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Lions Head Coach Marty Mornhinweg - 11/26/2002

Mornhinweg on Harrington: He’s playing pretty good. Rookie years are always very difficult, certainly with a player and on the team as well.



Q: How's Joey Harrington playing for you?

MM: He's playing pretty good. Rookie years are always very difficult, certainly with a player and on the team as well. He's kind of over the hump, I think. Typically in game three, four or five that a rookie starts, they get fried just a little bit, and he hasn't. He played pretty well last week, and I expect him to go in and play like a five-year vet every game from here on out.

Q: There had been a lot of scrutiny nationally about how your team will come out on Thursday, judging by the nature of the loss the other day. How do you gauge whether your team is into it after a loss like you had?

MM: We've been through that before. We've had some tough losses here. Some very close losses. We had 12 close games last year and won two of them. And then we've been in a host of close games this year. Some of that's a learning process. The more you're in those tight situations at the end of the games, the better you're going to be. So, we've handled that before and we've handled it well and we'll continue to do it again.

Q: What did you as a head coach learn from the other day? I know that you said that given the circumstances with the wind, etcetera, you would do it again, but knowing the outcome, you might not. Have you given any more thought over the last couple of days about deferring?

MM: [Laughter]. Well, I didn't defer, I chose to take the wind. Knowing the outcome, we can all do that. Hell, no, I wouldn't do it again. But, with the information that I had at that time, and I've explained this two or three times, but nobody cares and I can understand that. But, listen, 24 points were scored at one end in the second half of that game. No points were scored at the other end. That was the biggest factor, but there were other factors. They kicked off late in the game to us, with the wind, after they had scored with the wind, and jeez, it fell right through the end zone. Then, we punted against the wind there in the fourth quarter and got a 29-yard punt. Both defenses played well, but on the other hand, neither offense … Both defenses played well with the offenses going against the wind and on the other hand, both offenses were horrible going into the wind. I still believe that there were low odds that either offense would be able to drive down and score going into that wind. So, all those factors added up. Hell, I wanted the wind. I thought that was putting our players in the best position to win that football game, period. What other questions you got about that? [Laughter].

Q: Do you wish you just lost the coin flip so you wouldn't be hearing about this?

MM: [Laughter]. You know what, somebody brought that up. No, I don't. I like making those … I would rather us make those decisions than our opponent. I saw today's USA Today where [Mike] Shanahan did something or another, threw it at the end of the game instead of running it. We've done both. Throwing it late in the game can be successful and throwing it late in the game can blow up on you. You can run the ball late in the game with success, and like in Chicago, we ran it late in the game and got a holding call, so we had to punt and we punted 29 yards into the wind. With that information that I had, I still believe that it was the right call, at that time anyways. The thing that kept sticking in my mind was, 'Jeez, 24 points that way, no points the other way.' But, on the coin toss, we knew, and I had discussed it with a few people, a few of our coaches, we knew with around two minutes left that we were more than likely going to take the wind.

Q: Marty, Ford Field's a new venue for you folks, but do far it's becoming a friendly one. You're 3-2 at home, and you could have been 4-1. What seems to be the big difference when you guys are at home, even though they are kind of new surroundings? What makes it better for your team right now?

MM: Well, generally speaking, home field is a big advantage in the NFL at any place. Our place is new, the fans are excited. We won our last two at home up in Pontiac last year, and then we were on a three-game winning streak up until two games ago in Ford Field this year. It's quite an exciting place. It's new. Every team does this, 'Hey, that's our turf and we protect it.'

Q: Several guys here today were talking about the uniqueness of playing on Thanksgiving Day. What does it mean to your team?

MM: Well, it's unique leading up to the game for a couple of reasons. I guess you could correlate it with a Monday night game or a Sunday night game where the whole country's watching and every grandmother and their grandkids are watching. There's that part of it, but then it is a special day. Typically, we take a few minutes to give thanks because all of our players, all of the coaches, and I would expect all of the players and coaches in this league, we understand that we're pretty fortunate to be doing what we're doing, and so it's special in that way.

Q: The Patriots have had trouble the past two weeks defending against the no huddle. How much do you guys use that? If a team is struggling against seeing a no huddle, does that factor into your decision-making?

MM: Well, yeah, that would be obvious. I don't think they've struggled all that much. They're surely a good defense. Listen, I'm not going to tell you what we're going to do during the game. But no huddle typically … New England has done that on offense as well. Typically, there's not as much thinking to it and the players just go out and play offensively. So, at times it can be a weapon and at times it can backfire on you.

Q: Is the no huddle a special part of the West Coast package, or is it separate?

MM: No, it's part of it. We always work that and we'll work it every week.

Q: What I'm looking at is whether it's easier to implement it because it's a game situation, or how does that work?

MM: The West Coast system, it's not particularly the plays, although every West Coast system is very similar with the plays, but it's the way that you go about doing things. In mini camps and fall camp we practice the no huddle, we practice it throughout the season, and so that's just part of our offense.

Q: The Patriots are famous defensively for scheming a lot and giving new looks to people. How can you prepare Joey for that?

MM: Well, some things are unexplainable, especially with a rookie quarterback. There are a couple of different philosophies on playing a rookie quarterback. Blitz every down is one philosophy and then lay back and play it soft with the thought that the rookie can't drive 70 or 80 yards very consistently throughout the game because he's gonna make a mistake. We've played against both of those philosophies. I'm sure that Coach Belichick will have his thoughts in order going into this game.

Q: What about offensively? What challenges do the Patriots present?

MM: Their quarterback sure is a fine quarterback. I remember him coming out, he came out of Michigan, but lived in San Mateo. I had a chance to work him out when I was the [offensive] coordinator and quarterback coach for the Niners. I know I knew way back then, 'Man, he is an accurate passer.' He has become accustomed to the NFL game very quickly. The coaching staff there in New England has done a marvelous job with him. He throws a lot underneath and it appears that he trusts, big-time trusts, all the players around him. He throws a lot of shorter passes and they catch and run very well. Then, they'll hit you with a deep one. He's very accurate in every throw.

Q: Joey was famous at Oregon for those fourth-quarter comebacks, and I guess he has two for you already. Is there any way to explain that, or is that something that some people have and some don't.

MM: I do think that you're right. I think that much of that is within a man; within a quarterback. Some of that is natural, God-given and they're born with it. Some of it's through experience, since they were three, four, five years old on up to the present. I believe he's got both, and I think it is quite natural for him. He's had two come-from-behind victories and then he's had two more – we dropped a pass to win a game coming from behind and then he had us down there against Minnesota up there and threw a pick that was very close in. So, he's had a couple of other opportunities where he's had us right down there where we could win or tie on two other occasions. I do think that he's got a little bit if stuff to him that way, and he's a little special that way

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