By Ashley Dunkak
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Since the arrival of new head coach Jim Caldwell and his “ladder cam,” Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has gotten a whole new perspective on Matthew Stafford.
The team has an overhead camera dedicated solely to Stafford so he and the coaches can study every bit of what he does on each play in practice. Caldwell said he started using the ladder cam in 1982 – six years before Stafford was born.
“It’s pretty old-school,” Stafford said with a smile. “It’s interesting. It’s cool. It’s good for a quarterback and quarterback coach to kind of go over just where your feet are, where your head is, where your eyes are, where the ball get’s placed, all that. It’s good.
“It’s more so for confirming what you thought you saw,” Stafford added. “Whether it’s, ‘Hey this was really good,’ or ‘I felt like I got stuck here,’ or ‘I didn’t get there,’ it’s kind of like either yeah, or, maybe I was better than I thought or worse than I thought. It’s just a good teaching tool.”
Originally simply a camera on a ladder, the setup has gotten more advanced over time.
“It used to be just a ladder, and guys would climb up on the ladder and sort of take the picture and take film, and actually we had a ladder out here earlier, but now we have a little bit more of a contraption that you notice because they’d been doing it for a while on the ladder but it’s been quite inconspicuous up until this time,” Caldwell said. “Now it’s big and it’s got the conductor stand on it, so we kind of developed or progressed over the years, technology has improved, so that’s something that we use, and really just to focus in on the quarterback’s fundamentals and techniques.
“It doesn’t leave him, but it also gives you a really good view of what’s happening in the middle of the defense,” Caldwell continued. “Typically the quarterback’s eyes go down the middle of the field, and the camera does the exact same thing, so you can see what he’s seeing, you can determine coverages really from looking right down the middle of the field, so all of that plays into it, but the big thing is that we can look at his mechanics, every little detail of it. That’s his camera, and what we do with that is just try to hone in and perfect his craft in terms of mechanics and et cetera.”
Stafford, whose talent is lauded nationally but whose numbers have fallen over the past two seasons, seemed intrigued by the new view, one he had not seen since high school, when a coach followed him and other quarterbacks around in the offseason to get the overhead perspective.
While the debate continues regarding whether a franchise can win a Super Bowl without a great quarterback, most can agree that achieving the pinnacle of success in the NFL is a whole lot easier with an elite passer. The Lions have gone all-in with Stafford, last summer signing him to an extension and this offseason bringing in a staff – Caldwell, offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and quarterbacks coach Jim Bob Cooter – known for its work with some of the best quarterbacks in the league, including Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. Detroit also brought in offensive weapons like wide receiver Golden Tate and tight end Eric Ebron to give Stafford even more options offensively.
Caldwell said Stafford will get some choice over how he uses those options.
“Checking plays at the line of scrimmage for him is not new,” Caldwell said. “He’s done it before, he has a good understanding of it, and he even does some now, and that’s kind of part of the package because he’s got to have a little bit of autonomy, I think, from time to time to get you in the right play.
“You may be able to call a play, but he’s out there on the field,” Caldwell added. “He can see it happening, he can see the defense, so there are some times we have some overriding checks and things of that nature … It’s part of playing that position.”
For now, though, Stafford is mostly focusing on executing correctly the plays that are called.
“A lot of it’s built in as far as the kills, the checks, all the alerts, all that kind of stuff, but there’s some freedom for sure to change routes and do things like that, but at this point, we’re trying to hone in on just being as good as we can possibly be at the plays that are in the playbook against the certain defenses we’re getting,” Stafford said. “Guys are doing a good job of learning and progressing.”
The Lions conclude their mandatory minicamp Thursday, and they return to the team facility for training camp in late July.