Drew Brees misses Lions OC Lombardi

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Saints quarterback Drew Brees spent seven years with Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi in New Orleans. With Lombardi gone in 2014, Brees said he missed his former coach for football and non-football reasons and said it was clear Lombardi took plenty from New Orleans with him to Detroit.

"You could put a Detroit game from this year in front of me right now, I could call 95 percent of the plays," Brees said during Super Bowl week. "Absolutely, probably 75 percent of them before you hit the play button."

Of course, that intimate knowledge of the Lions offense didn't help the Saints much as the Lions won the Week 7 matchup between the two teams, 24-23.

Plus, the Saints struggled to a 7-9 finish last year while the Lions went 11-5 and earned a playoff berth, though Lombardi came under fire at times as his offense finished 19th in the NFL.

But those offensive issues didn't fall on the first-year coordinator, according to Brees. Wide receiver Calvin Johnson missed three games and was hampered in a couple of others by a high-ankle sprain, and the Lions had inconsistent play from their tight ends, partly due to injuries.

While pointing to those two issues, Brees did note the Lions have a capable backfield with two former Saints backs in Joique Bell and Reggie Bush, as well as Theo Riddick.

"I think Riddick's a stud," Brees said.

Having Bush in the offense only made the Lions look more similar to the Saints, Brees said. In addition to the running back group, Brees had plenty of praise for quarterback Matthew Stafford, who reduced his interceptions from 19 in 2013 to 12 last year though his overall production slipped.

"I think Matthew Stafford is kind of poised and ready. I thought he had a great season, won a lot of games at the end where he just made some clutch plays," Brees said. "The team kind of played with a lot of confidence and the defense played really, really well for the majority of the season and was able to provide some opportunities — I know for the offense that's always a big thing."

During last offseason, Stafford and other Lions players often mentioned how frequently they watched Saints film. Bush even said once the offense looked "exactly" like the one he remembered in New Orleans, though coaches disputed that because it also included aspects of coach Jim Caldwell's scheme.

"It's funny, I actually talked to Stafford about it at the Pro Bowl (the week before the Super Bowl) and he was like, 'Man, I was tired of watching Saints stuff,' " Brees said.

For the first time in a long time, Lombardi wasn't sitting in meetings with Brees. Lombardi spent his last five seasons in New Orleans as the quarterbacks coach, and Brees said he a hard worker who paid attention to detail and helped contribute to discussions or politics or current events.

"First of all, he's a great person," Brees said. "You miss the person. You miss the conversations we'd have that really had nothing to do with football just in the building.

"I thought he had a lot of really great ideas, and I felt like that definitely added something to our offense."