jimmy Graham, we're going to find a way to make it work. We're going to find plays that are going to help him be successful. You know, when it was Jeremy Shockey we might have had a little different philosophy because of his strengths and weaknesses. So, you want a guy that's a great blocker and a great receiver, obviously. Those guys are rare and hard to find, so you give us good players that can do something well, we're going to find a way to use him."
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