Joe Schmidt Speaks: Mr. Lion talks about the 2004 Lions, leadership, the franchises historical quarterback drought, and the immortal Bobby Layne
An Interview Transcribed by Doug Warren
Note: The following commentary from Detroit Lions Hall-of-Fame linebacker and former head coach Joe Schmidt comes from a radio interview conducted with Joe by sports radio host David "Mad Dog" DeMarco on WQTX FM in Lansing, Michigan on Thursday, December 2, 2004.
I have gotten to speak with Joe Schmidt myself; both formally and informally, many times over the past couple of years. One thing that has always stood out to me about Joe during our conversations is his ability to describe the game of football in simple, yet complete terms. The mans knowledge of the game and his ability to relate it to the football layman was on full display during his conservation with DeMarco. Below are some of Joes comments from their conversation:
On the 2004 Lions:
"If you would take a cross section of teams, maybe the lower half of the 15 teams and throw them all in a bag and take each one of those teams out, they could beat each other. When you go above that, maybe to the top 10 teams, I think the Lions would have trouble competing with those teams mainly because of personnel. How fast can they solve that? I dont know.
"I think defensively . . . being that I was a defensive guy and that I watch defense more than anything; I think they really need some help there and I dont know that theyd be able to solve all their problems with the upcoming draft.
"Offensively, they do have some young ballplayers. (Roy) Williams and (Charles) Rogers, hopefully hes able to come back and be sound. Of course, the running back (Kevin) Jones, I think he looks good. . . . I think they need some help on the offensive line. I think that they seem to be, at times, confused as to pass protection and things of that nature. . . . Again, I think that can be resolved over time. . . . They have their work cut out for them.
"I know that he (Steve Mariucci) has a goal of making the playoffs this year. If thats attainable, I dont know. . . . I dont think so, but maybe with some luck it can be done."
On the Current Teams Lack of Leadership and Consistency:
"I think they lack leadership, both offensively and defensively. There is not a dominant player on either side of the ball that shows me leadership qualities or the ability to give you a big play on a consistent basis. . . . Their third-down consistency is (also) way off. They really need help there.
"Leaders have to give you big plays. They have to come up with interceptions. They have to come up with tackles and sacks. They have to come up with receptions. They have to run with the ball on their own. They have to make yardage on their own. We at this particular point, in my estimation, have not accumulated enough of those people right now. Maybe in the next year or two that will happen . . . and until such time that you can corral those types of people, I think its real difficult to make a judgment as to where theyre going."
On Joey Harrington and the History of Lion Quarterbacks:
"You look at the history; we havent been real successful here with drafting quarterbacks. You had (Chuck) Long from Iowa, he was a disaster. Andre Ware was a disaster. (Scott) Mitchell (a 1994 free-agent pickup) was a disaster. They had (Charlie) Batch . . . to me Batch was a joke.
"So . . . we havent been too good with quarterbacks. To me (Greg) Landry, the man I had, he was a damn good quarterback. Is Joey (Harrington) as good as Landry at this point (in their respective careers), Id have to say no.
(However) "Lets give this young man (Harrington) some credit. He was put into a position where he was drafted (3rd overall in 2002) and automatically people thought this was the answer. I think thats unfair. Even my good friend Bobby Layne . . . though he had won championships, thered be times in games where they (Lions fans) would boo him. . . . Hed come off the field and it would aggravate the living hell out of him."
On Bobby Layne as a player and leader:
"The thing you have to understand about this guy (Layne) was that he was not a great athlete per say. He could run, but he wasnt a great runner. He could throw the ball, but he wasnt an exceptionally great thrower. He had skill, but he was not like a (Payton) Manning or anyone like that. He had an innate ability to look at things and dissect people when and where he wanted to do it. He would go into a game and know where he had some weaknesses in a defense, but he wouldnt just go at that on a continuous basis; he would keep it for a valuable time when he really needed something.
"So Id come off the field and he pass me and say I got something Im working on. Dont worry, just get me the ball and well get it done. What he had was a unique ability to convince people that if they would buy him time . . . if they would give him time . . . if they would get the ball on a turnover, he would score.
"I think that (leadership) is a very important part of being a quarterback. Its almost like being a salesman. You have to convince and sell to your team that if they work and perform to their maximum . . . Im gonna get you across that goal line. Once that confidence is instilled in your team . . . it continues on a regular basis.
"Green Bay is a perfect example. This young man (Brett Favre) that plays for Green Bay has a lot more talent than Bobby had, but they have the same mentality about football . . . and I think thats very important for a leader to have that kind of mentality that you can instill and extend to your team. They in turn, unconsciously, take on that same demeanor . . . and thats what promotes winning."