Brees: Lions' Stafford better thrower than me

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Matthew Stafford

Ann Arbor — Saints quarterback Drew Brees has spoken several times the past year about Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi after working with him the seven years before he came to Detroit in 2014.

On Sunday, Brees showered some praise on quarterback Matthew Stafford, the man with the keys to Lombardi's offense.

"He's a lot more talented thrower than I am," Brees said. "I'm serious, the dude can sling it."

Brees was in Ann Arbor this weekend attending an NFL "boot camp" on franchising. About 20 current and former players attended the seminar at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, which featured panels with franchisers and a keynote speech from Stephen Ross.

The humble Brees has completed 66.2 percent of his passes for more than 56,000 yards and 396 touchdowns in his 14 NFL seasons. Meanwhile, Stafford has completed 59.6 percent of his passes for 21,714 yards with 131 touchdowns in six years, but his arm talent is undeniable.

At the Super Bowl, Brees said he thought the Lions' offense looked incredibly similar to the Saints' offense because of Lombardi. Brees said Sunday the "ultra-talented" Stafford did well picking up the new scheme from what he saw.

The Lions and Saints shared six common opponents last season, so the two teams saw each other regularly during film study.

"I feel like he picked it up very well," Brees said. "Just watching his command of the system and some of the 'check with me' stuff, he seemed to do a very good job with it. So, I was impressed."

Last year, the Lions ranked 19th in total offense and 22nd in scoring. Some of the struggles were due to injuries — to Calvin Johnson, the offensive line and the top three tight ends — and Lombardi mentioned that last month at a town hall event for season-ticket holders.

Lombardi also said it took some time adjusting to new personnel and a different coaching staff after spending the previous seven years working under Saints coach Sean Payton, who said last month he thought Lombardi had a good first year calling plays.

"He's real sharp," Payton said at the NFL annual meetings. "Joe's going to have some good thoughts. I think he's going to convey a system to the group, and I think we saw that in his first year."

Brees ran through the Lions' personnel Sunday while assessing Lombardi's first year, mentioning Johnson and Golden Tate. He also praised running back Theo Riddick.

"You know, this Riddick, I don't know much about. But watching him on film, he looked like Reggie Bush, like the same mannerisms. Plus, he was wearing 25, and I was playing with Reggie when he was wearing 25," Brees said.

And with all those pieces — plus Joique Bell — in place, Brees said he thinks Lombardi will grow as a coordinator.

"I think he's going to continue to evolve and develop as a play-caller," Brees said. "That was his first year doing it last year, and it always seemed like he was cool, calm and composed, like in control of the situation."