During the Detroit Lions slide at the end of last season, the top story was about how Detroit Lions coaches needed to work with Matthew Stafford‘s mechanics. There was analysis by former players and broadcasters about how his side arm throws and footwork were very sloppy causing him to not get to the point of being great. There were also questions about whether Stafford needed to work with a quarterback “guru” to fix these issues. The coaching staff at the time, as well as Stafford himself, said that would not be necessary.
Fast forward to today. Martin Mayhew fired the previous coaching staff and hired Jim Caldwell. He, being a quarterbacks guy himself, built an offensive coaching staff around quarterback coaches. He added Joe Lombardi from New Orleans and Jim Bob Cooter from Denver to be on staff and work with Matthew Stafford. One of the first things coach Caldwell said he would do is work on Stafford’s mechanics.
Reporters got to see signs of that being true on Wednesday at the Detroit Lions minicamp. Mike O’hara, one of the Detroit Lions team reporters, stated that the coaching staff has implemented Jim Caldwell’s ladder cam. The ladder cam, originating with Caldwell in 1982, is essentially a camera on top of a ladder. The idea is to have a stationary camera that focuses on the quarterback only so that they have film of all of the quarterback’s movements. Essentially, this is focusing on every little detail of Matthew Stafford‘s mechanics so that the coaches, as well as Stafford himself, can watch the video of practice, analyze the movements, passing lanes, and what he sees, and figure out what went right and what went wrong.
The ladder cam is more than just a camera focusing on the quarterback’s mechanics though. There is now a second camera that focuses on what the quarterback sees so that they can make sure what they thought they saw in certain scenarios is really what they saw. In Stafford’s case, it also helps to validate what he may not have seen. Michael Rothstein quoted Stafford as saying “It’s just a good teaching tool”.
The ladder cam is not the only tool the new coaching staff is adding to the offense to help the quarterback. According to Detroit News writer Josh Katzenstein, the Detroit Lions coaches are implementing pre-snap reads and play call changes at the line of scrimmage. Stafford calls them “kills, checks, and alerts”. What that essentially means is that Stafford will be expected to read the defense at the line, determine the best positioning for a successful play (be it changing to a run play or taking advantage of soft coverage in the passing game), and making the necessary adjustments. This was used by both Drew Brees and Peyton Manning when all three coaches (Caldwell, Cooter, and Lombardi) coached the two of them. Caldwell said “You may be able to call a play, but he’s out there on the field. He can see it happening.” That is precisely why the previous regime could not get things done late in the season. They continued to call the shots leaving the quarterback to flounder in bad calls. Between the pre-play adjustments that the quarterback can make and the fact that the new Detroit Lions coaches decided to work with Matthew Staffords mechanics, this offense should be much better this year than last.