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Conference Call: Lions Head Coach Jim Schwartz

Posted Sep 19, 2012

LIONS HEAD COACH JIM SCHWARTZ

(on if everything is going as planned in Detroit)

The only plan we ever had was to try to get better every week. We never had a one-year plan or a two-year plan or a three-year plan, five-year plan, all that other stuff. I think you can get off track when you start putting artificial time limits on things. We’ve tried to improve every step along the way. We tried to learn from our mistakes. We’re still a work in progress. We haven’t arrived. We really can’t look back, we have to look forward.

(on the culture change in Detroit)

Well honestly, we never really tried to change the culture. We just tried to get better. When you do that and you win and you get reliable players in place, then as a result, you change the culture. We never attempted to change the culture. That was not what we wanted to do. What we wanted to do was win football games. When you win, then as a byproduct, the culture gets changed. You can put the cart before the horse when it comes to things other than winning games.

(on how much it helps to have familiar faces on the roster like Kyle Vanden Bosch and Stephen Tulloch)

Well they were acquired not because they’re good guys, hard workers or anything else, they were acquired because they fit the scheme and they’re good players. That’s why every player on the team is here. Again, we kept our eye on trying to find guys that fit in the scheme and guys that could be relied on to do the job we expected them to do. Both of those guys fit that role. I think that we’ve drafted well, we’ve acquired good free agents, and we’ve continued to pursue the roster—making moves not only at the top of the roster, but at the bottom of roster with no objective other than talent and trying to find guys that fit, that can do the job. Both of those guys filled those requirements.

(on if it helps having guys that know the system and know what he’s trying to communicate)

I don’t know. I think that the most important thing is winning games. If you can do that, then the message is spread. Honestly, that was never an objective of ours—getting go-to guys in the locker room or anything like that. We have a very good locker room. We have some very good leadership. Our leadership goes beyond our captains. We have a good mix of young players and older players, some guys that lived through 0-16. Calvin Johnson lived through 0-16. Cliff Avril lived through 0-16. Jeff Backus, Dominic Raiola, Stephen Peterman, those guys have that kind of perspective. That’s important to us also. They know where this franchise has been. Other guys struggled through the beginning, guys like Matt Stafford, Brandon Pettigrew, Louis Delmas, guys that we drafted. Some guys we just got this year. Everybody is in a little different spot. We have a good mix of older and younger guys. Our best players are also our hardest working players, and that’s what makes it easy for a message to get across.

(on if Kyle Vanden Bosch is the same player in Detroit that he was in Tennessee)

Everybody is a little different every year. Kyle (Vanden Bosch) is a tremendous leader. You guys know him as well as anybody. He had one of his best years last year. He had eight sacks and he was coming off a neck surgery. I thought he had a very good year, caused a lot of fumbles, played like he always does, is around the football all the time. He practices hard, plays hard, good against the run, good against the pass, relentless—all those things that everybody remembers about him he still does for us.

(on what he tried to emphasize to Matthew Stafford in his early development as a quarterback)

Be a good quarterback. We didn’t go in with a laundry list of red light, green light, protect the football, do this, do that. We wanted him to have command of the offense and command of the quarterback position. We wanted him to score touchdowns. That hasn’t changed since his rookie year. We have not spoon fed him the offense. He doesn’t have any more now than he did three years ago. He’s always had a very good command of what we do offensively. Through experience he has a command of what other defenses try to do against us, and through experience he has experience dealing with different personnel in the league and different coordinators. This week is a challenge for us because Matt (Stafford) has never gone against a defense coached by Jerry Gray. He’s never gone against the personnel of the Tennessee Titans. About the only guy we’ve seen has been (Kamerion) Wimbley. We played Cleveland and Oakland the last few years, so we’ve seen him, but everyone else is new. So there is a challenge this week to get familiar with a new opponent, a new scheme, different personnel.

(on if there are certain pressures first-round quarterbacks have to deal with)

There are a couple jobs that everyone thinks they can do, and that’s quarterback, head coach and kicker. Everybody knows when those guys screw up. There are a lot of Monday morning kickers, Monday morning quarterbacks, Monday morning coaches. It just goes along with the job. You’re not an NFL kicker if you feel pressure. You’re not an NFL head coach if you succumb to pressure, same thing with the quarterback. This is a very scrutinized league, and it’s a very a scrutinized position. You need to have a personality that can deal with that. If you’re not comfortable being the center of attention, then you’re going to have a difficult time dealing with what’s required of the position. With Matt (Stafford), he has that. Nothing has ever really been too big for him. He’s got a good demeanor to handle the quarterback position. He’s comfortable in his skin. He can take accountability for his mistakes, but nothing shakes his confidence. A couple weeks ago, he threw three interceptions in the first half. He came back the last two drives, led touchdown drives and won the game for us, never got to a third down in any of those two drives. You can’t do that if you lose confidence. I think you need to be resilient in this league no matter what position you play, but probably more so at quarterback than any other position.

(on how similar the Titans defense is to what he’s seen in the past and what he’s running in Detroit)

It’s different than what we run in Detroit. Jerry (Gray) brought a different scheme down there last year, and it’s a little different than what they ran last year. Every defense is going to try to fit their schemes to the personnel that they have, so every year, that’s going to change a little bit. It looks a little bit different this year than last. It will probably look a little different this game than last. That’s just the way it is in the NFL. There was a change when Jerry (Gray) took over last year. There was a change in the way that the scheme was run and things like that. I thought they had a good year last year. They’ve gotten off to a slow start this year, but it is two games into the season. It’s a long season. There are 14 games to go. We are all judged by what happens in 16 games and not two.

(on what he has to anticipate with a defense coached by Jerry Gray)

They are multi-dimensional. They don’t do anything that is different than anybody in the NFL, but they give you a steady dose of a lot of different things. They have two outstanding pass rushers on the outside part of the field, some very active defensive tackles, a linebacker that is a very good rusher also in (Akeem) Ayers. I think that there are a lot of things that give us challenges on that defense. Like I said, they haven’t gotten off to the start they wanted to get off to—neither have we. But again, you’re judged by what goes on in 16 games, not just what goes on in two.

(on how Louis Delmas is progressing with his injury)

He’s getting better every day. He wasn’t ready to get on the field, and when he is, we’ll get him out there. We don’t have any timetables for players that are injured other than what their health is. His health wasn’t good enough for him to be on the field last week. We just take it day-to-day with those guys.

(on if there was any part of being a head coach that he wasn’t completely prepared for)

I was very fortunate to have some good role models, some good teachers. I started off my career with Bill Belichick in Cleveland, and I got to spend 10 years with Jeff  Fisher—not just listening to those guys, but observing them, the way that they handled a million different situations. In 10 years at Tennessee, we saw about everything you could imagine from making a Cinderella Super Bowl run to being the best record in the NFL and losing in the first round to having a salary cap purge, and young quarterback, veteran quarterback. There were so many things—starting 1-4 and ending up in the AFC Championship game, starting 0-5, very bleak outlook and still having a chance for the playoffs in the last game of the season. I was very fortunate to have some good teachers, some good role models, and they prepared me very well for the fact that you can’t anticipate everything that goes on. Both of those guys have a lot of confidence, they were unshakable in what they believed. A little bit like we talked about with the quarterback. That’s probably been the thing that served me best through everything. You say what’s one thing that you didn’t expect? The one thing is everything. Everything is different. Every day is different, every day you’re going to handle a situation that there’s no manual to go to. You just have to have confidence in what you do, have a good plan and stick with your plan.

(on the Titans group of receivers this year)

It’s hard for me to compare them. (Kenny) Britt misses most of last year with an injury, and he only played a few snaps in the first game, but he’s very talented. We all know that. Nate Washington is a guy that has experience in the league, so he a little bit, I won’t say longer track record, but he has a track record with Pittsburgh, he’s got a track record with Tennessee. It’s a very talented group. I don’t know that you compare them to other groups or anything like that, but they fill a lot of different roles. They have bigger guys like Britt and fast guys like Nate Washington. There’s a lot to be concerned about with their wide receiver group. It’s a very talented group.

(on if Chris Johnson’s struggles surprise him)

It’s two games. We need to be at our very best to stop him. That’s a very important thing for us. The first week we stopped a very good running back in Steven Jackson. Last week against the 49ers, we didn’t do a very good job of stopping the run. We need to be on our game to stop a guy like Chris Johnson. He’s a guy that you have to respect for 60 minutes of the game, because at any time he can get loose. We’re all judged on, again, what happens in 16 games, not what happens in two. When I was there, there were a lot of years that Eddie George started off slow and everybody was panicking and saying, what’s wrong with him? He always answered the bell. Now we have to make sure that Chris Johnson doesn’t get it started this week.

(on if it feels like a reunion with coaching against Jeff Fisher in Week 1 and Mike Munchak in Week 3)

You know, honestly I don’t think about it very much. You’re so engrossed in the schemes and the personnel and the matchups and everything that goes into the game, that other than 15 minutes before the game when you’re saying hello to some people that you haven’t seen in a while, it really doesn’t come up. It’s about the two teams. It’s going to be about the Lions and the Titans. It’s not going to be about the fact that I used to coach there or friends with (Mike) Munchak or anything else.

(on if he gets back to Tennessee much)

We always have a reason to go back to Tennessee. We were there for 10 years. All three of my kids were born in Tennessee. My whole family has lifelong friends that will continue to visit and stay in touch with. We try to get back there as often as we can. We have a lot of visitors that come from Nashville that come to see us. It was a great place to live. It was a great 10 years of our lives. We certainly extend those relationships.

(on if he thought Mike Munchak was the right choice to replace Jeff Fisher)

It certainly didn’t surprise me. (Mike) Munchak is very well respected, he’s very organized, he’s smart. He played in the NFL, he’s in the Hall of Fame, good gracious. He’s proven that he’s a good leader. Like I said, they haven’t started off the way they wanted to. There’s five teams in the league that are 2-0 or there are six teams in the league that are 2-0. Those are the only teams that probably started the way they wanted to. You’re judged on 16 games. Like I mentioned, a couple of those times in Tennessee we started 1-4 and 0-5. I remember the one year after the Super Bowl, the year we lost to Buffalo in the opener, we rattled off 10 straight wins. We were 0-1 and everybody was feeling bad. There’s a lot of scrutiny in this league, and people need a lot of things to talk about. But what you need to do is go to work every day and you need to improve every single week and be resilient. Those are all qualities that Mike Munchak has, and that will serve that team well.

(on how he has moved Calvin Johnson around to avoid double and triple coverage)

Well we have moved him around a little bit more over the last few years, more than in the past. Calvin (Johnson) has added a lot to his game, he’s not just a deep threat. He’s a very good underneath receiver, he’s a very good run-after-the-catch receiver, he can play in the slot. He can play just about everywhere. We have a quarterback that can get him the ball, but we’ve also built pretty good personnel around him on offense. If teams take the approach of taking Calvin out of the game, we have other guys that can make them pay. There’s a very good example with the game-winning touchdown against the Rams. We called a pass that there was no question, it was designed for Calvin. They not only had him doubled, true double with a corner and a safety, but two linebackers were so worried about Calvin that they stayed underneath of him. There were four guys in Calvin’s area, and they let the running back go to the flat. We were able to find him, complete it and get the win. Even if Calvin doesn’t make the game-winning catch, he can affect the defense. I think we’ve all seen that.

(on how Matthew Stafford is able to spread the ball around to different receivers)

That’s just what a quarterback does. You have players at every position, and you need to get them all the ball in certain situations when it makes sense. You can’t force anything. As good as Calvin is, there are times when it doesn’t make sense to throw the ball. We’ve worked really hard at trying to add talent around him at the wide receiver position, at the running back position. Our running backs have been injured or suspended for the first couple of weeks, but we’re starting to get some of those guys back. With our tight ends and wide receivers and running backs, I think we’re built to be multi-dimensional. We’re built to start to make somebody pay if they don’t want to play us honest. If they want to do whatever they can to take Calvin out, we have other guys that can move the ball and score touchdowns.

(on what he expects from running back Mikel Leshoure this week)

We drafted him for a reason. We really like what he did in college. He started off training camp as a rookie really well before he tore his Achilles. He spent some time being injured in camp this year, had a hamstring injury that he missed a couple of games with. When he was on the field, he looked like he always has, looked like he did in college. He’s a productive running back. He can run inside, he can run outside. He’s a bigger guy, but he’s not just a power running back. He’s good in the pass game. We’ll get him back in the swing of things this week. If we think he can contribute, if we think he can help us move the ball and score touchdowns, then he’ll be out there.

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