"In the spring, when we start the first minicamp and the first OTAs, I'll sort of let that determine some of that,'' Schwartz said Tuesday. "We need to see where Drew Stanton is. We need to see Drew Henson. We need to see Daunte. We need those guys to throw. The early part of the offseason program, the first minicamp, the first OTA days, may have something to do with that and our comfort level with those guys."
I heard Dave Birkett's interview on the Huge Show afterwards; from what he said, it was apparent that Schwartz and the Lions really are putting an emphasis on assessing what they have in Drew Stanton before going into the draft.
Now, a quick disclaimer here: I've avoided "coming out" as a DS supporter, partly because so far his career has mostly consisted of an undeserved exile. On top of that, I am a third-generation Spartan who greatly admired Stanton's intelligence, toughness, and leadership at MSU . . . and of course, how lame and predictable is it that I'd root for the hometown boy to make good with my beloved Lions? But perhaps most importantly (to me), I've been burned before.
You see, Chuck Rogers was at State at the same time I was, and I had the pleasure of making his acquaintance a couple of times. The idea of a Saginaw kid, coming to State and blowing away records, and then being the #2 overall pick in the draft to the Lions . . . it was all just too good to be true. Even more incredible to me, this was a guy I'd actually met in real life. Watching his character and his game get dissected live on national TV, for weeks on end, really brought home to me what a completely ridiculous circus this all is, and how much money, fame, power, and greed circles around these kids, these boys, these men. Of course, being completely immersed in the NFL circus my whole life, I bought in wholesale; me and my boy got matching home-and-away C. Rogers jerseys, and that first game was a watershed moment. We were absolutely jubilant at his two-TD performance. I remember watching the highlight shows after that day, and every once in a while a talking head would slip in, almost as an afterthought, "Oh, by the way, that Charles Rogers fellow found the end zone a couple of times." I actually said out loud, "FOOLS! Don't you see?? It's already begun!!
. . . I can neither confirm nor deny any accusations that I was anything other than stone cold sober at the time. In any event, we all know how that turned out: with Rogers throwing his jersey to a kid on the way out the door, and the Lions suing him for his signing bonus. With Rogers working out for other teams, barely able to break five seconds in the forty--when he had legit 4.2 speed coming out of college. With Rogers in and out of jail for various petty crimes. With yet another Jersey I Cringe To Wear in Public hanging in the closet.
Now Stanton is a player I have an extra soft spot for, because my then-toddler daughter was introduced to football through him. One of the games we'd play with her would be to point out Drew Stanton every time teh camera closed in on him. In fact, one of the first times she recognized a number was during a Spartan football game, and she started shouting, "Green Number Five!" It took us a little while to realize that she was seeing Stanton and calling out his jersey number: a green five. When got a little older, my mother taught her to say "Drew Stanton, what a babe!" (gee, thanks, Mom). Ultimately, DS was kind enough to do an autograph session at the Mall, and my little girl actually got to meet the man in person.
Anyway, when Stanton was drafted by the Lions, it was a dream come true, of course. A second-round pick, at just the right time to draft and groom a QB, and a very Millen kind of QB, a tough-nosed, smart, gritty, vocal leader. The kind of player who legitimately hates opponents and wants to beat them--not for glory, not for stats, not for money, but for the sake of victory. The kind of player who can't stand losing, and will give every last ounce he's got to come out on top. That is exactly the kind of quarterback that most Lions fans have been screaming for for years, yet have not ever seen.
I was both thrilled and scared to tell my daughter about Drew Stanton What A Babe becoming a Lion, because deep down I feared that what happened to Chuck would happen to Drew. That the dark presence that hangs over this organization would roll down upon Ford Field and smite him, and DS would never lead the Lions to anything. Sure enough, it's been two whole seasons now; thanks to injuries, blackouts, and the ineffable Will of Rod, my now-twice-as-old-as-she-was-then daughter has still never seen Drew Stanton play for the Lions. She roots for the Buccaneers now.
I tried really hard to not let this burn me. I tried really hard to temper my expectations. I tried for the longest time to justify everything that had happened and convince myself that Stanton would get a fair shake. But I'll state the obvious: if the Lions draft a quarterback with the first overall pick, Drew Stanton will never be the starter for the Lions. If I'm being brutally honest, a not-insignificant chunk of why I don't want to see the Lions draft Matt Stafford is that I don't want to see them give up on DS. If you take a hard look at their career numbers, their production was virtually identical--and Stanton played on much worse teams. If you look at their intangibles, their decision-making, their grasp of the offense (Stanton was a grad assistant his senior year, and actually assisted the coaches in gameplanning) . . . Stanton has everything going in his favor, and Stafford has . . . well, a better arm. To be frank, I think that if the Lions really give DS a chance, and truly evaluate Stafford as a quarterback--not as a passer, as a quarterback--they'll see that they'll be wasting, at least, forty million dollars if they select Stafford #1 overall.
Now, finally, we are hearing that Stanton will get his day. That he'll get the pre-draft minicamp and OTAs to show the Lions what he can do. That he'll get a fair shot to prove to Schwartz, Linehan, Mayhew, and whoever else that he's got enough potential to keep wearing the QB Of The Future headset-and-ballcap. Since the new Lions leadership has yet to fail to do what they say, or say anything they won't definitely do, I'm choosing to take them at their word.
Unfortunately Birkett rightly pointed out that the by the time DS gets his day, the Lions will have already made a decision on Matt Stafford. Schwartz said at the presser that they've already watched every pass Stafford threw in college. Stafford was actually in Allen Park yesterday for testing, interviews, etc. And, as Birkett noted, if you think Matt Stafford is worthy of the first overall pick, you take him. If you think he will be the next Peyton Manning, you take him. If you are comfortable with handing Matt Stafford forty million guaranteed dollars and the keys to your franchise, you do it--regardless of how DS looks in minicamp. Likewise, if you do NOT think he's worth the 1.1, then you DON'T do it--regardless of how DS looks in minicamp. No, the evaluation of Matt Stafford must be done separately from the evaluation of Drew Stanton. All I can do is wait and see, and trust that the Grandmaster knows what he's doing.