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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Lions Talk Stafford

The following are transcripts from Saturday media session with Detroit Lions GM Martin Mayhew and Head Coach Jim Schwartz regarding Detroit's first round selection as well as a transcript of the media conference call with Lions QB Matthew Stafford. (Courtesy UGA Athletics)...

MAYHEW: Opening statement: "We were able to reach an agreement with Matthew Stafford here. We received the contract back by fax within the past hour. We're excited to have him as a part of this organization and now we feel like we have a young guy that we build. We think, with him, that he's one of the best young quarterbacks in the league right now and now it's up to us to develop him. It's up to us to get good players around him. I think all of us will have to work together to make him be a successful player here in the NFL. We're excited about him, we're looking forward to the draft and we're going to add some more players today who will help us this season."

MAYHEW: On whether they still would have drafted Stafford had the contract not been signed: "Well at this point it doesn't really matter. We've got him, he's a guy that we targeted, he's the highest rated guy on our board and we're glad to have him."

MAYHEW: On whether Stafford will play right away: "It's hard to say until he gets here and starts playing. It takes awhile to learn how to play this game, so we'll see."

MAYHEW: On what sold him on Stafford: "After the private workout we started feeling really good about him and really comfortable with him. It's just the way he carried himself, how smart he was about the game and obviously the way he threw the football was very impressive. I was at his pro day and at theprivate workout and this guy can throw the football. We think our fans will be really excited to see Matthew play."

SCHWARTZ: Opening statement: "The first thing I want to talk about is that when we started this process we went in with an open mind. We didn't start this process saying, 'hey we're starting a franchise. We're going to start with a quarterback, or we're going to start with a left tackle or a defensive player.' We let the process work and I think this is year 17 in the NFL for me and this is the probably one of the few times I remember in 17 years having a consensus in the building for the No. 1 pick - that goes from the area scout, to the director of college Scouting, to the general manager, to the assistant coach, to the offensive coordinator and the head coach. I think when we started stacking the board and we started talking about different things in selection at No. 1, the thing that came off very strong about Matthew was the consensus of opinion and it made it an easy pick."

SCHWARTZ: On the consistency of Stafford's accuracy over his college career: "Accuracy wise, let's not down grade him for what he did as a true freshman. I think we saw increased accuracy each year, he got better every year. A lot of quarterbacks wouldn't have played as a true freshman, he went from high school to the Southeast Conference and played right away and I think maybe if he had red-shirted that year, maybe if he had been a backup that year, maybe that would haven't been out on him.

"I think we like the fact that we saw improvement from a year-to-year basis. We saw him win on the road at Alabama in a big game and contrary to one of the other things that was sort of put out there that he didn't do a lot with the talent at Georgia; it's easy, look at the players that were drafted from Georgia over the last couple of years. I think they had a sixth-round running back, I think they had a fourth-round tight end and a couple of offensive linemen that may have been free agents. I think all of those things were out there, but we were able to put our minds at ease with a lot of those questions."

SCHWARTZ: On what will determine whether Stafford will sit out for awhile or be able to play right away: "The same that goes into the decision on any player on this team. The best player is going to play and I think that we need to keep an eye toward that with Matthew. Is he the best player and is he ready? And both of those questions have to be answered. We're at a really good position right now with a rejuvenated Daunte Culpepper. Daunte has done an incredible job between the end of the season and now of making a commitment and being back. I think anybody that saw any of our mini-camp sees a lot of the old Daunte Culpepper. I think it's a great situation to be in where we have a comfort level with what Daunte has done up to this point and we have a good young quarterback and we don't have to force our hand. We don't have to make a decision that's not based on merit."

SCHWARTZ: On whether the best case scenario will be to give Stafford as much time as possible: "I've answered that before with 'it depends,' and Tom (Kowalski) loves that answer, and it does. I think, just like when we went into the draft and we said, 'we're going in with an open mind,' we're not going to say, 'hey, we're drafting a quarterback', or 'hey we're drafting a left tackle.' We go into this process the same way, not with, 'hey were going to sit him for a year regardless', or 'hey, he's going to start right away.' I think we go in and we say, 'if he's ready, in our eyes he's ready, and if he's our best quarterback, then he plays.'"

SCHWARTZ: On what he sees in Stafford: "I think a lot of things. The one thing that everybody sees is the arm strength; I think that kind of ability is release, it's classic. The other thing is his history of productivity. Going back to his sophomore year of high school, highly recruited player, mid-season transfer to Georgia and plays right away in the Southeast Conference - that body of work; but more than that, what came out in this process - I don't know if it was a surprise to us - intelligence, worth ethic and passion for the game of football. It's easy when you're around this guy a lot, he's a gym rat. He loves football; he loves to talk the game.

"We took him through, when we went down to Georgia, we took him through a game on film from Alabama two years ago and we said before we start watching this game and you start talking us through it, why don't you tell us a little bit about the game. He started out saying, 'hey, I remember the very first play of the game we wanted to take a shot, we went twins right demon and threw an 18-yard completion over the right side.' He started talking through the whole game and we didn't tell him that we were going to watch that game. It reminded me of golfers that can tell you every shot that they made in the game. He remembers back… we actually had high school film on him when he was here for his visit. He could tell me everything that was getting ready to happen in his high school games and that kind of recall and that kind of intelligence that was the thing that was most interesting."

SCHWARTZ: On how he feels he'll handle this level of the game: "I think the most interesting thing with that was leadership. His style of leadership has come from a lot of different people. He's a calming influence on the huddle. He's not a 'rah-rah, hey fellas lets get going.' The team has confidence when he's in the game, they have confidence that they're never out of the game and this goes way back with him. I think that kind of guy brings calming to the huddle. The guy that brings that kind of confidence, the players believe in him, players that have played with him in the past, so I think that was the most important thing."

SCHWARTZ: On how he feels Stafford will handle the pressure of being the No. 1 overall pick: "He's used to it. He was the, if not the highest recruited player in the country, he was the highest recruited quarterback in the country. He went to the University of Georgia with that kind of pressure. He was the guy who was to 'lead them to the promised land.' Walk around the streets of Athens Georgia with this guy, you'll see that he's used to this kind of pressure, this kind of notoriety. We went to dinner and I sort of lagged behind, I spent a lot of time with Matthew. Scott Linehan and Shack Harris were walking ahead with him and I was about 20 steps behind and it was amazing, every person that passed him onthe street all did a double take and looked and said, 'there goes Matt Stafford.' When grown men are following you around, following us into the restaurant, he's used to that kind of scrutiny and that gave us a comfort level too."

SCHWARTZ: On whether Stafford's decision to play collegiately out of state factored into their decision making: "I don't know if it ever came up in retrospect. That's probably a good sign, someone who's willing to leave the nest so to speak. He did have some connections there with his family at the University of Georgia, his older sister had gone there I think a year or two before, so there were some connections there, but that wasn't a criteria, that wasn't a part of our decision."

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