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Detroit Lions Legacy roster: Quarterbacks

An all-time roster for the Lions may not seem all that difficult at quarterback, but deciding who starts and who backs up is an interesting wrinkle.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions do not have a lengthy history of great quarterbacks. In fact, prior to 2009 there were very few positive words you could use to describe Lions signal callers. While not everyone thinks of Matthew Stafford as the greatest passer for the team’s long-term success, it’s impossible to overstate his impact in the realms of Lions lore.

In the first part of our legacy series, you are tasked with putting together a stable of three quarterbacks. You’ll pick a starter and his backup, as well as a developmental quarterback you feel it would have been nice to see develop.

The Starter

We can argue semantics, but there are only really three choices for who would lead an all-time Lions roster, and you’d be perfectly justified in claiming it could be only one or two.

Matthew Stafford (2009-Present)

Stafford holds the Lions record for most wins, most attempts, most completions, most yards, most touchdowns, most fourth-quarter comebacks, and most game-winning drives. In fact, if you added any two previous Lions quarterbacks together in almost any of those stats, he’d still have the most. He has the highest career passer rating of any Lions QB ever, and the third-highest career completion percentage (only .3% away from the top). What Stafford has lacked is postseason success, driving the QB Wins crowd mad.

Bobby Layne (1950-1958)

Layne led the Lions championship teams during their epic run in the 1950s. He was an All Pro no less than six times. He led the team to championship victories in 1952 and 1953 and put the team in position to win another in 1957, though he was injured late in the season and couldn’t seal the deal himself.

Though he was among the best statistically in his day, leading the league in passing yards twice and touchdowns once, his statistics don’t look great in hindsight compared to the passers of the ‘70s and 2000s. His 49 percent completion percentage and 118:142 touchdown to interception ratio don’t look great. It says a lot about him as a passer, though, that he led the Lions in almost every category for nearly 50 years and claimed his deserved spot in the Hall of Fame.

Greg Landry (1968-1978)

Landry’s career is often overlooked since it falls between long periods of team futility. The Lions of the ‘70s were not championship caliber, but they were always in the hunt, finishing second in their division seven straight times.

While Landry lacks the elite statistics of Matthew Stafford and didn’t have the success of Bobby Layne, he is capable of captaining a ship without getting in the way. Mainly, he’s included here so fans can get some perspective into how special Bobby Layne was and how special Matthew Stafford is.


Who will start at QB for the Detroit Lions Legacy Roster?

This poll is closed

  • 89%
    Matthew Stafford
    (1226 votes)
  • 9%
    Bobby Layne
    (131 votes)
  • 0%
    Greg Landry
    (6 votes)
  • 0%
    Someone else (answer in comments)
    (9 votes)
1372 votes total Vote Now

The Backup

Obviously the previous group is included, but once you get past your starter you need someone to back them up in case they go down to provide assistance with in-game adjustments. This provides us with an opportunity to include some other players who could potentially back up their all time starter.

Scott Mitchell (1994-1998)

Sitting around third or fourth all time in many statistics, Scott Mitchell was an erratic but reasonably productive quarterback during his short stay with the Lions in the mid ‘90s. Mitchell completed more than 1,000 passes for the Lions in just under 60 games. There aren’t many left handed quarterbacks in the NFL, and having one who can start in a pinch could be advantageous.

Erik Kramer (1991-1993)

Kramer’s time with the Lions was short, but he went 10-5 in his stint with the club. The Lions won their division twice with Kramer at the helm, and he is the only Lions quarterback with a playoff win in the Super Bowl era. Believe it or not, there was a time when a coach believed that quarterback by committee was a good idea, and Kramer shared duties with several others over his Lions tenure.

Tobin Rote (1957-1959)

A two-time Pro Bowler, though neither with the Lions, Rote may seem like an odd addition here. He had a 9-12-2 record with the team and only ever completed 43 percent of his passes, poor even by 1950’s standards. What lands him here is his performance while backing up Hall of Famer Bobby Layne. Rote split time with Layne in 1957, and arguably outplayed him the whole way. It was Rote who took over full-time duties after Layne went down injured late in the season and led the Lions to a championship win. A backup who can both maintain team momentum and pull out postseason success is a familiar story to 2017’s Philadelphia Eagles, with Rote playing the Nick Foles to Layne’s Carson Wentz.


Who is the Lions Legacy team backup QB?

This poll is closed

  • 65%
    Stafford or Layne, whoever lost out as starter
    (768 votes)
  • 6%
    Greg Landry
    (71 votes)
  • 7%
    Scott Mitchell
    (85 votes)
  • 16%
    Erik Kramer
    (198 votes)
  • 2%
    Tobin Rote
    (28 votes)
  • 2%
    Someone else (Provide in comments)
    (25 votes)
1175 votes total Vote Now

The Developmental QB

As before, we can consider everyone from the previous categories as candidates for this group. Normally, what you’re looking for in a developmental QB is starter qualities, but other important areas that lack refinement, such as an elite athlete who lacked great passing ability, a big armed player with accuracy issues, or an accurate passer with less-than-stellar arm strength. In our case, we want to try to look at QB in addition to those listed above who had the possibility of being more than just a backup or spot starter.

Earl Morrall (1958-1964)

Morrall played for the Lions after their championship runs, and was quite productive for the time period when he played for the team. Morrall was 24 when he joined the Lions and 29 when he left, but looking ahead at how he played late in his 30s to what could have been is intriguing. Morrall would take over for an injured Brian Griese in Miami during the 1972 season, leading the league in passing and earning first-team All Pro honors. Having a Michigan native (Morrall was from Muskegon) lead the Lions and develop into that type of player would be pretty neat.


Who should be the Lions developmental QB for their Legacy roster?

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    Whoever was left in the starter group
    (249 votes)
  • 21%
    Scott Mitchell
    (207 votes)
  • 27%
    Erik Kramer
    (264 votes)
  • 2%
    Tobin Rote
    (28 votes)
  • 14%
    Earl Morrall
    (139 votes)
  • 6%
    Someone else (Provide in comments)
    (57 votes)
944 votes total Vote Now

Do your thing!

This all-time roster is on you, Lions fans. Do your thing and vote, let us know in the comments why you think it is the best choice. Make your case and we will use the best arguments in our final articles detailing the roster makeup. We want to know who you, the best fans in all of football, think would lead an all-time Legacy Roster for the Detroit Lions!

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