ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) Joe Lombardi has already spent plenty of time analyzing his new quarterback.
And that made him feel a bit better about Detroit’s Matthew Stafford.
”I looked at every single one of his interceptions in depth and not every single one was something Matthew did wrong,” said Lombardi, the Lions’ new offensive coordinator.
”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. So, I was a little encouraged after watching that – that this was not an interception machine.”
That might sound like a backhanded compliment, but Lombardi is confident that Stafford can shake off his mistake-prone tendencies from last season and regain the form that enabled him to lead Detroit to the playoffs three seasons ago.
Lombardi joins the Lions with an intriguing resume and a famous name, but his success could ultimately hinge on whether Stafford starts living up to his status as a former No. 1 draft pick on a more consistent basis.
”He’s smart, he works hard and he’s talented,” Lombardi said. ”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.”
Stafford has thrown for more than 4,600 yards in each of the past three years, but he threw 19 interceptions last season, his most since he was a rookie. The Lions lost six of their last seven games to blow a chance at a playoff spot – and Stafford was intercepted 12 times over that span.
Detroit coach Jim Schwartz was fired after that collapse, and Jim Caldwell was hired to replace him. Lombardi will be Caldwell’s offensive coordinator, and he met with reporters Friday.
Lombardi spent the past seven seasons with the New Orleans Saints. He was an offensive assistant there before being promoted to quarterbacks coach in 2009. Quarterback Drew Brees led the Saints to a Super Bowl win in 2010.
Lombardi says he’s already spoken to Stafford since taking his new job.
”He was around maybe my first or second day that I was in the office. He came up and we chatted, you know, introductory stuff, getting to know each other,” Lombardi said. ”But I was very encouraged, he’s clearly a bright young man.
”Football is very important to him. He’s a hard worker and I knew before I ever met him how talented he was. So, it seems like he’s really got all those characteristics that make up for great quarterbacks.”
Lombardi said he expects to call plays this season, although he indicated there will be plenty of input from others.
”It’s always a collaborative effort,” he said. ”I think a lot of the play calls get done during the week in game planning. No matter who is calling plays, certainly a lot of suggestions are being made on game day. But yes, I think I’ll be the one that will.”
Lombardi graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1994, where he played football and lacrosse. He is the grandson of Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi, and that topic was bound to come up when he was introduced by the Lions.
”I think when you come from a football family, you’re encouraged not to get into football,” Lombardi said. ”You don’t go to the Air Force Academy with the thought that you’re going to be a football coach. But when I graduated and that first football season came around where I wasn’t involved with a football team, it felt like something was missing.
”My dad said, `Look, if you can live without it, do it. Don’t coach. If you can’t live without it, then I don’t know what to tell you.’ I felt like I couldn’t live without it.”