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Tim and Mike: First impressions of Joe Lombardi and Teryl Austin

Posted Feb 12, 2014

Tim Twentyman and Mike O'Hara discuss the latest NFL and Lions news, including Michael Sam and the introductory press conferences of Joe Lombardi and Teryl Austin

Michael SamMichael Sam at last month's Senior Bowl. (Photo: AP Images)

It is a busy time in the NFL with front offices preparing for next week's combine workouts and testing in Indianapolis.

Amidst all of that came a major news development Monday in the form of draft prospect Michael Sam announcing he is gay.

Also, the Lions introduced their coordinators at a press conference last week and have hired Jim Bob Cooter as an assistant coach to help with the quarterbacks.

Start with Sam, an All-American defensive end at Missouri who will be the first openly gay player in the NFL, assuming he makes a roster. What is the impact of his announcement on his draft status, and how will he be accepted in the NFL?

Mike: There is no simple answer because so many stereotypes, perceptions and prejudices are involved.

Some teams might not draft him if the choice is between Sam and a player with the same grade because they don't want the scrutiny and media attention that goes with it.

Some players might feel uncomfortable having an openly gay player in their locker room, even though it's logical to assume that there already are gay players in the league who have not made their sexuality known.

If Sam can help a team, his teammates should accept him, and I think that will be the case.

Eventually, an athlete's sexuality will be a nonstory – the sooner, the better I would hope.

Tim: There is a very real element that some teams might shy away because of the distraction it could cause.

In the end, players want to win and that will supersede everything else after the initial swarm of media and attention makes its rounds.

If Michael Sam can rush the quarterback and affect the game, most teammates will accept him. It'll also go a long way to stemming some of the prejudices that could certainly be in play at the outset.

Some players won't like it, and that's their choice, but the NFL is a professional workplace, just like any other business. The locker room is a little different environment than a business setting because players shower and change together, but some players will just have to learn to deal with it accordingly, just like they would in any other business setting.

Mike: The business setting is the football field, and last week's press conferences provided a broad outline on how the offense and defense will be built.

The two comments from new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi that carried the most weight are that he doesn't think Matthew Stafford is a "turnover machine," and that the offense will be similar to what is run in New Orleans, where he coached quarterbacks.

After watching tapes, Lombardi said he didn't think all 19 of Stafford's interceptions were his fault. I'd agree with that.

However, the scrutiny on the quarterback should not cloud the issue of how the overall offense can be more efficient and productive. The Saints' offense is more rhythmic than the Lions', and it didn't rely on throwing jump balls to Calvin Johnson.

One question that will be answered in the offseason is if Lombardi feels a need to add a down-the-field receiving tight end.

Tim: Players like Jimmy Graham don't come along too often, unfortunately.

The thing that stuck out to me when I watched New Orleans play offense was the different personnel packages they used and the ability of multiple weapons to make plays down the field.

The Saints seemed to really like stretching the field in the passing game and players like Graham, Kenny Stills and Robert Meachem could all make huge chunk plays.

No wide receiver other than Calvin Johnson had a catch of at least 50 yards last season for the Lions.

Drew Brees had a lot more options than Stafford did. Giving Stafford more help should help him become a more efficient player.

When it comes to defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and his introductory press conference last week, he wants to get into a lot of different sets and seems more willing to attack opposing offenses via the blitz. Is it the right strategy for the Lions personnel?

Mike: If it isn't the right strategy for the Lions' personnel, then the players who run Austin's defense have to be acquired.

You can't hire a coordinator to run someone else's plan.

Keep in mind, it's early. Players don't begin the official offseason workout program for two months.

Jim CaldwellG. Smith/Detroit Lions

What I liked about Austin was his answer when asked if the Seattle Seahawks have established the model for how teams will play defense. He didn't dwell on schemes, but rather how they played as a unit – for each other.

Austin projected himself as being energetic with an ability to communicate what he wants to get accomplished.

There were too many big breakdowns by the defense last year. There were too many long runs and big pass plays where you looked at what happened and wondered what went wrong.

Overall, on every unit, it goes back to what Jim Caldwell said when he was hired as coach. Basically, it's important to play smart, disciplined football.

Tim: Austin has been a defensive backs coach for most of his NFL coaching career and that's an area the Lions should benefit from right away.

When he was talking about pressure and the mixed fronts he wants to play, he quickly transitioned to the secondary and how it didn't matter what they did with the front seven if they couldn't cover.

He also made the comment that a team can never have too many cornerbacks. There will be an immediate emphasis to get better there. The young players will have to speed up their development and the Lions will be on the lookout for more help in the secondary, potentially via free agency and the draft.

Austin wants a disciplined unit that prevents the big plays and creates more turnovers. If he doesn't think the Lions have the personnel to accomplish those two goals, he'll find players who can.

That's what happens when a new coaching staff comes in. Every player is playing for their job all over again.

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