January 9, 2023
Opening Statement: “Pretty much like I said last night, just finished with the team but it was – I was proud of the way that we fought all year, and the way that we grew, and for us to – last night, we just kept competing, man. They were just resilient, and they just stayed the course, and in the fourth quarter when we needed to make the plays, we did, and our coordinators’ conviction in critical moments of that game was huge. I’m talking about all three, man. It was huge. (Lions Special Teams Coordinator Dave) Fipp going into that game was confident we could handle (Packers CB Keisean) Nixon, and we did that, and those guys on special teams, man, they took it personal, and they went out there and performed, and third-and-10, ended that game on defense. There was no wavering from (Lions Defensive Coordinator Aaron Glenn) AG. He knew the call, he knew what he wanted, and I mean there was no hesitation. We went in. We got a runner in his face with (Lions LB) Alex (Anzalone), and (Lions CB) Amani (Oruwariye), good job on the edge, and then (Lions S) Kerby (Joseph) comes over and makes a huge play in a critical moment. Third-and-10, we get the ball back, 3:27, and they’ve got three timeouts, and it’s really about, ‘Let’s put this game away.’ And we get in a tough spot, second-and-17, and (Lions Offensive Coordinator) Ben (Johnson) doesn’t – he doesn’t bat an eye, man. He goes for the hook and ladder, and it was a hell of a job by (Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown) Saint. (Lions RB D’Andre) Swift did the rest, and it put us in position to close the game out, so I just couldn’t be more proud of them, and there was no wavering. There just wasn’t, and we were unaffected, and we just knew we wanted to go compete, man. It was the last one.”
On what he has proved to himself about his coaching ability this season: “I guess if anything, it just proves we’re on the right track one more time. I just know that the coaches that I have here, the players that we’ve drafted, the players that we’ve kept that were here before us, the free agents we’ve signed, it was the right decision. These are the right guys for us, particularly in 2022. Now, there’s going to be decisions that have to be made moving forward, but they fit us, man. They fit the mold, and to us, you have to meet a certain type of criteria to be here. We don’t just strictly look at talent, and our guys have created that culture. They’ve embraced it, and it’s part of who we are, and it’s why we’ll always compete.”
On if the positive momentum the team ended on this season will help jumpstart a strong foundation for next season and what the team has to do in the offseason to ensure the team will continue to grow: “Yeah, I mean it’s early. It’s early to get into all of that, but certainly, I do think it can catapult you if you allow it to. If we just say it, and say the words, and don’t put in the work that we did last year with the growth that has taken place, then we’ll be average. But I believe in the team. I believe in the chemistry, the identity of this team, and the work they put in, and so I really do believe we’re only going to grow and get better, and as that’s happening, we’re going to add more pieces too. But ultimately, that’s what this was all about was eventually get into the tournament because once you get into the tournament, anything can happen.”
On his message to the players about how to handle themselves this offseason: “Be smart, be safe. Be smart and be safe. I don’t want to go to any funerals, none of us do. So that’s the message, and in the meantime, we’ll be getting a hold of our guys, our coaches will. We’ll stay in touch. They know to – they’ll stay in touch with us, but it’s really as simple as that, man. Be smart. It’s not worth it. Trouble starts, go the other way, all those things, and that’s really it right now. We’ll get into the later part of this. This is literally one day out of it, so we don’t want to get into, ‘Hey, the offseason program starting –’ We’re just, ‘Hey, we just wrapped something up, and let’s give them a minute to breath, and then we’ll get to that later.’”
On the growth the rookie class showed throughout the season and how Lions DL Aidan Hutchinson has met expectations: “Yeah, I mean I think ultimately, any of your Draft picks, you just want to see them develop. You want to see them get a little bit better every week. You want to see that a mistake that they made early, they don’t make again, and really, they’ve all done that, and that includes Aidan. And I go back to this, I mean he – he didn’t just walk in the door and all of a sudden, all these great things happen. I mean he goes into Washington, he has three sacks, and then it’s expected that he’ll have three sacks every week from then on, and that’s just not the reality, but the fact is he was disruptive, and he’s a football player, and he did improve. He did get better, and they all did. And when you’re a young group, your rookies can develop like that, like (Lions S) Kerby (Joseph), and (Lions LB Malcolm) Rodriguez, and (Lions DL Josh) Paschal, once we got him going, he improved. Hutch, and then on top of that, you had (Lions DL Alim McNeill) Mac from last year, (Lions WR Amon-Ra) St. Brown was better, (Lions T Penei) Sewell was better, and now that’s become the nucleus of your team, and so the sky’s the limit – (Lions LB Derrick) Barnes got better. I mean all these young guys we’ve got are just continuing to – they all took a step up. They all took a step up, and that’s on top of the steady forces of (Lions C Frank) Ragnow, and (Lions G) Jonah (Jackson), and (Lions T Taylor) Decker, and (Lions LB) Alex (Anzalone) being back again – so our veterans were really a solid force for us once again, and it’s a good combination right now, and there again, we’ll only improve on this roster.”
On if he anticipates teams requesting to interview Lions Offensive Coordinator Ben Johnson about head coaching opportunities and if he has received any requests about him yet: “I have not gotten anything yet, but no, I would certainly not be shocked. He would be worthy of that. I think a ton of Ben. I think he’s – I’ve said it before, I just think he’s extremely bright. He’s creative, he’s organized, he’s a great communicator. I mean he’s got it, and I would do anything I can to help him. That’s the bottom line. Of course, I don’t want to lose him, but I’m not going to hold him back either. I would help him any way I can help him.”
On if Detroit can be advertised as a place for coaches to develop if Lions Offensive Coordinator Ben Johnson gets a head coaching opportunity in the League: “Yeah, I mean I think all of this – with where we’re trending, I’d like to believe that anybody outside looking in sees what’s going on here and they understand. And look, if you want to know, talk to our players, talk to the coaches, talk to the people in the organization. They’ll tell you what it’s like, I mean you guys know it’s not hard to hide things. And so, I think word gets around and I think yeah this is a place you would like to be. No matter who you are. I think free agents would like to be here I think moving forward. I believe that. I think we’re turning the corner on that and when you’re a team that’s trending the right way and you play football a certain way, I think that’s appealing. I’d like to believe that.”
On giving Lions Principal Owner and Chair Sheila Ford the game ball after last night’s game and her voicing confidence in him to the media earlier in the season: “Yeah, it just – look I didn’t need that from her. And so I really appreciate her doing that. But I knew how she felt about me without her going out, I think that was for you guys, but I knew how she felt about me. There was no hiding that. She believed in myself, she believed in (Lions Executive Vice President/General Manager) Brad (Holmes) from the get-go and of course I appreciate that. But I knew that – I knew she was in my corner and – but I also told her I understand the reality of it. And I’ve got to give you something to fight for here. Which that’s just business, and so we hung in there and we just – we stayed the course and we got ourselves out of a hole it was just a little late that’s all.”
On if there was a stat that impresses him the most from this season or a stat that best describes the team: “I mean, there’s a ton of things there that are – I mean, it’s pretty impressive, but I just – me because I know – and all of those stats involve your teammates, they really do. You have to – even for (Lions DL Aidan Hutchinson) Hutch to get what he got, man, you’ve got to have (Lions DL John) Cominsky’s got to be doing his part on the stunts, on the games, (Lions DL Alim McNeill) Mac, those guys, (Lions DL Romeo Okwara) Romes who’s there on the edge. But yet, there is a one-on-one element to it, whereas I just think (Lions RB) Jamaal (Williams)’s, both of them is pretty impressive. The fact that we got 1,000-yard rusher because that speaks volumes not only to him, but the O-line and the 17 touchdowns. I mean, that’s – to surpass one of the great ones of all time, particularly one of the greats of all time and he happens to be here at Detroit and (former Lions RB) Barry (Sanders). I just – that’s impressive, but that’s something they all can share. They’re all a part of that, the O-line, the tight ends, the receivers blocking downfield and of course him – him doing what he does. So, I just – I think it’s great. I think it’s impressive.”
On if he thinks Lions QB Jared Goff is the player to lead this team moving forward: “Yeah, I do. Here’s what’s funny, it’s like yesterday before the game you know your guys are going to be riled up and you’re just dowsing them with gasoline, and then I’m kind of pulling Goff saying, ‘Make sure you keep these guys calm, alright? Keep them composed.’ So, because he’s got to be – that’s what he has to do for us, he has to be the constant, man, and it’s got to be – there can’t be the ebbs and flows, the highs and lows. He’s just got to – man, you just stay centered. And be that for your team, there’ll be enough of the other, they’ll – and so, he just – he fits us, he really does. He fits us, we’re about running the football, play action pass and when you do those things you need a quarterback that can get you in the right play and is very good at accuracy. Throwing the football, decision making, and he fits the bill on all of that. I mean, it was a hell of a year by him. He’s one of the biggest reasons we even got this turnaround, just his decision-making, taking care of the football. And look, the – look, there’s a number of things, I could go for hours here, but the throw that he had to (Lions WR Kalif Raymond) Leaf in the second half, the double move, across the field, he rolls to his left, he’s getting squeezed a little bit and the trust to just launch it. Lay it out there a little bit on the run, trying to flip the hips and it’s right on the money. And Leaf went and got it and Leaf by the way was not 100 percent either. And so, I’m just proud of the whole thing there, but that was – to me, that was so impressive of Goff. In the critical moments in that game, second half when we really needed it, he made some big throws man.”
On the impact of the Minnesota road game earlier in the season and the missed opportunities in other games: “Well, I already told you how that made me feel before. You want me to say it again. I mean, that’s – yeah, I hate that game. I regret my decision at the end of that game, and you learn a valuable lesson. But I know this what am I going to do about it? And I’ll just say this, I’m a huge believer in – you guys have heard me say it, things are meant to happen for a reason and there’s a reason why we didn’t get in. There’s a reason why we had a winning season, 9-8, won eight out of the last 10 and still did not get in and it’s part of the process. I just – I believe that this happened for a reason, and I k
now this the standards here will not change. The expectations will though, and our guys know that.”
On what he thinks the reason is to why the Lions did not make it to the playoffs: “I don’t have that answer yet. But we will get it. We will get it. It’ll show itself in time. It always does.”