Gunther Cunningham: Lions Defense Will be Explosive, aggressive

>> 1.22.2009

Well by the time I finished my post on Gunther Cunningham, he'd done a con call with Detroit media that answered almost every question I'd raised. Gunther, are you going to attack and blitz and gamble like you used to, or are you going to go into a shell as you have been in Kansas City?

"I've gone through three years of playing zone defenses because I was loyal to Herm Edwards, that's what he wanted. People here in town knew that I was different than that. My idea is to put a lot of pressure on the quarterback, always has been, always will be. I think Jimmy knows that and I think he's a lot like that, although he was more zone conscious this year than he's ever been. But like I said at the beginning of this conversation I think the two of us will sit down and we'll decide what is the best thing that we can do and that's going to involve the organization's part of whatever Tom (Lewand) and Martin (Mayhew) decide on who we draft on defense and who else we get and how we do it. But my idea of coaching defense, it's explosive, it's aggressive, it's to go after people and make the players do things that they don't think they can do.

Well . . . sweet!  Damn, that sounds awesome.  So Gunther, what about our young defensive talent?  I don't know if you know, but Cliff Avril could really be an asset to you--you might not need to go after a  pass rusher if Avril suits your fancy.

"I know one thing that I liked (Cliff) Avril when he came out. I thought he was a special athlete and the ability to rush the passer. He's undersized, but you have to put him in the right position. I don't think it's any different than what the Pittsburgh Steelers did with (James) Harrison. He kind of bounced around there, got a couple sacks a year and Dick LeBeau did a great job of putting him in a place where you can use that. When you look at (Ernie) Sims, when he came out, I thought he was a human dynamo at the time. Well, you have to make sure you protect guys like that so they can make plays. And to me, with Jimmy and my's background of working together and him being a defensive coach, I'm sure we can go through and try to fit the players in the right position."

Holy crap!  That's like, the best possible answer, ever!  Now Gunther, we've had trouble with coaches and their assistants not being on the same page.  Can you describe your relationship with Jim Schwartz?

“The relationship we developed at Tennessee is one of those things that comes to you about once in a lifetime in coaching. I was fired (in Kansas City) as the head coach and went to Tennessee and I had other opportunities, but at that point in my life I felt like I needed to go back and prove to myself who I was and what I was good at. And to go to Tennessee and to meet Jim Schwartz and to see what he was all about, and for him to accept me the way that he did and have him allow me to help and send him on his way, when I left there he called me on the phone in the car and we had this good-bye session and he said, 'Gun, I love you.' And when he said that, basically broke a guy that had been in the league for a long time.”

Wow, that's . . . that's some real heavy stuff right there.  Dang.  Wow.  For all the talk of Gunther being a drill sargeant off his meds, that shows some real heart and a deep connection with Schwartz.  I am getting more excited for this hire by the minute . . . every time I hear more about these two and the defense they plan to build, I get more amped.  Let's hope this stops before training camp, or I'll get the vapors!

Another item of note: the next hire's already been made: former Broncos DC Bob Slowik is the new defensive backs coach.  Slowik certainly didn't cover himself in glory as the Broncos' DC . . . in fact, he was considered to be on the hot seat before it was discovered that his boss was getting PYKAG'd.  When he took over as Packers DC in 2004, much was made of his new blitzing, gambling, attacking defense that was going to kill everybody--and then Peyton Manning shredded it for 5 TDs in the first half of the first game and that was that.  So we know Slowik's natural instincts are to attack and be aggressive--and while it's true that he's not been a great defensive coordinator, he's overqualified to be a DB coach.  This is shaping up to be one very experienced, very aggressive coaching staff.  They aren't "hot" hires, they aren't "name" guys, they aren't "up-and-comers" but I LOVE it.


DrewsLions,  January 22, 2009 at 7:07 PM  

Ty, this echoes a fanpost that I just made over at the Pride website. Schwartz is the mastermind here, so the rest of the coaching hires don't need to be the "hot" names of the week. Just solid, experienced coaches that work well together. I'm getting a little excited as well, but I've been a Lions fan long enough to know to temper my enthusiasm a bit. Let's see what type of product they can put together this first season. I say 6 wins would be a great start.

Good post!

Ty,  January 23, 2009 at 11:30 AM  

Thanks man! Yeah, I'm really feeling hopeful right now. I'm kind of waffling between letting myself really get amped, and telling myself not to get roped in again . . .

I think the thing here is not to focus on "number of wins in first season". That number is not going to be enough to get us into the playoffs, so whether it's 2, 6, 3, 8, or 1 it's both--literally--INFINITELY better than this past season and TOTALLY IRRELEVANT. I just want to see the team establish an attiude and an identity. I want to see the remainder of the staff get hired, as well as the offseason of talent acquisition. The draft is going to speak volumes about the direction of the defense . . .

. . . look out for B.J. Raji.


Mark in AZ,  January 23, 2009 at 11:43 PM  

Ty, Great job. I agree. Schwartz is going to a Head Coach and let his Co's do their job just like Bill B. and Fischer do he learned from two of the best. This has been a great offseason so far. My guts tells me that Mayhew will find a trading partner on draft day and trade down and get a second pick so we would have 2 1St, 2-2ND, and 2-3RDs. just a gut.

Ty,  January 25, 2009 at 8:01 AM  

Hey, Mark! Sorry, didn't see your comming there. I absolutely agree that Mayhew and Lewand have been batting 1.000 so far . . . I would be really surprised if a trade down from the 1.1 happened, just because it's so hard to make it work, picks- and money-wise. If Mayhew/Lewand pulled THAT off it would be impressive indeed.

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