Q. What did you say to Seahawks WR DK Metcalf? (Dave Zangaro)
JIM SCHWARTZ: I can’t believe paying a compliment to a player has become such a big thing. Before I even go into that, I want to say everybody needs to know the high esteem that I hold Calvin Johnson in. Calvin was not only the best player I’ve ever coached, he was the best player I ever coached against, and I think he’s one of the great players in the history of the National Football League. I had five years up close and personal of every defensive coordinator’s number one job was to stop Calvin Johnson and ran every tricked up defense known to man and he still made the plays and he was an incredibly hard worker, underreported with him. Great person. And just the honor of my career to coach a guy like Calvin Johnson.
So, it’s, in my mind, it’s a little bit funny, anytime you even speak somebody’s name in the same sentence as Calvin Johnson I don’t know how you could take offense to that. So I tried to pay the guy a compliment, said I read his story, knew he had overcome injury, heard he was a hard worker, and said he reminds me a little bit of Calvin and congratulated him after the game. At the time he told me, ‘Hey, thanks, Coach, that means a lot to me.’
So if anybody wants to take offense to being compared to who I think is one of the greatest players in the history of the National Football League, then, yeah, if you get your motivation that way, then fine, but we’re not going to worry too much about that. I think that the only person in the whole thing that deserves or that has any sort of whatever in that thing would be a guy like Calvin.
But again, you just have to understand how much esteem I hold Calvin in, and like I said, the greatest honor of my coaching career was coaching that guy day-in and day-out. He’s meant a lot to my kids and family and everything else. So, tried to pay a guy a compliment. I chatted with Russell Wilson before the game because I respect him so much and saw DK on the sideline in between plays and wanted to compliment him on his work ethic and overcoming injury and stuff like that. So, there it is.
Q. On the other side of that matchup, and obviously DK had a big game, whether motivation or not, but after the game CB Darius Slay was really accountable and didn’t seem to even have any wavering of his confidence. How important is it to have a guy like that who continues to battle and particularly at that position? Everyone talks about having a short memory. He seems to have that. (John McMullen)
JIM SCHWARTZ: I appreciate that from Slay. We put a real, real big hat on Slay in that game because we gave him no help. And I would like to say, with a player like that, never once during the week did he ask where his help was going to come from, never once during the game did he say, ‘I need some help.’ He just kept going out there and battling. He didn’t have the greatest day. He knows that. And really the only play I was disappointed with Slay in was the zero blitz. We knew it’s a low-scoring game. We’re trying to keep them out of field goal range. I run a zero blitz at mid-field, and he needs to be over the top and inside of that route and gave that one up.
But the other plays fall to life in the big city. I sort of go back to, like, [Bill] Belichick when he faced Thurman Thomas in the Super Bowl and, well reported, he’s like, ‘Look, Thurman Thomas is going to get a hundred, but we got to stop these other things.’ And I think we have a pretty good feel for how to play Seattle’s offense. The last three times we faced them, we have done a decent job of keeping the score down.
And in order to keep [Seahawks QB] Russell [Wilson] from scrambling, in order to handle their run game, in order to handle [Seahawks WR Tyler] Lockett and do all those other things, we had to put that hat on Slay, and I don’t look at it like he cost us the game. I look at it like he was the reason that we were able to do all those other things. Without having him locked up one-on-one and being willing to take that matchup on a Monday night game, we wouldn’t have been able to limit Russell Wilson scrambles, and you know when he scrambles he makes big plays with his feet and throwing the ball down the field. You know their run game is potent. They got [Seahawks RB Chris] Carson back. You know Lockett is their leading receiver. He makes a lot of plays.
The ability to do those things was sort of the other way, and you look at it, it’s not about one player. It’s about the whole team, and you look at the whole team’s performance. One of the reasons we were able to do some of those things — and again, it’s not enough, we lost the game, but one of the reasons we were able to have success on third down and to keep the score reasonable and do all those things was because of Slay and him accepting the fact that he wasn’t going to get any help.
So I look at it a different way and I told the players this, the same way, I appreciate Slay taking that on him. Like I said, he didn’t play his best game, but his willingness to take that matchup allowed us to do a lot of other things that you have to do when you play Seattle. If we had made ourselves weak in the run game or made ourselves weak on the scrambles, all those other guys could have had big days. When it’s all said and done, it’s not him. He kept him out of the end zone. Didn’t allow him to score touchdowns and that was a big part of that game.
I wasn’t at all disappointed, really, except for one play with him and I really appreciate his willingness to accept that matchup and go. I mean, imagine in the game if we told Fletch [DT Fletcher Cox] that he had to be a zero nose and not rush the passer, or we told BG [DE Brandon Graham] he was going to spy the quarterback and he wasn’t allowed to rush the whole day. I mean, that would have been a very — they’d take it for the team, to do those kinds of things. Well, Slay took it for the team, and I was proud of him for that. I was proud of his accountability, but a lot of that accountability is me too because that was the game plan. It was put him one-on-one and try to keep him out of the end zone and it’s all about limiting their offense. It’s not about limiting one player.
That might have been my longest answer ever. You guys know I’m not a super long answer guy, but sorry about that.
Q. As a follow-up to that, he’s not, and I say “he,” DK Metcalf’s not the last top receiver that you’ll see. You have Packers WR Davante Adams this week. You have Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins in a few weeks. Is the thought that Slay’s here to have one-on-one matchups against those types of players or do you consider bringing help over when it’s necessary? (Zach Berman)
JIM SCHWARTZ: I mean, every game’s a little bit different. This game was different because there’s so many layers that they added into it with Russell Wilson’s scrambling, not just for yards, but to scramble to buy time to make plays down the field, outstanding run game. All those different things that go into it. Every game plan’s a little bit different, but it is comforting for a defensive coordinator to know that he has a guy that’s willing to go out there and take those matchups and put himself out there.
It’s part of it, goes along with that business, is you’re out there one-on-one. You’re on that island. And I’ve always told guys in the NFL playing coverage is a lot like guarding in the NBA, and my analogies have gone, like old but it used to — hey, look, you can play great defense against Michael Jordan and he will still score 20. If you play crappy defense, he’s going to put 45 on the scoreboard. You got to just keep being resilient and know sometimes they’re going to hit a 20-foot turnaround fall away jumper and you just got to hike your socks up and come back for the next play.
Q. I want to ask you about DE Derek Barnett. He had the two big fourth down stops in the first quarter, just kind of like how he’s been playing in general and what you’re seeing from him, especially now that’s healthy and everything? (Martin Frank)
JIM SCHWARTZ: That was an issue for him early in the year, but he’s hit his stride. He plays tough play-in and play-out, and it’s not just one dimensional rushing the passer or just playing the run. He’s done all those things.
And but again, we look at our production defensive line-wise as a group, not individual production. So a play that Derek makes, maybe he gets a sack because they’re double-teaming [DT] Malik [Jackson] or they’re double-teaming Grave [DT Javon Hargrave] or Fletch or they chipped over to BG’s side. So those guys all know that they’re not independent contractors up front. We’re a group and plays that we make as individuals are really accountable to the group.
But Derek has done an outstanding job, and I think probably the biggest thing is the effort and the toughness that he plays with on a play-in and play-out basis. It’s inspiring for me to watch.
Q. Just with the team releasing S Will Parks yesterday, what’s the trickle down on the back end with your rotation? Could we see more of a role for S K’Von Wallace or S Marcus Epps in that regard? (Ed Kracz)
JIM SCHWARTZ: We appreciate what Will did for us. It was a bad start for him getting that bad hamstring at the beginning of camp, and then once he got healthy, he played a limited role for us, but did a good job in that, played tough, but we have moved on.
And I think you’re right on. It does give more opportunities to K’Von Wallace, it gives more opportunities to Eppsy, both guys that have done a good job in limited roles for us this year.
So we’re excited about that. We’re excited about all the young players, even guys like [DB] Grayland Arnold, [DB] Elijah Riley stepped up and played good snaps for us when he was active. I think we’re in a good spot with a lot of our young safeties and seeing some good vet play also. I thought [S] Jalen Mills had an outstanding game in this game, not just coverage-wise, but run game. And I think we’re seeing good signs from that group and I think those guys will pick up that slack really well and put us in a good position.
Q. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers on a short week. That must be fun. What are you telling guys? I remember last year’s game you did pretty well. He hurt you with his legs last year, which I really wasn’t expecting. Tell me a little bit about what you’re looking at and obviously he’s having an unbelievable season this year. (Les Bowen)
JIM SCHWARTZ: I have so much respect for him going against him since 2008, I think was our first matchup, and then obviously in Detroit facing him twice a year.
But I think he’s really taken his game to another level this year. He’s incredibly efficient. He was always good at making big plays and doing those kinds of things, but he’s just so efficient. He doesn’t miss a check down. He runs a boot and he’s taking the positive yards. He still scrambles. He still makes those plays, but I think you’re seeing it in his overall play. He still makes his big plays down the field, but I think he’s taken his game to another level this year.
[Jokingly] Now, giving a compliment to a player, that might get me, maybe he takes a slight in that. But it’s a sincere compliment. Last year was a little bit different. We lost some players in that game. Jenks [Malcolm Jenkins] had to go in and play nickel and stuff, and we played, we had to change game plans within the game plan to sort of account for some of those things. We were able to do enough to win the game, but that’s the way it was. It didn’t exactly go according to plan. It was, we had to go to plan B pretty quickly, and we were vulnerable to some of those scrambles because we were putting more emphasis on coverage and things like that.
Everything in the game, I mean, it’s hard to take every single thing away. Like I talked about with Seattle, it’s hard to take Russell Wilson scrambles away and take the run game away and take Lockett away and take DK Metcalf away and take all that stuff, you got to sort of say, ‘Okay, which matchups can you live with?’
Bottom line is just coming away with a win. I was incredibly pleased with that win last year, going up, winning in Lambeau, I know how difficult that is. That’s really tough and I was really proud of that win last year. We’re going to have to have a great effort this year to get that also. It’s an outstanding offense. They’re incredibly efficient. They got a lot of different weapons, and they run the ball sneakingly well, if that’s a word. But you have to take care of that too. Well balanced, well coached, good players at all the positions. It’s going to take an outstanding effort for us.
Q. That game last year was their fourth under Packers head coach Matt LaFleur. Now that they have had a season and a half in that system, how have you kind of seen that evolve and how have you seen Aaron Rodgers kind of evolve in that scheme? (Daniel Gallen)
JIM SCHWARTZ: I think I hit that, with his evolving is he’s just, he’s at ease with that. It was obviously a new system for him. He’s embraced it. He’s incredibly efficient. He’s also kept that big-play mentality and they’re running the ball really well and they’ve really expanded their boot game, so I think that all those things go in. That’s probably the things that I noticed the most about them. He keeps them out of bad plays. He makes you defend the whole width of the field and the whole length of the field. They do a lot of outlet screens to wide receivers in the run game, so you have to be able to handle every single layer of it and it’s going to be a tough matchup for us.
Q. When you were talking about Slay, you twice mentioned your appreciation for his willingness to take on that matchup. Over the course of your career, have there been guys who would be unwilling to take on a matchup like that who maybe would ask for help and if so, how would you handle it? (Rob Maaddi)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Well, I mean, every player’s willing to do what’s in the game plan, but just to put that on your shoulders in such an obvious way, I appreciate. Any player that takes on a heavy role in a game plan, it takes a special kind of personality to do that and it takes a resilience. And that’s part of the definition or it’s the job description of a number one corner is to do that.
We used to do that when I was in Tennessee another lifetime ago, we did that with Samari Rolle and Samari would be one-on-one with a guy and just be willing to take that whole thing on.
So it’s just part of the job description, not everybody has that skill set, not everybody can live with that, but those players that can embrace that, that don’t get discouraged if they give up a completion, keep bouncing back and going, I have a lot of appreciation for those guys.
Q. I always appreciate your candor, so thank you for that. Is this the highest level, given what you’ve done in this league for so many years, that you’ve seen Aaron Rodgers play at? And the second part to my question, Aaron said on Sunday, that Matt basically simplified some of the nuances of their offense, do you see that on tape? (Stacey Dales)
JIM SCHWARTZ: It’s hard to look at their offense and say it’s simple. Because like I said before, there’s so many layers that go into it. But he’s a player that’s had a lot of success in his career, he’s won Super Bowls, he’s been an MVP-caliber player pretty much every time he steps on the field. But I think probably the biggest thing is they’re extremely efficient. He has great command over their offense, they’re hardly ever in bad plays. He seems like he always makes the right decision. He’s willing to check the ball down. He can still scramble, he can still make those big plays, but they’re a lot less one dimensional than at times they have been in the past.
At times their run game wasn’t a big part of what they did, or short passes weren’t a big part of what they did. I think that they have really done an outstanding job of having an offense and it’s not about one person, I’ve said that before, not about one person in an offense, it’s the efficiency of the whole offense.
I think that that’s probably the complement that I would see. It’s going to be a great matchup. We’re going to work really hard to stop them, they’re going to work really hard to score against us, and it will be a fun game to be in.