By Ashley Dunkak
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – The Detroit Lions will begin the 2014 season with a new playbook, and it will be one adapted from that of the New Orleans Saints, the last stop of new Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi.
“There are going to be some differences,” Lombardi said in his introductory press conference Friday. “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.
“The playbook that we’re starting from is the Saints playbook,” Lombardi added, “so it will certainly be similar.”
Using the blueprint of New Orleans can only be good news for Detroit, as the Saints have put up ridiculous yardage in recent years while making the postseason four of the past five seasons. Quarterback Drew Brees flourished in that system, and under the tutelage of Lombardi, and the Lions hope the same will be true of Matthew Stafford.
Stafford, widely heralded for his arm and potential, signed a contract extension in 2013 but came under fire after the Lions imploded down the stretch as Stafford’s statistics slid for a second straight season.
Though Lombardi earlier said that Stafford is not broken – in response to a query about how he would fix the quarterback – he did mention one area in which the young player can pick up his game in the 2014 season.
“Listen, every quarterback could tighten up some of his footwork issues,” Lombardi said. “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 goes through the receiver’s hands, gets tipped at the line of scrimmage.
“I was a little encouraged after watching that, that this was not an interception machine,” Lombardi added. “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.”
The Lions are still in the process of finding a quarterback coach, which they would like to have even though both Lombardi and head coach Jim Caldwell have plenty of experience working with passers, including some of the best in the league between Brees and Manning. Lombardi and Caldwell could take care of quarterback coach responsibilities themselves, but it would be ideal to have another set on hands on deck.
“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,” Lombardi said. “So, if you can find a talented guy to come into that position, I think that’s always helpful.”
Between Lombardi, Caldwell and the as-of-yet-unnamed quarterbacks coach, Stafford should be getting plenty of feedback on his play. Lombardi said it will be important for those coaches to be on the same page, but he does not foresee it being any kind of issue.
“We had something similar in New Orleans,” Lombardi said. “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.
“There’s a process to playing quarterback and that process is going to start day one of the offseason when Matthew gets in here,” Lombardi added. “I guarantee you that Coach Caldwell, myself and the quarterback coach will be on the same page as how we want that process to go, the language that we’re using with him. All those things will be consistent.”
While Lombardi does not yet know whether he will be up in the press box or down on the sidelines during games, he does expect to be calling the plays, a duty for which he has been preparing for a while.
“Certainly the last few years I’ve always been in that mode of, ‘Hey, what play would I call here?’” Lombardi said. “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.”