As Saints quarterback coach, Joe Lombardi worked with Drew Brees. (Mark Humphrey / Associated Press)
Mobile, Ala. — Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. has seen how Joe Lombardi worked with quarterback Drew Brees in New Orleans, paying attention to minor details to help one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks continually improve.
And when Lombardi takes over as offensive coordinator for the Lions, Carmichael said he expects Lombardi to use a similarly patient and professional approach to help quarterback Matthew Stafford and the Lions’ offense improve as a unit.
“I’m excited for him for the opportunity,” Carmichael said in a phone interview Wednesday. “He deserves it. I think the Detroit Lions are getting a great football coach and a very creative mind.”
New Lions coach Jim Caldwell said his goal was to find an innovative offensive coordinator, and according to Carmichael, he found one.
“I’ve been a part of watching him work and seeing him do (creative things) here,” Carmichael said. “He’s excellent at coming up with ideas and studying film. He’ll be a hard worker, and I think he’s going to have a lot of success.”
Carmichael also said working with Saints head coach Sean Payton is a “priceless” experience.
Lombardi joined the Saints as an offensive assistant in 2007 when Carmichael was the quarterbacks coach. When Carmichael was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2009, Lombardi was bumped up to quarterbacks coach.
In Lombardi’s first year working with quarterbacks, Brees finished with then-career highs in completion percentage (70.6) and passer rating (109.6) as the Saints went 13-3 and won the Super Bowl, beating the Colts when Caldwell was a rookie head coach.
Of course, Lombardi doesn’t deserve all the credit, because Payton is considered one of the top offensive minds in the NFL, Brees is one of the best quarterbacks, and Carmichael is a coordinator who many think will soon be a head coach.
But that’s certainly a good group to work with.
“I think that he learned a lot just being in that room with Sean Payton and Drew Brees, and really those two guys probably taught both of us a lot of stuff that we’re thankful for today,” Carmichael said. “I think that there’s a lot that he’ll take from being in that room, and he was just as important a role as everybody was in that room and just as big of a contributor.
“As the years progressed, it was a group effort, and so we all worked together and it was a great working relationship. I’m sorry to see him go for selfish reasons, but I’m happy for him.”
When Lombardi begins with the Lions, Carmichael said to expect a balanced attack that utilizes each player’s skills as much as possible. Since Payton took over in New Orleans in 2006, the Saints have finished in the top six in yardage each season, and while Brees receives most of the attention, they ranked sixth in rushing yards in 2009 and 2011.
As for Lombardi’s work with Brees, Carmichael said the Saints’ quarterbacks worked in a controlled, professional environment.
“We were in a room with the quarterbacks as well as Sean, and I think we were more willing to discuss things than to have to ever butt heads,” he said.
In hiring Caldwell and Lombardi, the Lions found two coaches who have worked extensively with quarterbacks, and the front office’s goal was to find a way to stop Stafford’s regression. In 2011, Stafford threw for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns compared to 16 interceptions, but in each of the two years since, Stafford’s yardage and completion percentage have declined while his interceptions have increased.
And while working with quarterbacks in New Orleans, Carmichael said Lombardi had to learn everything about how all offensive positions worked together, which will help in his first NFL coordinator gig.
“I think he’s definitely a disciplined coach,” Carmichael said. “He’s going to be a very upbeat, positive, high-energy guy that brings excitement with him.”
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