It's a little late in the season, but we've been noticing more and more that Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham is an absolute wealth of insight and really strange humor in his Thursday press conferences. And with the Lions in the hunt for their first playoff berth in goodness knows how long, we thought it would be a good time to start documenting these fine Gunther pressers, so that our readership would also be aware of the man's genius on (at least) a weekly basis.
In all seriousness, we love the guy. Gunther's not just a brilliant defensive mind; he's also a guy with absolutely no B.S. about him, and that makes for some very interesting quotage. Here are this week's best examples:
With the Lions facing the San Diego Chargers and their cadre of huge receivers, "Gun" was asked if going up against Calvin "Megatron" Johnson in practice helped get Detroit's secondary used to dealing with big bodies. "We go against Calvin in preseason and mostly scout team players go against him in practice, but since you brought him up, I have been doing this for a while now and I don't think I have ever seen one like this. Megatron or whatever, they need to change that name to something different because he probably could kick the crap out of Megatron.
"If you watch him play — and I got to be pretty close friends with him, it is kind of fun because you can do that as a coach that coaches the opposite side. I just admire him. Chan Gailey told me he said, 'Gun, when you meet him, you are not going to believe what kind of person he is,' and to have the humility that he has and be the player that he is that is so unusual in this league. I am so proud of watching him. He deserves every bit of credit he can get."
If you want to get Gunther emotional, ask him about the city of Detroit, and the dedicated fans who cheer the Lions on, no matter what. "I don't know if I can talk about that because this city has kind of grown under my skin," he said. "I love staying downtown at the hotel we stay at and I look around when I drive in in the morning. I go about 5 o'clock in the morning for a 1 o'clock game and I just drive around the streets a little bit and, like I told you, I am feeling it right now talking about it. We address it every week. We play for the city. It is really important to us.
"I think one of the things that really upsets me is people don't know what it is all about here. How beautiful it is and the people are so great. They are typical Midwestern, maybe Northeastern people, where you walk down, go to a store, and everybody is cordial and nice. It is too bad nobody knows that. They talk about Detroit like it is old New York. It is not right. We want to prove that point. They call us over-aggressive and yeah, we are. We play for a big reason. We play for this city and for the state and I got to stop, I am telling you, it gets to me talking about that because I feel like I belong here. I look around and people work for a living here. When I drive in about 4, it looks like a traffic jam. I finally figure out where they all go; they go to work. For me, personally, this is real big and real important."
How about those Chargers, Gunther? They've been playing pretty well of late. How about the rushing attack, led by Ryan Matthews? "My God, both of them, [Mike] Tolbert is pretty good too. He is about 2 feet tall and 400 pounds and really fast so they are a force. They got good players and when they traded [Darren] Sproles out of there or didn't re-sign him… Norv [Turner] went to Oregon, I have kind of known him for many years and I said to Norv, 'How can you let the guy go?' and he said, 'Gun, we got some good backs,' and Norv was right, they got some good backs."
How about Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson? "He pushes off every play. Somebody is going to call it. I watched; it was kind of interesting because I used to coach for the Chiefs and I watched them and it looked like a wrestling match, not a coverage unit back there. They beat him up pretty good. So we will see what we can do."
Whoops, might get the refs mad there, Gunther.
OK, how about the city of San Diego itself? As a longtime NFL coach, you have spent a lot of time there, right? "It is like the opposite of Detroit. When you live in San Diego — and I coached there for six years — it's tough. That ocean is real close. If you go to the zoo, you will feel like you are in Africa. It is so big. It is a great place, and I think sometimes they go through the early part of the year still summer there and football is about people who work for a living and it takes some time to get on track like that. I really think that may be one of the problems is that they have with the slow starts year after year but right now they are playing as good as anybody in the league."
Too many trips to the zoo, Norv. If you keep your job, keep that in mind. We hope you enjoyed the debut of "The Gunther Cunningham Quotes of the Week," and we'll see you next time!