Imagine you’re a backup quarterback and you arrive to the stadium Sunday morning thinking you’re going to be doing your usual duty on the sideline as you the guy in front of you makes his 137th consecutive start, and you’re told you’re starting.
That was Jeff Driskel’s Sunday morning. Matthew Stafford showed up as questionable on the Lions injury report on Friday with injuries to his hip and back. When asked earlier in the week, Stafford was very positive about his chances to play Sunday.
Stafford on Wednesday, for what it’s worth on if his injury is the same issue he was dealing with at the beginning of the year:— Pride of Detroit (@PrideOfDetroit) November 9, 2019
“No, I’m fine. I’ll be good to go. I’m not really worried about it. Something different, but I’m totally good.”
Things took a sudden change for the worse on Friday, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, when Stafford had an MRI. Per Adam Schefter, Stafford has fractured bones in his back. On Sunday morning, the Lions decided to sit Stafford for the game and end his 136-game starting streak.
“It’s been a normal week. Every week I go in and prepare as if I’m going to play.” Driskel said after the Lions 20-13 loss to the Chicago Bears. “They’ve been telling me since I got here to be ready to go whenever you’re called upon. I found out this morning when I got to the stadium.”
This has drum up two different thoughts. The first one is just how close was Matthew Stafford to playing this game on Sunday? We know of the MRI on Friday. Then reports of Stafford’s uncertain status started rumbling on Saturday night. Then on Sunday, Driskel was told he would play. So was there a chance that Stafford was going to gut it out?
Additionally, if the Lions had a feeling there was good chance that Stafford wasn’t going to play, why didn’t they alert Driskel to give him the chance to spend the weekend preparing for the start instead of telling him when he got to the building the day of the game?
To make a messy situation even messier, Kyle Meinke of MLive pointed out that certain timelines don’t match up. According to others in the locker room, Stafford knew he wasn’t going to play on Saturday night, but Driskell didn’t find out until the following morning.
Matthew Stafford was telling people yesterday he would not be able to play. Jeff Driskel said he found out this morning that he was starting. Ummm.— kyle meinke (@kmeinke) November 10, 2019
Lions head coach Matt Patricia insists Stafford was a game-time decision.
“This was truly a limited (practice), questionable (designation) decision all the way through the week, and a game-time decision for us,” Patricia said.
And in terms of getting Driskel ready, Patricia is confident they prepared him adequately.
“We’ve really split (practice) reps for a while,” Patricia said. “It’s just something that I think—even when I got here last year—it was something that we did a little bit. And certainly it’s important to do that. It’s important to make sure guys get reps during the course of the week, because you never know. So, for us, we went along the plan as planned, and we got to a game-time decision and it was what it was.”
Having said all that, Driskel handled himself pretty well in what was his first snaps as a Lion. Without a benefit of the offseason, training camp and preseason in Detroit, Driskel threw for 269 yards and a touchdown on the road against an impressive Bears defense. He only completed 58.7 percent of his passes and threw an ugly interception, but you can’t be too mad at that performance considering the length of time he had to prepare.
It’s hard to tell right now what’s going to happen with Matthew Stafford for the remainder of the season. The Lions play the Cowboys at home next Sunday and Stafford’s status remains in question. There are reports that he could be week to week or miss up to three weeks. If he can’t go, Driskel will continue to get the start during that time. At least then he’ll know about it a week in advance.