Psst! I have a deal for you! There's this guy that you can have to quarterback your football team. He is going to be really good! The deal is, he wasn't drafted by anybody. You see, he is small compared to other NFL quarterbacks. Oh, he also has a wimpy noodle arm that turns off the scouts, but he is really accurate. The thing is, the kid can play! I mean, he can really play! In fact, he won more games than any other quarterback in the history of big college football. Did I tell you he is going to be really good? Trust me, you will love him!
Well, maybe not. Many Detroit Lions fans have been scratching their head and wondering why Kellen Moore is on the roster while guys that have performed decently in the NFL were cut. Names like Andre Fluellen and Everette Brown will immediately come to mind. The answer is simple. On an NFL team, nobody is more valuable than the quarterback. Seriously. Nobody.
This is a lesson that Lions fans should know well. The Lions spent decades searching for a quarterback that could lead the team to glory. During this lengthy quest the fans had to endure many seasons of mediocrity, or worse. Without a good quarterback the Lions set records for being bad. So Lions fans know better than anybody the value of a true franchise quarterback. After watching Matthew Stafford emerge as a legitimate star there is no doubt how much the quarterback means to team success.
The only real knock on Stafford is that he has been injured more often than the coaches and fans like. That is a reality in the NFL. Whether Lions fans like it or not, the front office has to keep a legitimate backup behind Stafford to ensure reasonable success if Stafford were to suffer an injury. That fact and others are the reasons for Kellen Moore being on the roster.
During the tenure of Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz we have been told, repeatedly, that the Lions would be built for consistent and long term success. That means that you develop new talent to replace older players before they have reached the end of their career. To be consistent you have to avoid the talent deficits that are created when players leave the team.
The Lions are currently in a very good position at quarterback. Shaun Hill is one of the best backup quarterbacks in the NFL, but he is getting old. Hill's current contract has two years remaining. It makes sense for the Lions to develop a young replacement for Hill during those two years. If the Lions need longer they can extend the contract of Hill one season at a time. It looks like Hill is happy in Detroit and plans to retire as a Lion.
It usually takes two or three seasons to develop a new quarterback to the point where they are a reliable NFL-caliber player. We have seen examples of players that are competent in their first season, but such players will not be content as a backup when they have greater possibilities. We have to remember that the plan for Moore has never been to groom him as a replacement for Stafford. Moore is strictly an insurance policy for Hill as a backup quarterback.
With Kellen Moore, the Lions have found a guy that fits the role they choose to place him into. He is a bit small and has a weak arm, but he has the instincts and intelligence that you need to succeed as a quarterback. There is a history of weak-armed quarterbacks in the NFL that have been successful because they can compensate for that by being smart players.
There have also been a number of quarterbacks that significantly improved their arm strength in their first few season in the NFL. Since we are talking about a development project in Moore, he has time to improve that aspect of his game. What we see with Moore now is not what he will be when he has realized his potential.
The coaches obviously feel that Moore is worth spending the effort to develop. That may have something to do with Scott Linehan knowing Moore since he was young. They are from the same hometown and Linehan has seen Moore develop as a quarterback over the years. Moore even played with Linehan's nephew at Boise State. Whatever the reason, Moore has been given the opportunity to hone his talents so that he can back up Stafford in the future.
The only real question about this decision is whether the Lions could have slipped Moore through waivers to put him on the practice squad. Since the Lions declined that option for Moore, they must feel that the risk of losing him is too great to chance.
There are a lot of teams that do not have a good starting quarterback, let alone backups. Lions fans see Moore as a third stringer, but many other teams may see him fitting in a higher slot on their roster. Desperate teams make desperate moves. If the Lions really want to develop Moore they have no real choice but to make a commitment and keep him on the roster, even if some fans don't like it. Now, only time will tell who is right.