I figured I’d try to get everyone all riled up and let us all blow off a little steam here. It’s been a long season and I think that we owe it to ourselves to use up a little of that pent up angst. I think it’s time to have it out over the quarterback with the first overall pick debate. I want to hear everyone’s opinion on why you think it’s a good idea or bad idea or even if you fall somewhere in the middle. I’ll start (of course), by giving you my list of why it’s both a good idea and a bad idea and then commence the battle by telling you where I stand on the issue.
Why it is a good idea:
Since the ‘70’s, when Greg Landry was our last pro bowl quarterback (1971), Detroit has been a quarterback’s graveyard. We’ve buried many a veteran and rookie alike. They come here with promise or experience and we burn them to the ground. We (fans, media and losing culture) beat them until they all eventually break. Of course it’s a talent issue, but the story always ends the same. There have been a few mild success stories, a few 4000 yd seasons, one playoff win and a whole lot of wounded ducks flung around Detroit, but it’s time to end this era.
We need our Peyton Manning. We need our Troy Aikman. It is very possible to take a horrible team, place a solid, young quarterback at the helm and build around him. It’s a proven fact. It seems that Lion’s fans are sold on the idea that a highly drafted quarterback cannot succeed… that it’s virtually impossible for that to happen. Just because it has not happened here, doesn’t mean that it can’t happen. The Colts were 3-13 before Manning, then 3-13 his rookie year. The next year they were 13-3 and in the playoffs and he has since brought them a championship. The Cowboys were 3-13 before Aikman, then 1-15 in his rookie year. After that… well, that’s football legend. Three rings in four years.
Detroit will never… I repeat, NEVER... win a championship without a good, if not great quarterback. At some point in this pathetic franchise’s future, the Lions have to nab a guy worthy of taking this franchise to a Super Bowl and winning. If you all want to wait and find that guy in the la-la land of free agency… well, okay… but we might be waiting awhile. If you all want to find that Tom Brady-type in the later rounds of the draft… we might be waiting forever.
The simple fact is that not even the Lions get the first overall pick very often. This is the opportunity to take any player in the nation. But also remember that this guy is going to get a king’s ransom to play and he’s got to touch the ball enough to warrant that salary. There are only a few positions in the game that I think are really worthy of that pick. Quarterback is the top of that short list.
Bottom line is that if Matt Stafford grades out as a top 5 talent, the Lions should have him signed to a contract before the draft begins. You obviously have to build the talent around him – especially on the offensive line. But you HAVE to make sure you get your quarterback.
Why it is a bad idea:
To steal a line from the good ideas section… Detroit has been a quarterback’s graveyard since the ‘70’s. No quarterback will ever have great success behind Detroit’s shoddy O-line. It’s been a sore spot for as long as I can remember. Even when Sanders was here, it was him making plays despite an average O-line. It has kept the team from being above average when our skill players were talented.
On top of that, we’ve had the worst defense in the league for two years running. A quarterback’s best friend is a good defense. Turnovers and a short field are keys for offensive success. If the Lions had a movie based on them, it would be Disney’s “Holes”. There are so many defensive holes, how can we justify taking any position other than the best defensive player on the board. The offense is bad, but we can slap any ‘ol quarterback in there until the defense and offensive lines are fixed.
As this team has reached the bottom of a very deep barrel, there is no better time than now, with 5 of the first 82 picks in the draft, to rebuild the trenches. Then, after we have a little stability, we can try and find a quarterback. Who knows? Maybe Stanton is the guy. With a good defense, better O-line and a little playing time, maybe he is the guy who can take us to a Super Bowl. For now, let’s be smart with our picks and build a solid foundation. Worry about the glamorous positions later.
Millen’s biggest downfall as a GM (aside from complete lack of talent evaluation skills) was to scrap his plans in mid-draft because he fell in love with a guy in a glamour/skill position. I don’t think we need to rehash those names… to be honest, it makes me a little nauseous just thinking of them. Those moves crippled this franchise. If he’d have stuck to his guns and taken a guy like Shawn Merriman over Mike Williams (I feel the nausea setting in…), where would this franchise be? We’ve been in this situation before. We’ve got a high profile, big name player at a skill position staring us in the face and it makes us abandon all reason and forget about the guys that make the team stabile and consistent. Let’s not make that mistake again this year.
One last reason to not draft a QB is the bust factor. It just seems like a high number of top first round quarterbacks bust. The fact that the Lions have more busts than Canton just screams for them to stay away from a quarterback with the first overall pick. For every Peyton Manning, there is a Ryan Leaf, David Carr, Tim Couch or Joey Harrington (here comes that nausea again…). History is against the Lions here.
Okay, so I think that I’ve painted a pretty good picture of how I see each side of the argument. Now is where you ask how can I take a side if I can see the logic in each choice? You probably think I’m just a fence-rider, right? Well, a little. But I’ll end up taking a clear side here as not to be a huge hypocrite. Ultimately, I think that there is no right answer, only what we each think is the best decision for the franchise at the moment. If you think taking a quarterback is a bad idea and then that guy turns into Tom Brady, it obviously didn’t end up being a bad decision. It just ends up being that you thought the other option was better at that time, but you are happy they did what they did. Multiple options can also turn out positive. Maybe Stafford, Smith, Orakpo, Curry and Bradford all turn out to be pro bowlers. What was the right decision then? The grass is always greener, right? Either way, we won’t know the outcome of this debate for about three or four years.
Anyway, I’ll tell you where I sit. With the preface being that I clearly understand how ridiculously many holes this team has… especially on defense… I would choose to take Stafford. Yes, I would take him over Smith, Curry, Orakpo, Oher or Jenkins and certainly over the other quarterbacks, Bradford and Tebow. But I’m not without precondition here. Stafford still has to grade out as a top five talent. If he doesn’t, you go another route. If Mayhew and Co. look at every snap, every game, every breath that this kid has taken and they don’t think he is better than 99% of the eligible draftees… you DON’T take him… period. If there is no single standout “gotta have” player at the top (which I don’t think there will be) and Stafford is within the top five on your board, then you pull the trigger. He also has to be willing to sign a contract before the draft starts. The Lions cannot afford a lengthy holdout.
I think that we Lions fans have become so accustomed to losing that we all go to bed at night praying for a 9-7 season. Contentment comes cheap for the Lions and Lion fans. That is such a skewed vision of success. The goal should be a Super Bowl win… nothing less. We’ve been content to go out and get the journeyman quarterback to get a few wins and be a bridge player until the next big thing comes along. Problem is that it’s become the bridge to nowhere. We keep going from stop-gap to stop-gap, never getting anywhere. True, we failed big time on Harrington. That was a failed attempt, but it doesn’t mean we stop trying to get a quality signal caller. We draft and draft until we hit a home run.
I think the biggest point against my opinion will be that the environment is not suitable for a young quarterback to survive. I agree somewhat, but I’ll counter with two points. First, I think that if we can get two good, serviceable linesman (either a Tackle and a Guard or 2 Guards) in the second to fourth rounds, our line will be good enough until next year to replace Backus or whoever else. Again, this is prefaced with Mayhew hitting on his picks. Any way you slice it, there is no room for busts this year. Second, if Stafford is the right guy, he’ll show flashes without a good line. Manning threw a lot of interceptions his rookie year, but a lot of touchdowns, too. Even though he struggled on a bad team, he showed flashes throughout the season. There is time to get the other pieces in place in later rounds and over the next two years. That quarterback may not always be there. Remember, he’s got Johnson to throw to and Smith to run the ball. That situation could be worse. Also, I think if we do take Stafford, the rest of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd round picks go to defense or O-line. No backs, receivers, etc. See, I’ve still got a little sense left.
I figure that I’ll be in the minority with my opinion. That’s okay. Just be respectful in your opinions and no vulgarity please… there’s just no place for that. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and let’s be real… none of us are going to be in the war room in April. We are all at the same mercy of the new (same as the old) regime. So fire away! It’s open season on me and every Lions fan with an opinion!