I mean no disrespect to Matthew Stafford and his hype worthy college career, but the Detroit Lions didn’t make the right choice. Why? Because they need to start from scratch. That doesn’t mean giving a long shot quarterback the highest contract in draft history, a mind boggling $78 million. It means building your defense and focusing on the trenches. I wasn’t there for his personal workout; therefore, the Lions staff knows more about his abilities than the rest of us. There is of course last season’s inconsistency, but the past doesn’t really matter to the Lions management or else they would’ve drafted like they’re an 0-16 team. No matter what the controversy behind the pick I will point to why I think he was the boneheaded pick of the 2009 draft.
Reason #1, he wasn’t the best pick in the draft. Defensive playmakers and offensive lineman dominated this year’s draft. The best overall pick was either OLB Aaron Curry or OT Jason Smith. Curry was not only a solid pick but offered to sign well below the market value set by recent 1st picks making him not only the best pick but a thrifty one too. Curry was not the only big man on campus. Defense dominated the draft, but the Lions waited until round 2 to start on the talent void defense. By then 13 of the nations best defensive players were taken. It was a strategy that I’m sure made Matt Millen proud. The Lions did, however, save Matthew Stafford a lot of heartache. If they wouldn’t have made him the first pick he would’ve fallen late first round to maybe even the second round.
Reason #2, next year will be a power packed draft full of quarterback talent. The list is long for potential talent that will be available for the 2010 draft class. Why not wait until then? Obviously the Lions aren’t going to have a miracle turnaround 2009 season. The last time they had a winless season was 1942 and the very next season they only won 3 games. The best recent turnaround season was in 1980 when they went 9-7 after a disappointing 2-14 season. The success of that year was due to a smart draft pick in Heisman Trophy winner and future Pro Bowl RB Billy Sims. They also benefited from a far better defense featuring Doug English and Al "BBQ" Baker. Don’t get your hopes up Lions fans. There’s a pale comparison between the 1980 Lions and the 2009 Lions.
There is no reason to think that they won’t have a top 5 pick for next year’s draft. Given the current situation, does anybody actually believe they will break ranks with history? The defense is still talentless and full of holes. The defensive line really needs a boost. The Lions could definitely use another Ernie Simms. And defensive backs give up too many big plays. The O line won’t protect Culpepper and improvements in the running game won’t be seen until it’s addressed. Even if they did address all of the compounding issues in this years draft a winning season is unlikely. No matter what, they are doomed for another losing season.
That brings me to my original point. Having a top 5 pick next year and using that pick on a sure bet would be the smart choice. The 2009-college football season is full of Heisman hyped, experienced, talented and smart quarterbacks. My favorite of the bunch is none other than Sam Bradford. Sam Bradford threw for 4720 yards and 50 touchdowns in 2008 in a pro-style offense similar to that of the Lions offense. He’s young, big and has a quarterback rating that most can only dream about. If Sam Bradford has another Heisman year then he’ll surely declare early for the draft. If that happens he’ll almost certainly be the uncontested number one pick. And then there’s Colt McCoy who last year completed 76.7% of his passes. He has the dynamics to be great and can really chuck the ball down the field. With 85 career touchdowns he obviously knows how to find the end zone. And don’t forget about Tim Tebow. I know that many experts don’t believe he can quarterback at the next level but I think their wrong. He doesn’t throw many interceptions and has a consistent completion percentage. He’s also a duel threat. Even though it’s near impossible to be a duel threat quarterback in the NFL I think that the Lions could benefit from a passer that has unparalleled mobility. He can throw on the run which is perfect for the Lions and their "please run me over" style offensive line. Any one of these top caliber quarterbacks should be available once the Lions are on the clock and could be the franchise quarterback that the Detroit Lions have been looking for the past 50 years.
Reason #3, my third and final reason should be nothing new to Detroit Lion fans, wherever those two guys may be. They’re the Detroit Lions and there is no hope for a toothless King of the Jungle with a meow for a roar. All joking aside, the Lions can’t really count on a top talented quarterback without addressing the issues up front. Throughout history the Lions have never had a dominating offensive line. It took the likes of Barry Sanders to find success from a line that has never produced above mediocrity. I’m sure Matthew Stafford will have success on the field. I’m just not confident that can happen with the Lions. The Lions are considered the worst franchise in NFL history, which probably explains why their personnel decisions are the equivalent of buying a luxury car without an engine. The Detroit Lions managerial staff takes pride in its boneheaded decisions. I have seen nothing contrary to another miserable season full of typical blown chances and brainless conclusions.
The Lions would’ve been better served to focus this years draft selections on a solid foundation, defense and at least one good offensive lineman. The focus for quarterback should’ve been pushed for next year. They had the opportunity to address key issues on defense as well as the offensive line. Brandon Pettigrew and Louis Delmas are good picks that will some day have an impact, but they shouldn’t be considered the answer to any questions. In fact, they raise more questions. Who will fill the gaps left by this management team and their predecessor? Now they’ll have to rely on trades and free agents, also not an area the Lions have been particularly successful with. This might have been an opportunity that will haunt them for seasons to come. I hope I’m wrong, but I believe the Lions management will eventually have to rebuild this team from scratch.