Below is a look at what Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell had to say on Monday. (Quotes provided by the Lions.)
Opening statement: "First of all I'd just like to say that one of the things I talked to the team about a little earlier today is that I certainly appreciated their effort. They gave us all they had, I mean they were spent at the end of this ball game and I think it was just a perfect example of how hard they tried to get accomplished what we wanted to get done, how much it meant to them. They were exceptional. Had some unusual traits and qualities about this team, I think it's a great nucleus of guys but we never had any bickering about who gets the ball, who wasn't getting it enough, who got the credit, or anything of that nature. It was a group that certainly believed in doing things the right way but it was more about team than anything else. You hate that obviously it ends this way but the music stops for every team except for one in this league. When it does it's an abrupt halt, is somewhat of a shock to the system and no matter who you are when you get into the tournament it doesn't feel good when you lose and we had a lot of guys that were hurting yesterday and still today, even though I think they're starting to come to grips with it. To lose it also on somewhat of a controversial issue, the one thing that I told them is that we're not going to ever make any excuses about, or creating any crutches for wins or loses, and in this particular case there will be no exception. The fact of the matter is, it's a controversial call, I think without question it was probably not officiated correctly in my estimation. Nevertheless I do think in this day and age, with modern times where we have technology that can take out the human factor in certain key situations in big games, that we should use that technology to do so, to kind of set the record straight and take the human error out of it. Perhaps from this endeavor we'll find a way to maybe improve that portion of the game.
Look at us overall from a team standpoint, there were a number of areas in which we improved. Certainly having an opportunity to play in the playoffs is an improvement. Certainly not where we want to go, we're a long way away from that. Our ultimate goal is to win it all and when we fall short of that then obviously we're not happy about it. Our guys certainly feel that way as well. We think it's obviously a stepping stone, the foundation has been laid, and we're going to use this as a cornerstone, but also for fuel to get us bigger, stronger, faster, more determined to come back next year and be a vibrant team and to be a more effective team in every aspect. Overall I think our improvements were the big key improvements, certainly in the turnover ratio, which made a huge difference. I think our guys bought into that aspect of it, did a great job of taking care of the ball. Defense improved upon the ability to take the ball away and then also I think our reduction in dropped passes were key to keep drives alive. Defensively we improved in almost every single category across the board. I think that certainly was key. But just not quite what we want in terms of the end result, but like I said it's a start and we got to make certain we get ready for another season here shortly. I'll open up for any questions."
On if he contacted the league about the reversed call: "No."
On if the team contacted the league about the reversed call: "No, actually the league contacted me. They made contact, reached our right away after the game was over, very shortly, our plane hadn't even taken off yet. There was some communication there and then followed up further today."
On if the league admitted that the reversed call was wrong: "It's not our policy. We don't have the ability to, we're not allowed to talk about what happens in terms of officials and their decisions that they make, rather they're right or rather they're wrong. I do understand that opportunity is going to be presented to the head of officiating (Dean Blandino) here within a matter of minutes. You guys can probably talk with him about that."
On if there was any explanation on why Cowboys WR Dez Bryant didn't receive an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty: "You can ask him (Blandino) about that."
On what plays he would like to see technology used on: "I think it may have to be, for the sake of time, and those kinds of things in a game, is how long a game lasts that you have to have some boundaries. I do think that particularly in big games and down the stretch, and playoffs, and things of that nature, I'm not certain there should be a limit on when you can review, when you can look at to make certain that you got the call right. I just think that we're all human and we're all affected by our surroundings, environment, big game, issues, noise, etc. It's going to be hard for anybody to convince me otherwise and I think in that particular case we should try to take as much of the human factor out as we possibly can."
On if this is something that he would like to take to the competition committee: "I'd be disingenuous if I told you that I was the first person to mention it. It's already been brought up and it certainly gets discussed every year."
On if he thinks that the officials looked at the big screen: "They're not supposed to, let's put it that way."
On how much did the non-call alter his decision making process on the ensuing fourth down: "Well, you know, there's a lot going on, but we talk about those situations long before we get into them. We can see them approaching and we make a determination on where that would be if we go for it on fourth and one. You have to take those things into consideration, how short you want the field to be. We'll make those considerations often times when we're in a position where we ordinarily would maybe punt, little bit too short for a punt, and little bit too long for a field goal. That's kind of our normal area to really discuss it and be a factor. Outside of that we certainly don't want to give a team a short field. Often times with us what I look at is that I make a determination, in particular, and lean to the strength of our team. We figured we can get them backed up, you seen it happen time and time again, our defense comes up with interceptions, sack, fumble, and things of that nature. You play into the hands of your strength in that situation. We were anticipating that we may be able to back them and make something happen but everybody in here, just like anything else in this world, who views those games have the benefit of the result. That makes a lot more things come up for consideration and I understand that."
On if he agrees with Blandino saying that, ‘Picking up the flag was debatable': "You can discuss with him further with that one way or another."
On if he agrees with what Blandino said: "Absolutely. The big thing is, I'm angry about it, and trying to keep my composure here, but I'm probably more angry for our team, and the fans. That's the thing that stirs your blood, our organization, the Ford family, that's hard to swallow. I've been there a couple of times before but I'm here now and this team is important to me, and the best for these men is what's important to me as well. In that particular case I just think it's tough."
On having WR Golden Tate in as the punt returner before switching back to WR Jeremy Ross: "Well, we were looking for situations where he had an opportunity to return. If he's backed up in our own territory we knew we were going to get those high, lofted kicks that typically are just fair catches. We were going to use Jeremy for those and if we got them backed up where he punted out and he's got a chance to return, we were going to use Golden there."
On if the pass interference play will be used as motivation for next season: "It's not the pass interference thing that will be used for motivation. That, to me, after today is over with, perhaps it will probably be the last time that you'll ever hear me even talk about it. For me, that particular incident's not fuel. What's fuel for the fire is the fact that we didn't get to where we wanted to get to. We didn't play as well as we needed to play down the stretch, didn't make the plays that we needed to make. I think all too often that people lean upon excuses and reasons why. We're not doing any of that. This team's got to get better, we've got to find ways to get better. Our object is to be better this next year than we were this year. The only way you're going to do that is you've got to get focused on the things in which you need to improve upon and not necessarily something that someone else did that you have no control over. So, we'd like to kind of take control of where we are and sort of use the things that we know that are going to help us get in position to win more often as fuel."
On what the offense has to do better next season: "Get more consistent. You know, I do think down the stretch here we did a little bit better job running the ball. We started this game probably as well as you can start it, you know? We were moving the ball quite well, I think. Putting points on the board, but couldn't sustain it. We were kind of up and down, but for the most part I just think that we just have to be a little bit better just in terms of getting our running game off to a start better earlier in the year. But I think we've got to do some of the same things we did before. I think if we don't turn the ball over, give ourselves the opportunity, I think it's going to be fine. We've got a great nucleus of guys coming back. I think you're going to see improvement in all of those areas."
On how he would rate QB Matthew Stafford's season: "I know he played better throughout the year. When you take a look at him he improved in terms of percentage of completion, which to me was huge. We wanted to get him as close to 62-percent as we could. He had been 58-percent I think in previous years and the year before, I'm certain. But he was probably just a little bit over 60-percent this year, maybe a little bit of a hair up from that. I haven't seen the latest ones, but it's up. That, to me, is key. The other part of it is he didn't turn the ball over nearly as much. When you asked me about the two most important factors and the two most important areas, he improved. The other thing is he improved upon, we won more games. He's a big part of helping us with that. He's not the entire team, it's not all on him. There's a lot of other folks on our football team that have to assist and I think he's made improvement and I think before long, like I said earlier last week, I think less focus will be on him. You guys will see what we see in terms of his ability. I think he's growing and developing. He's right at that point in time where you see them hit their stride. I think he'll be fine."
On his evaluation of Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi this season: "Very good. I think that overall, it's just a matter of matching personnel with what you have. We don't talk about it because we don't make any excuses, but let me just tell you something As a play-caller, what he had to deal with in terms of juggling guys, using people, particularly what we had with changes in our offensive line, things of that nature, who to protect, who not to help, all these kinds of things, it's a lot different than public perception, trust me. What he did in terms of being able to get us through some of those very rough spots was exceptional, the whole offensive staff. I know often times we all look at the bottom line and hey, that's well and good. I think the bottom line is wins and losses are what we should be looking at, but did we win enough to get us in position to play further in the season? Yeah, we did. Did we play as well as we'd like to? No, and I think we have to continue to improve in that area."
On if he would like to see the passing game be more vertical next season: "No, I don't think it has to be. I just think we need to be more effective. I think if we complete more passes and to a higher percentage, I think the number of times we throw it and things of that nature are fine. Schematically I think we're fine. We've just got to keep getting better. I remember my second playoff. My first playoff was at Tampa, my second playoff was at Indianapolis. That particular playoff game, which was our first with that team, we got beat 41-0 in the first round of the playoffs, but yet I think the foundation was laid with that particular team how to come back and keep getting better and keep getting better and move forward. I think you'll find this exact same thing happens with this particular group."
On how much he will target the offensive line in the offseason evaluation: "That will be an ongoing process. We're right in that phase getting ready to get started. You can imagine, we just finished playing yesterday, so now we have an opportunity to kind of take a look at everything as whole, do a thorough evaluation and not a knee-jerk reaction to the ballgame. Often times it takes a little getting away from it, back up, get some perspective, take a look at what your situation is. We'll do that this week and we'll grade and take a look at what our needs are and make some assessments from there."
On C Travis Swanson's injury diagnosis: "Obviously, he had a knee injury, but at this point in time they have not made a determination, at least haven't told me, that it's going to be operable where he has to have an operation I should say. Seems like he's going to be able to get through it with strengthening and things of that nature. He should be OK."
On re-signing DT Ndamukong Suh this offseason: "Well, I can probably answer it this way. That will continue to be one of our highest priorities. That's going to be addressed constantly here until we come to some conclusion."
On what the team missed without LB Stephen Tulloch this season: "It's hard to assess that. Obviously, it's tough. We've got a lot of great leaders on our team. He's one of those and he certainly does add in just in terms of the overall experience. I mean, you can't trade that. Obviously, hopefully he's healed up and coming along great. Certainly, we hope to benefit from that in the future. But I can also tell you that the guys that did step in and play for him did a heck of a job. Those guys ran around, played well, gave us everything they had. I don't think that anyone wants to diminish the kind of job they did for us. They did a great job. They were as big of a part of stopping the run as our front four. They were super."
On the possibility of bringing back Suh: "There's no question about it. He's a dominant, dominant player who we benefit from greatly, from having his services. He's a tremendous asset to our team and I'll leave it at that. He's quite a player."
On how much he would like the defensive line to stay together for next year: "The group as a whole, I think your entire team often times I think you enter the offseason saying, ‘We'd like to have all these guys back. But, the salary cap won't allow you to do so, it's just not realistic. You have to make adjustments, make assessments and that's what we'll be in the process of doing. But we won't make those assessments today. It's an ongoing process that will take us a while to get through."
On the offensive line play this year: "Number one, I can tell you this, that they're a bunch of resilient young men that played that position for us. We had a lot of young guys that got a lot of experience, a lot of big game experience. I think that's going to bode well for us when you think about the young guys, (Travis) Swanson, (Cornelius) Lucas who got in there and played for us an extensive amount. You look at the guys that have played for us there: (Larry) Warford is going to be a good, solid player. We get LA (LaAdrian Waddle) back, just a number of different guys that I think are going to help us out, some of the older guys that helped us in (Rob) Sims, Dom (Raiola) and those guys. We didn't play anywhere as well as we'd like. Anytime you fall a little short you always see ways you can improve and get better, but I do think that the future looks bright for our entire team across the board including the offensive line."
On how he would evaluate what Sims and Raiola can provide in 2015: "That's going to take us a little bit. Those are things we have to weigh out. We have to sit, we have to talk about them, we have to see how they work in terms of numbers. There's just a number of different things and it's not an easy process. It's also not fair for me to stand up here and talk about those things or give you sort of a state of the union address at this particular time without having an opportunity to really go through it. I do understand that Martin (Mayhew) does make himself available to you all sometime this week and typically at that time I know he does give you some direction in terms of what we're thinking."
On what impresses him most about the character of the team: "It's probably just that word in itself. I think it was a group that has strong character despite a couple of incidents that we had. When you look at it overall, I think our guys did not a great job, but a very good job of staying out of trouble off the field. I think our focus was on the game in itself and trying to find a way to win. Like I mentioned a little bit earlier, I thought they functioned extremely well as a team. They loved one another, got along extremely well with one another, played hard for one another, practiced extremely well. I mean, all the things you ask for as a coach, our guys tried to do. It doesn't mean they met them but across the board, I'm not certain I've been with any group that had the kind of unity and camaraderie that this particular group had. Their ability to come from behind when things are a little tough, that jumps out at you when you look at the number of games that we were involved in that we won by three points or less or that we won by eight points or less. I think those things have to jump out at you because you don't do those things by smoke and mirrors, it's not by accident. I think it's because of the character of the team, their toughness, resilience and a little bit of sisu that's involved and got them to where they are today."
On why Defensive Coordinator Teryl Austin would be a great head coach: "He has all of the qualities that you're looking for. I think without question, he has two of the things I think for dynamic leadership that you're looking at are precepts and percepts. One, the precepts being the technical knowledge and being able to understand exactly what you're doing in your chosen profession. He's excellent at that. The percepts are, does he have the emotional sort of connection with his players to sort of get them to do what he wants to? Does he have it when he needs it? He has that. I think, not only that, he does a great job in terms of handling the media which is very important in this particular job. I fail at that quite often, he excels at it."
On how much turnover he expects on his coaching staff: "You never know in our business. I think, particularly when you have a staff like we have, of young guys that are very talented, very creative, I think opportunities will present themselves sometimes so you may have a little adjustment here or there. We'll see how that works."
On if he's made any decisions to part ways with his assistants: "We have not."
On P Sam Martin struggling in big games and if he's worried about that in the future: "He's performed extremely well. He's a young guy, he's developing, he's got a great talent and he'll be fine."
On if re-signing K Matt Prater is a priority: "Just in terms of talking about priorities and things of that nature, it's not a good time to do that. Obviously, we all realized that that's an important part of what we do and particularly with the kind of start that we had earlier in the season."
On how much Prater helped this season: "He did a tremendous job. When he came in he solved some problems for us. He started out a little bit up and down and then at the end, he was strong. He did a nice job, he functioned like we knew he was capable of functioning. He helped us out a lot and obviously helped us win some ball games that were key."
On what he thinks of the year in general: "It was a good year, not a great year. A good year, you make it into the playoffs. Great years, you win it all. We didn't win it all obviously, but I do think that we put ourselves in position to do so. An analogy could be similar to a golf game. If you hit it on the green enough times where you're putting for birdie and you end up with par, that if you keep giving yourself enough opportunities that pretty soon you're going to sink a birdie somewhere along the way. Our guys, I think, are certainly challenged with making that happen again but it's going to take a lot of work in between. The way they got to where they are today in terms of giving ourselves a chance in the tournament, it took hard work, took discipline and we have to continue to work on those areas and get better for us to continue to head in that direction."
Closing statement: "I'd like to say thanks a lot to all of you. You guys have covered us all year long. Although we don't have to necessarily agree on every single thing, how you guys see things and how we see things, but we certainly do appreciate you getting the story out about our team. I think you guys have some great stories out there about some of the guys that play this game for us: The men of courage, the men that love to do what they do. But they also appreciate you getting the word out to our fans as well that are certainly highly interested in what's going on with the team here in town. Thanks a lot for what you do for us, thanks for your coverage and I'll see you somewhere down the road. I'm not sure when but maybe a little while. Thanks a lot."