Book 'Em, Dan-O!

So maybe I just wanted to reference that quote. But putting a little thought into how I would transition the title of the article, I realized that maybe Dan Orlovsky does have something he might need to book in the near future. Plane tickets for a flight out of Detroit.

It seems as though the organization would like to move in a different direction. Drafted in 2005 and left on the bench, it's pretty apparent that Orlovsky has never really been their long-term plan for the starting quarterback role. The only reason he's in now is because something needed to change, and the Lions decided that Jon Kitna could be the temporary scapegoat. I really hope that they aren't pulling another "Kitna" right now, with Orlovsky's injured thumb. To use that as an excuse to get him out of there and replace him with Daunte Culpepper would be pathetic. Mr. Culpepper might not be done with the NFL just yet. Who knows? Perhaps his knee is recovered, and his career did not end as I thought it had in Oakland, the aptly nicknamed "Quarterback Graveyard." Maybe he does have some good games left in his arsenal still. But I digress. This FanPost isn't about Daunte Culpepper. It isn't about the next mistake on the laundry list of blunders that the Detroit Lions have made. This is about me. It's about me, jumping on the Danwagon.

Sure, he's no Tom Brady. He's not a Manning Brother. But, he doesn't need to be. This team is not going to the Super Bowl in the next few seasons, barring a miracle. They have entered what should become a rebuilding stage. I'll admit that I do think that most things about the Lions need to be changed, but there are a few players that deserve to stay. My vote for this team's QB during the rebuilding period goes to Dan-O. Initially, I thought that they should give Stanton more playing time to prepare him for the future. I'm not taking that back, I still think he should see some playing time. But with the progress I've seen from Orlovsky in recent weeks, there's no reason to make a switch. An injury is one thing. Even then, I'm all for Stanton stepping in until Orlovsky is ready to return. I guess by this point, you're probably ready for the reasoning behind my enthusiasm. It really comes down to two main points: Orlovsky's enthusiasm, and the progress he's shown on the football field.

Enthusiasm first. I have not seen someone this happy to be playing for the Detroit Lions, ever. His story already has a "feel-good" air to it--he's been a backup on the losingest team in recent NFL history, who for all intents and purposes appeared to be a career backup. The Lions felt they had to shake things up, and Kitna was placed on IR. This meant that Orlovsky was the interim starter. Many people feel that he's not the long term answer. Dan-O is taking this in stride, simply making the most of his opportunity. I recently read an article on the Detroit Lions website about Dan Orlovsky in which he was speaking on the possibility of Culpepper filling his shoes, Orlovsky had this to say:

"I don't think about it one bit. I'll continue to prepare. I love these guys I'm playing with now. I went up to Dom (center Dominic Raiola) after the game and told him, 'I know we came out on the short end, but I love being out there."

It's quite possible that some Lions fans might find this maddening. Orlovsky, after all, has started 4 games thus far for the Lions and lost all of them. But let's be serious. It's the Lions. They are not going to win right now. Still, he's managed to keep them close these past few weeks. He knows that the only chance he's got for keeping this position is his play on the field. Of his thumb injury, he's said that he has no doubts that it will prevent him from being capable of starting come Sunday. I see a football player hungry to prove himself. That makes one total player on the field come Sundays for the Lions, as far as I can count.

When asked about his success during the first half of last Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears, Orlovsky passed around the credit to everyone else until none of it was left for himself. He gave Calvin Johnson some of it. Some went to Shaun McDonald. Some to Mike Furrey. He said the offensive line was the best he'd seen it since he'd been in Detroit. Some of it even went to Jim Colletto, although the offensive coordinator said he saw some plays run that "he'd never even seen before" after an equipment malfunction apparently left Orlovsky and the coordinator temporarily unable to communicate. One final quote from Orlovsky, the one that made me genuinely happy to have him playing QB for the Lions right now. You can tell he's enjoying every minute. He's really got nothing to lose, when it comes down to it.

"It was fun to be in the fight, to go down, to come back and have it go down to the wire--that was fun. That's why you play football. We get caught up sometimes with Xs and Os and dollars and everything that goes into this business, but being in this stadium, in this city, against this team with its history. It was just fun to be out there today. We came up short, but we'll keep working. I'll keep working. Today I think we made a pretty good step."

Orlovsky seems to be a stand-up guy. He's sort of an underdog player, the kind that I especially like to root for. But it isn't simply his enthusiasm (and mine) that lead me to believe he deserves to remain the starter for this season and the next. It's also his development. He's seemed to improve week to week. I'll admit, his throws are often off-target and he has thrown a few to the opponents. So do most QBs who are seeing their first extended NFL action. And when I watched the game against the Bears yesterday, I was sold. The playing surface was slippery. He threw an interception early, and did not look great. Dan-O recovered nicely though. There was a fake handoff on which he nonchalantly turned his back and  took a few steps away from the play. The way he ran it was impressive, with the confidence he displayed in his teammates by completely turning his back on a shaky offensive line that has been known to let defenders right through. Taking his time, he turned back around and fired a pass down the middle of the field for a completion. That one actually did remind me of Tom Brady.

Then there was the touchdown pass to the corner of the endzone, lofted to where only Calvin Johnson could grab it. There were the 8 straight completions. There was the other touchdown pass to Shaun McDonald in the corner of the endzone, as Orlovsky was under pressure. The pass was almost as well-placed as the one to Johnson. He finished the first half 14 for 18.

His play was by no means perfect. He did leave a lot of passes hanging-- there was the broken up pass in the endzone to Calvin Johnson, and a long pass near the end of the game to Johnson on the final drive that could have been a completion had it been thrown better. There was also the interception in the endzone on a pass intended for Johnson, which was a mistake he probably should not have made.

Still, Orlovsky had his team in position to win at the end. The final drive came up short as he tossed a pass into the end zone that was batted down. I turned off my television afterward with the depressing feeling of having spent another Sunday afternoon watching the Lions lose. But there was a difference. This time, I didn't feel as if the time had been wasted. I'd had fun watching Orlovsky. He distributed the ball evenly to different receivers, working the field. The touchdowns were impressive. His mistakes didn't leave me frustrated as Kitna's had, feeling like we had a team that was going nowhere. I am OK with the fact that the Lions are in rebuilding mode. If I, as a fan, am willing to tolerate a few mistakes from a learning QB on an 0-8 ball team, I do not see why ownership needs to bring in another veteran out of his prime in Culpepper to get through the rebuilding time (wait, did Kitna ever have a prime?). Come on guys, show Dan-O some "lov." Let him be the man to lead the team for the next few years. I have a feeling he'll prove to be a pleasant surprise if given the chance.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Pride Of Detroit or its writers.

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