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What if the Lions drafted Mark Sanchez instead of Matthew Stafford?

Looking back on what could have been a horrible mistake.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Arizona Cardinals Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Wednesday was an interesting day. I decided to test out my hot take game by claiming that Calvin Johnson didn’t catch the ball against the Chicago Bears back in 2010. I was, of course, joking, but that didn’t stop my Twitter from blowing up and my eventual firing from Pride of Detroit.

After begging Jeremy to take me back, I weaseled my back into the good graces at POD. For my return piece, I wanted to get in on all the SB Nation “What if?“ stuff that’s been going around this week. The good news is that I also get to add this piece to the Summer Stafford Series, too.

On April 24, 2009, pretty much everyone knew that the Lions were going to select Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford with the No. 1 pick the next day. While so many were irrationally obsessed with Aaron Curry, I had my sights set on another quarterback: USC’s Mark Sanchez.

Today, I’m glad the Lions went with Stafford. I’m sure those who wanted Curry are also glad the Lions went with Stafford, because Curry was out of the league by 2013 after playing for three different teams. But what if the Lions picked Sanchez? Today, we’ll take a look.

Sanchez vs Stafford early on

In the begin it looked like Stafford was the bust. In his first two seasons, he went down with injuries while Mark Sanchez helped the Jets reach the AFC Championship game two years in a row.

2011 changed all of that, though. Stafford went off for over 5,000 yards and finished with 41 touchdowns. Sanchez threw for just 3,474 yards and 26 touchdowns. As the duo’s respective careers progressed, that difference would only become more pronounced.

Since 2011, Sanchez has thrown for 9,484 yards, 57 touchdowns and 53 interceptions. He’s completed 58.1 percent of his passes and has a passer rating of 76.1. Stafford has thrown for 31,947 yards, 197 touchdowns and 97 interceptions. He’s completed 62.8 percent of his passes and has a passer rating of 90.6.

Clearly the Lions made the right choice, but let’s look at a few things that could have happened to Detroit if they didn’t.

The Butt Fumble

This was destined to happen no matter what. It especially would have happened if he played for the Lions because of course it would. Just imagine the sight of Mark Sanchez’s face plowing into the backside of Dominic Raiola. You’d have to imagine Dom being upset about this too. He’d probably decimate the nearest high school marching band in a fit of rage.

The Sanchez-led Lions aren’t going to the 2009 conference championship game

This is painfully clear when you’re looking at the 2009 Lions roster. This is also again another prime example of why “Quarterback Wins“ is not a real stat.

That being said, I think it’s fair to say the Jets still get the AFC championship game with Stafford in his rookie season. I think it’s also fair to say Stafford is still a New York Jet right now, too.

Look at the Lions‘ 2009 roster. I think it’s safe to say that Mark Sanchez would have looked like Joey Harrington with this roster. He could have benefited from Calvin Johnson, but he would have been left out to dry otherwise. That leads us to the next thought.

Is Sanchez still in Detroit in 2018?

As of now, Sanchez has played for four different teams in his nine year career. He didn’t play a single snap in 2017 and hasn’t started a game since 2015. He’s currently a free agent and has a four-game suspension pending with the league.

Throughout his career, Sanchez has had plenty of chances. There was, of course, his time in New York, but he also had a good shot in Philadelphia. In 2014, he had eight starts and showed some flashes.

Although Sanchez‘s first few years with the Jets appeared to be successful, his statline told the real story. His first two AFC Championship seasons amounted to 5,735 yards, 29 touchdowns and 33 interceptions. Sanchez was always going to be Sanchez.

We can all agree that Sanchez would have been far worse off joining the winless Lions in 2009. In fact, he may have been forced out of the league far earlier in his career.

What does the future of the Lions look like after drafting Sanchez?

You’d have to think that at some point, the Lions cut bait on Sanchez. The question is: How early? With Sanchez, the Lions likely don‘t have that magical 2011 season that ended their playoff drought. That would likely leave them with another high draft pick. Maybe the Lions pick Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III in 2012.

Maybe the Lions give Sanchez a full four seasons before moving on. But that would mean Detroit would have to settle for 2013‘s horrible quarterback draft class featuring EJ Manuel, Geno Smith and Mike Glennon. In other words, had the Lions drafted Sanchez, there’s a pretty good chance they’re still looking for their franchise quarterback today.

Once again I’m happy that the Lions went the way I didn’t want them to go in 2009, because who knows where this team would be in 2018? I’m nearly 100 percent certain that it would be in a very bad place.

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