Below is a look at what Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew had to say during his end-of-season press conference on Thursday. (Quotes provided by the Lions.)
Opening statement: "I think that this past season was a good start for our new coaching staff and the way that we're situated right now. To be 11-5, having to implement a new offensive system and defensive system is an accomplishment. Obviously, like Coach Caldwell said, ‘Good but not great.' We would have liked to win those last two games and advanced, but we didn't. There's definitely some work to do, we can definitely get better. That's what our goal is for 2015."
On what type of priority re-signing DT Ndamukong Suh will be and if they will do so at any cost: "At any cost? No, I wouldn't say that. He certainly is a big priority for us and he's been an important part of our football team the last five years. I think the world of him. I had an opportunity to sit down and talk with him on Monday, we had a good conversation. We look forward to working with him to try to get a deal done."
On if the Lions would consider using the franchise tag on Suh: "I will leave every option open in terms of dealing with him."
On if they will consider using the transition tag on Suh: "I will leave every option open in terms of dealing with him."
On if Suh is open to staying in Detroit: "Yes, very much. We talked about that on Monday, had a good conversation with him. He wants to be here and we want him to be here. As I said before, I think that's a pretty good combination. We'll see how it all plays out."
On what the drawbacks are to not using the franchise tag on Suh: "Again, we'll leave every option open. We're not going to get into the pluses and minuses in terms of working this out. I think it's important for you guys to know that we want him back and that we are willing to franchise him, transition him or whatever but not give the details of each tactic."
On the drawbacks of committing a large amount of money to Suh: "There's not a whole lot of drawbacks from my standpoint. I'd like to have him here with us. He's a good player. As I mentioned to you guys before, the good players tend to get paid more money. You have to be willing to pay those guys and we're excited about what he did and what he has done for us in the past and what he can do for us in the future."
On why he believes he is going to be able to keep Suh in Detroit: "Like I said, I spoke to him on Monday, I've been in dialogue with him throughout the entire process. When we first talked about this, I don't think he had an agent at that time. So, there was a period of time where he didn't have an agent. Then we started talking and we got to the season and it wasn't done yet. We felt as an organization that the best thing to do was be focused on playing football. We did that knowing that we had an opportunity to get that done prior to the start of free agency and even after free agency starts. We still have an opportunity to get that contract done. We'll continue to work on it."
On how Suh's play this season and other player contracts that occurred this season have impacted Suh's value: "All those things are relevant in terms of doing a deal with him. All those things mean something and I think that's another reason why you wait. It determines his market value based on other things that have happened around the league and what he's done himself."
On when he expects to reopen negotiations with Suh: "I'm not going to comment on that either. It'll be a process in terms of getting that done and we will work efficiently towards making that happen."
On how they will proceed with DT Nick Fairley: "You know what, we've got a good number of free agent guys and we had our personnel meetings yesterday, talked about pretty much every one of our free agents, every one of our RFA's (restricted free agents) and evaluated our entire roster. We just had that meeting yesterday. We have not communicated with the players who will be here and who won't be here for the most part. I don't want to get into each individual free agent and what their status is. But, we are having those discussions right now. We had a big meeting yesterday as I said and had a follow-up meeting with Sheldon White today on the meeting from yesterday. We'll continue to talk about our roster and make decisions as we move forward."
On if there are any players that they have decided will not return next season: "Yes."
On if they have informed anyone of that yet: "I can't speak to that point but I'm not going to inform you guys of anybody that we may or may not have spoken to at this point."
On how confident he is that the weight problems and work ethic are in Fairley's past: "As confident as I can be."
On if he regrets not picking up the fifth-year option on Fairley's contract: "I think we made a lot of decisions, going back to that time frame, when you talk about things that we decided before this season started whether it was in March during free agency or in OTA's like that decision and that decision with Ndamukong. But you know, at 11-5, 5-1 in our division, I feel good about what we did in preparation for this season. I wish we could have won those last two games, I wish we were still playing right now, but I don't have any measure of regret in terms of the offseason."
On what stands out about the last two losses in terms of what needs to change: "We have to get better from a talent standpoint. We have to be a better football team. I think we're a good football team right now, but we're not a great football team. We have to be able to go and win at Green Bay, which we have not done in a long time. Having a bye and having a home game would have obviously helped us in terms of the playoffs and advancing. In those games, the other team played better than we played and we lost. What I take away from that is that we have to do a good job this offseason of making our football team better."
On the status of the salary cap if they decide to franchise Suh: "If we decide that we're going to franchise him, we'll have room."
On the initial Suh suspension and the NFL's final ruling: "I didn't think the punishment fit the crime. I thought there was some question as to how intentional that was and I felt the outcome at the end of the day was a fair one."
On if they have to figure out what to do with Suh before they can look to other elements of the team: "I think it would benefit us to have an idea of where we're going with that because obviously, it requires a certain amount of room to get that done. It requires a certain type of cash commitment to get that deal done. It would slow other things down if we were uncertain about whether it would get done or not."
On if there is any urgency to getting Suh's deal done: "There's always been urgency to it. Even when we weren't talking there was urgency to it."
On if they would pay Suh as a defensive tackle or as a defensive playmaker: "That's an excellent question, but I'm not going to get into that right now. That's part of the negotiation I would think."
On if he is disappointed he didn't get more production out of this year's draft class: "It would have been nice to have those guys produce better. I do think we draft for the future of the franchise, as I've mentioned to you guys before. I think the best time to evaluate a class is three years into it, so it's hard to really evaluate this year's class. As you mentioned, we didn't get major contributions from this class, but a lot of it was I think, due to a lot of injuries. (Eric) Ebron had a hamstring midseason, (Kyle) Van Noy had a sports hernia that he had operated on early in the year, Travis Swanson had a knee injury at the end. Nevin Lawson was injured at well, TJ Jones was injured also. I think that had an impact on what those guys could offer us this year, but I do believe in all of those guys in terms of having the opportunity to make our team and to compete for us next year on the field."
On if he expects more production from TE Eric Ebron moving forward: "I think he dealt with some typical rookie issues in learning the offense. I think he got a lot better as the season went on, even after the hamstring. It may have calmed him down a little bit and I think he played better later in the year. Certainly I would expect better production next year. He's certainly capable, he certainly has the ability. I think he's going to be better the second year in our offense. I think a lot of our players are going to be better the second year in our offense and think he's one of them. I do expect more from him, yes."
On why the tight end group did not have more production this season: "You know what, I don't really have a solid answer for that at this point. I thought we'd get more catches from (Brandon) Pettigrew. I thought we'd get more catches from (Eric) Ebron, and obviously Joe Fauria was injured, which is why we couldn't get as much from him. But you know, you look at what Golden (Tate) did, you get excited about that. Calvin (Johnson) had another solid year. We used our backs a lot in the passing game. Theo (Riddick) had a big year for him really breaking in and really getting an opportunity to play some offensive football. He did a really good job for us. The ball was spread around a little bit differently, but I do think when you implement a new offensive system, there's a lot that goes into that. One of the things I think is the quarterback being familiar with all the receivers and trusting all the receivers and knowing where they're going to be. And the coordinator, being familiar with all the offensive skill players and what those guys are capable of doing, what they're good at and trying to figure all that stuff out. So, I think it's a process, but I do believe that the second year of it, of our offense, is going to be better than the first year."
On his evaluation of Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi: "I thought he did a really good job. I think all those stats are all nice and everything, but I'll take the 11 wins over the seven wins any day. We talked about that when we hired Coach Caldwell. A lot of you guys mentioned where the Ravens ranked offensively in terms of yards. I think those stats are nice, but it's important to win football games and I think that Joe did a good job preparing our offense to win games."
On designing personnel groupings to be able to play with pace: "I mean, I'm obviously on board with what Coach Caldwell said. He and Joe are very experienced in terms of running an offense, much more experienced than I am. So, we talk about our needs offensively, I discuss it with them and with our scouting staff and we move forward based off what they say that they need. I'm not going to make any determination based off what I think we should be doing offensively that doesn't include him."
On assessing the play of the offensive line: "I think the offensive line, the one thing that you guys, I haven't read everybody's stuff, but haven't talked about as much is the fact that we only had one guy that started every game. You know, we had a lot of guys in and out of the lineup. I think that affected us offensively. You saw we had more sacks this year, which was an issue. We didn't run the ball quite as well this year. I'd like to get guys healthy, you know? I assume that we'll be healthy next year, but to lose Larry (Warford) a couple different times, to lose (LaAdrian) Waddle a couple different times, multiple times during the season, lose Riley Reiff for a period of time, it makes it tough. So, I think the health of our offensive line impacted our offense."
On evaluating QB Matthew Stafford's season: "I thought it was an outstanding season for him. I think it was probably the second-best season that he's had here with us. 2011, obviously, was exceptional. Forty-one touchdown passes and 5,000 yards passing. This year was an outstanding season for him in my opinion. It's interesting that when in 2012 and 2013 he's throwing for a lot of yards and people are saying, ‘Well, the real stat that matters for a quarterback is winning football games.' Then this year, we win a lot of games and people are unhappy with the stats, you know? So, I think winning the games is the most important thing. We had I think 34 turnovers last year. We had 20 this year, so there's a big change there in terms of protecting the football, being smart with the football. There's some decisions that were made whether to take a sack or throw the ball away that he may not get credit for making the right decision and being careful with the ball, but I think us having a 19-turnover differential between the ones that we got, being plus-five and then minus-14 on the ones that we lost, that was a big factor in us winning 11 games this year."
On how much his staff uses analytics in the draft process: "We use analytics some. I don't know how to quantify it. It's another piece of the puzzle. To me, it's like, you know, you talk about the combine and how high a guy can jump and how fast he can run, it's just a piece of the puzzle. You know, you don't draft a guy because he had the fastest time or he jumped the highest, but it's another piece of information that helps you to make a decision on a player. Analytics serve that purpose for us."
On G Rob Sims and C Dominic Raiola: "Both outstanding guys, Rob and Dom. I think the world of both of those guys. They've been big contributors for us over the past few years. You know, as I said, we met yesterday and we're still making decisions about how to proceed."
On how G Travis Swanson affects his decision on Sims and Raiola: "Yeah, I'm not going to get into all that. Like I said, all of our free agents were discussed yesterday and we're still working through that process as to who is coming back and who is not coming back. Now's not the appropriate time to get into that. Obviously, if we made a decision not to bring a particular guy back there's a good chance we haven't spoken to that player or to his agent at this time, so I wouldn't get into that right now."
On what Senior Coaching Assistant Gunther Cunningham contributed to the staff this season: "He contributed a lot. He's involved with me personally on our Monday morning evaluations when we evaluate the players as a pro personnel scouting department. We sit down and grade every single player, he's involved in that process with me. He does numerous reports for us on the upcoming opponents and helps out with the advance report for our coaching staff. So, he did a good job for us this year. There's been no decision made at this point about how we go forward. I plan to sit down with Gunther sometime in the next week or so and have a conversation about that."
On filling the defensive coordinator position if Teryl Austin leaves: "That will be Coach Caldwell's decision about how to proceed on that. Teryl's done a phenomenal job, as you guys know. I mean, for us to be No. 1 in rushing defense and I think we're No. 3 in scoring defense this year. He did a phenomenal job with the group and I think he has a lot of ability. I think he's certainly capable of being a head coach in the NFL. I think I said that when he got here that at some point he'd have an opportunity to do that. He's certainly worthy of the opportunity."
On how much quarterback play matters when playing big games on the road: "I think the play of your quarterback is very important actually every week, but obviously important when you go on the road and play a really good football team. Both of those teams (Green Bay and Dallas) did a good job. I think they had good plans against us and both of them beat us. I think, like I said earlier, the important thing I took away from that was from a talent standpoint we have to get better. It's not all on the quarterback. The whole team goes on the road and plays the game, you know? So, we've got to play better across the board on both sides of the ball in those situations."
On if he sees the offense becoming more run-heavy eventually: "I like balance, really. I mean, at the end of the season I'd like for us to be 50-50. I like to see a balanced offense. I think it's harder to prepare for a balanced offense, but I think some of those things are situational. For example, at the end of the Dallas game, we get the ball back with two-and-a-half minutes. They're all passes, so you've got a number of passes that happen that get the passes up in the 40s. So, it depends on where you are in games. We had several games where we were behind late in the game, like the game in London, the Saints game, the Dolphins game, and you see a lot of passing happening because of the situation at the end of the game. That may skew the numbers a little bit depending on what happens during the course of the game."
On if he has heard directly from the NFL about the pass interference call in the Dallas game: "I have heard. Actually, I think all of us have heard at one point or another from somebody at the league office. I had an email exchange with Dean Blandino about the situation. I think that the focus on a couple bad calls takes away from the fact that two really good teams played an outstanding football game that day. That game will be known for the penalty call instead of being known for the great effort that Golden Tate made early in the game on his touchdown or the great game that Tony Romo played in that game. You know, when the penalty happened there were eight minutes left in the game when they got the ball back. We had every opportunity to do something to overcome that and do something positive to win that game and we didn't. They made the plays down the stretch. They deserved to win and they deserved to advance, so that's the nature of our business, you know? I'm from the old school of, ‘No excuses, no explanations.' Did you win the game? No, we didn't win it. They won it, they advanced. We hope to see them next year at some point."
On how much the success of this season helps with Suh's negotiations: "I think it does help. I think the fact that I think he really enjoys playing for Coach Caldwell benefits us in pursuing him and trying to get him to come back to us. He likes to win, I know that. I know he likes Coach Caldwell. I know he's very comfortable here in Detroit, so those things all play in our favor. At the end of the day money talks, you know, so we'll have to step up in terms of pursuing him financially as well."
On if he is looking to extend LB DeAndre Levy's contract this offseason: "Individual guys, whether they're free agents or under contracts, individual negotiations at this point, I don't think it makes sense to get into all of that. DeAndre has been an outstanding player for us as you know, should be in the Pro Bowl, and I'm going to make a recommendation. I'm on the GM advisory committee. I'm going to make a recommendation that we elect a Pro Bowl team with a 3-4 defense and a Pro Bowl team with a 4-3 defense. You see guys like DeAndre and like Lavonte David that don't really get the credit they deserve and get an opportunity to be Pro Bowlers because in the 3-4 these guys have so many sacks. A lot of fans are voting for guys with sacks but there's some 4-3 outside linebackers who are outstanding players and I think they should be recognized as such."
On if he would like to change the Pro Bowl voting process: "I haven't given it that much thought, but that's a good thought. I should get to vote, I don't get to vote, you know, that's not fair. That's a good thought though."
On if lessons were learned from the last season they had following a playoff appearance: "I think Jim Caldwell makes it different, I think he'll make it different. I think his leadership, the way he approaches our team, his focus on the things that are important, I think our team is going to come back and be focused on getting back. I think he'll do a great job of that."
On how wary he is of making the same mistakes that they made following the 2011 season: "You have to be aware of that. I think also after that season we signed Calvin that year, kind of restricted us a little bit in free agency. Obviously, you have a big contract that's due this year. I think there's some lessons learned from a personnel standpoint, maybe hung in with some guys maybe one year too long in those situations, so I think we're going to evaluate things very carefully and I think we'll make the right decisions to be better in 2015."
On how much the team can participate in free agency after targeting Suh: "I think we can do some things. The cap will go up about 10 million bucks from what I understand. I think we can do some things in free agency and we can acquire some players."
On how much consideration was given to draft Rams DT Aaron Donald or Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr.: "You know, those guys are on someone else's team right now as you know, so discussing how much that I like or don't like them could be considered tampering. I like Eric Ebron, he's going to be a good player for us. I like the job that's he's done for us at this point in terms of his work ethic and his commitment to learning the offense. His athleticism shows up every day in practice, so I think all those things will translate to him being a productive player for us in the future."
On what he likes about former rugby player Jarryd Hayne as an NFL prospect: "Maybe not him specifically, but you know we're always on the lookout for players that can help us. We've bought other guys in, in the past that have been, Kickalicious (Havard Rugland) and Carlin Isles, we've had other guys in who've taken an extensive look at. Jarryd Hayne falls in that category as a guy we want to evaluate. We'll see what happens, he's still out there and he's still looking at other teams as well. I'm not sure what'll happen with him, but we'd like to have him."
On what he position he sees Hayne playing: "That's something that we're still talking about."
On how disappointed he was that WR Ryan Broyles wasn't a part of the offense: "I would have loved to have seen him get out on the field and play for us. Unfortunately there were guys ahead of him, and they stayed relatively healthy for the most part. The reason why he didn't play was because nobody got hurt. The other guys were featured in our offense, we had plans for those guys in the offense, and he was our first reserve off the bench. Like the sixth man in basketball, sometimes you don't get in. He didn't get an opportunity to get in, but I look forward to seeing what he does this off-season and seeing his continual development. He'll be a year removed from that Achilles injury, I think he'll have a little bit more pep in his step this off-season, so I'll look forward to seeing him work."
On what regrets he had about this season: "I think when I said that we were 4-12 maybe, it was easier to have regrets. There's not a lot of things I can think of right now. Obviously, we can always do something better, but I'm pleased with the progress that we made as an organization this year."
On if it would be a confident off-season if they were to re-sign Suh to a long-term deal or franchise him: "I think so. I think we'll be able to create room either way that we go. Obviously, a long-term deal is a preference, it always is, but we'll evaluate it as we go. Like I said, there will be ongoing dialogue and sense of urgency to get something done."
On if WR Calvin Johnson or G Larry Warford will need surgery: "I can't really comment on that."
On how concerning the suspensions that occurred during the year were: "Those things are always of concern. When you have guys that miss games due to suspensions, that's not what you want. You want guys that are doing things the right way all the time, and they're always available for you, so obviously very disappointing in each one of those situations when a guy actually missed a game. I think at the end of the day you want to make sure that you're responding appropriately, that your coach is handling discipline appropriately, and I think that Jim did a really good job of that, of handling those situations appropriately. Even some guys that sat out a quarter of a game or sat out a half. I think that Coach Caldwell does a really good job sort of setting forth what the rules of engagement are, what you're allowed to do, what you're not allowed to do, and then being consistent in how he disciplines guys when there is an issue."
On if he expects CB Nevin Lawson back for off-season workouts: "At some point. I had never seen that injury he had in the 20-plus years I've been around the NFL, so that's a difficult one to gauge. We do expect him back at some point this off-season and expect him to be able to compete during training camp."
On how much Lions' Vice President of Pro Personnel Sheldon White has helped build the roster: "He's been phenomenal. He's exceptional at what he does, outstanding evaluator. There are a lot of guys on this roster that he brought to the table. Rashean Mathis for example was a guy that he saw on tape and when he brought up his desire to work Rashean out, I was against it. I was saying, ‘This is an older guy, how is this guy going to help us?' He talked me into working him out and he had a phenomenal workout. He was exceptional in every way, shape and form, so we ended up signing him. Obviously, he's worked out great for us the last two years having Rashean here. George Johnson is a guy who he brought to me who I had never seen, we signed him. I had never seen him on tape at the time that we signed him and as you know George made our team this year and was a big time contributor for us. He's always looking, he's always in his office evaluating tape and trying to find players that can help us win. I think he'd be a great General Manager in the National Football League. I think he's doing a phenomenal job of it and I hope he gets an opportunity."