on quarterbacks

>> 3.11.2009

held a press conference (click for Killer's take) yesterday afternoon, in which he adroitly managed to avoid saying very much of anything at all. However, I heard one thing in particular that made me glad:

"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.


6 comments:

Jim,  March 11, 2009 at 11:24 AM  

Ty,

I, like you, am a big DS fan for the time he spent here at State. I'd like for him to succeed with the Lions very much, I feel like there are a couple factors working against him.

1.) I felt like he forced too much in his last year at MSU. It seemed like he was always looking to make the big play instead of taking the sure thing. I'm pretty sure DS won us more games than he lost us, but not by as many as some people would think.

2.) He is embarking on his fourth offensive coordinator in four years at this point. While that's not an insurmountable thing, it sure makes it hard to learn a new offense when you're being told do this, don't do that.

At the end of the day though what could make him successful is unlike Culpepper, DS will put you in a position to win games. I'd sure rather see that than have Culpepper throw a pick six in the fourth quarter.

I'd really like to see the Lions stay away from Stafford because I don't think the Leos will be good this year anyway. If they suck, DS will have gotten his shot and presumably failed. If they don't suck, I'll assume DS has succeeded and they're fine. Either way, there is nothing so special about Matt Stafford that they couldn't find another one in the 2010 draft.

Ty March 11, 2009 at 12:27 PM  

Jim--

You make some excellent points. To address point 1), I think it's fair to say that Stanton always felt as though the burden was on him to perform; he was always playing like he was the only guy on the field who could make winning happen. He absolutely pushed too hard sometimes, taking it on himself when he didn't need to. I suppose you could call that "bad decision-making". Still, I'd think that with talent he trusts around him (like, say, a Megatron), he could lay off some of the Farvesque interceptions.

With point 2 you are in fact spot on, Martz completely breaking Stanton down and then not building him back up was probably the greatest disservice Martz did to the organization as a whole. He basically spent his entire first year not really knowing how to throw a football, and not being allowed to practice. Last year was really his rookie year, and by all accounts, the old QB coach, Scott Loeffler worked to get DS back to his natural motion, with a couple of tweaks. DS looked composed, natural, and effective in the little preseason and regular-season action he got. Interestingly, when he was brought in, Linehan said he believes a QB should only hear one voice: the OC's. As I'm sure you know, Linehan and John L. Smith are quite tight, and I imagine Linehan has picked (or will pick) JLS's brain quite thoroughly about DS and where his strengths and weaknesses lie.

You and I are thoroughly agreed that Stafford is not a shut-up, must-draft, 1.1--and in that case, why bother? The 2010 draft is supposed to be a great one for QBs; as you say the Lions should be in good draft position to get the second- or third-best guy on the board.

Peace
Ty

Steve March 11, 2009 at 8:10 PM  

Sparty's Uber Alles!!! Hey, it's a virtual green love fest with these comments and this post. As a Spartan alum, I agree with the sentiments expressed in support of Stanton.

One thing you guys didn't mention, Stanton seemingly has some intimacy with Linehan's system, via the Louisville coaching tree. Even if Stanton was never completely John L. Smith's guy, his Spartan experience should be of assistance.

We also know, re: Rogers, that MSU wideouts have experienced checkered post-college lives, with a surprising regularity.

I'd much prefer a Cutler/Stanton combo, than a Culpepper/Stafford combo, the latter of which seems more probable.

In a big "what if" scenario, what if the Broncos take pick #20 in exchange for Cutler, and the Lions actually draft a franchise Left Tackle with the first overall pick?

I realize it will take more than pick #20 to acquire Cutler, and sometimes, in regards to Cutler, you should be careful what you wish for, but think about the job that Martin Mayhew and Shack Harris will have done to make this move, should it occur.

I realize that even a player of Cutler's ability can't be a franchise savior alone, but he would provide a measure of credibility that the Lions have not enjoyed since Barry Sanders retired, even if he's nowhere near the player as Sanders.

Until further notice: WHATF'NIF!!!!

Anonymous,  March 11, 2009 at 10:23 PM  

Another excellently written blog, inspires me to post.

As you know, a parable is a statement or comment that conveys a meaning indirectly by use of a comparison, analogy, or the like.

Let me start by using a parable. Last night in southeast Michigan between midnight and 2am we had heavy, heavy rains and winds gusting nearly 50mph. Here, the power flickered off and on several times. Those two hours were one of the most intense storms I've been through.

Those locally who were up then know what I'm talking about, those where it stars and moon were out and the winds calm can only imagine what those conditions were like.

Bring the parable thoughts into the Lions quarterback situation and adding into the mix Jay Cutler.

So, Cutler and the Broncos new brass had a teleconference and according to the press Cutler was irked when new coach McDaniels said words to the effect that no player is untradable when the consideration is improving the Broncos team.

Just like me describing last night's storm its one thing to read words describing it, and totally another thing to experience Cutler's conversation with McDaniels. How serious is it? Is it like Kitna yapping, or is it like McNabb yapping? One gets a ticket a ticket out of town, the other gets appeased.

Regardless, right now the Lions quarterback situation is fluid. If Cutler no shows this Monday at a Bronco's offseason program session {see Birketts blog}, then I guess the situation becomes even more fluid?

Football is at least two things: a game, and a business.

I'm literally stunned that the Lions were in on the Cassel to KC bartering at all, and have every reason to believe that Mayhew is working the phones to Broncos headquarters. Am having a hard time equatting both Vrabel and Cassel for KC's pick at 34 with the notion that Cutler should garner a first round pick. I could see the Lions pick at 33 and a player, say Backus ... then we draft J. Smith at 1 to protect Cutler and the best LB on the board at 20.

The business of football can sometimes seem unfair. If this deal or some deal gets done the Lions will have 4 QBs on the roster ... I can't see them with more than 3 when the season starts. Who gets the ax? My guess would be Henson, resulting in depth chart of Cutler, Culpepper, and Stanton. And from there it appears the business of football would have Stanton going the way of DanO, by signing with another team upon contract expiration without really ever getting an opportunity with the Lions. Brutally sad for Drew, but its the business of football.

Go Lions
5Bakerstreet

Ty March 12, 2009 at 1:01 PM  

Steve--

Yeah, I think that's the most likely scenario--basically, the opposite of the Roy Williams trade, the Cowboys' 1.20 and 3.20 would probably get the job done. Net result? Trading Roy for Cutler. Would you do that deal? I would. I also agree that getting that caliber of player from a franchise of that pedigree would be a huge coup, credibility-wise. I don't think I can cross my fingers from now until draft day . . .

Peace
Ty

And yes, my friend, Sparty on!

Ty March 12, 2009 at 3:15 PM  

5Bakerstreet--

First, I enjoyed the parable. Since you've been reading, you know I'm fond of the device. Second, I believe you are absolutely spot on with this:

"Just like me describing last night's storm its one thing to read words describing it, and totally another thing to experience Cutler's conversation with McDaniels."

Word was leaked out of Cutler's camp that he was expecting an arms-open reconciliation and was basically told he's no better than any other employee and he'd better keep his head down. The Broncos announced that the call went well and everyone understands each other now. I can't possibly concieve of the real conversation in the middle that produced such polar opposite impressions . . . it makes me wonder who's telling more of the truth.

Assuming Cutler somehow comes here, I take the more optimistic view of the 4 QB depth chart. Culpepper has no future with the Lions, except as an insurance policy for this season; His contract is explicitly designed that way. If you have a veteran starter, you want a young backup, and if you have a young starter, you want a veteran backup. Even though Cutler and Stanton are the same age, Cutler has been starting for two seasons and Stanton has barely seen the field. Moreover, Cutler and Stanton are similar QBs with similar strengths and weaknesses. Firey leaders, tough young men, played through lots of adversity in college, strong-armed but streaky passers, athletic and mobile but not "dual threat" QBs. To me, you either keep Cutler/Culpepper/Stanton for one year (you can get a Henson anywhere), then let Culpepper go at the end of the year, or you cut Culpepper and keep Stanton/Henson as the 2 and 3. Either way, you end up with Stanton being groomed as the #2, with an eye on Cutler's contract. He's three years into a six-year deal, so that gives us three more years of Cutler starting and Stanton being groomed; if the situation is right they could just let Cutler sign for a zillion dollars elsewhere and let DS take over. Meanwhile, you could use the third spot for late-round fliers or crusty vets, whichever.

Yeah I'll take the green-and-white colored lenses out of my glasses eventually, just not today. :)

Peace
Ty

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