essential inconsequentials

>> 5.14.2009

On Thursday, the Lions held an OTA (just for veterans, since rookies couldn't yet report).  I love these things, partly because of the stories, the rumors, and the hype that comes trickling out.  There is actual football happening in Allen Park, and every tidbit that makes it to the public--no matter how insigificant--will be pounced upon, hoarded, and nibbled upon for weeks by the information-starved Lions fans.  So far, there have only been a few tasty morsels that have leaked out.  Of them, I'm most intrigued by this one, from Calos Monarrez at the Freep:

"The Lions finished off a spirited practice session at Allen Park with Drew Stanton throwing a touchdown pass to tight end Will Heller that elicited hoots and hollers from players — and a nod from coach Jim Schwartz."
We're not told about the nature of this play--the formation, the personnel package, the down-and-distance--nor of any of the plays before or after it.  However, given that the target was Will Heller--the block-first TE acquired in free agency--I'm willing to bet this was in short yardage drills, or possibly at the end of a drive.  It's not a SportsCenter moment, but it brings up a point I've been meaning to make for quite some time: Drew Stanton's a gamer.

There are some athletes that look fantastic in practice, but never seem to bring it in games.  Most reading this blog will remember Matt Millen famously referring to an unnamed Lion as a "devout coward"--a player who looks like a legit impact player all week, but disappears on Sunday (PFT, back in the day, reported that it was WR Scotty Anderson).  But Drew Stanton?  Drew's the other way around.  It seems as though every year, we hear reports of Drew having some rough throws in pracice, having difficulty throwing a spiral, or still needing a lot of polish.  However, the tiny scraps of pre- and regular-season action he's seen have been superlative.  This meshes with career at Michigan State, where he was often the only player going out there and giving it his all.  

I wonder--emphasis on wonder--if Drew has to be in a competitive situation in order to perform like he's capable of performing.  Though he's rarely a standout in shorts-and-T-shirt work, Drew always brings it when he's given the ball and told to go make a play.  The problem is that Drew's almost never been given the ball--especially not when the lights are on and the ammo is live.  On Thursday, I hope he had one of those moments: eleven on eleven, practicing short-yardage, the offense and defense jawing at each other, the last play of a long practice session--did it bring out the Drew we saw at MSU?  Did the playmaking instincts kick in, and guide him to find the open man for the score?  All we really know is that that there was a lot of hooting and hollering, and the coaches liked what they saw.  Maybe it was a weight placed on the "Drew is our #3 Quarterback" side of the scale.  Maybe the decision's already been made one way or the other.  At the very least, it didn't hurt.

Again, this is all extrapolated from one little quote about one little play in a veterans-only OTA months before the season starts--but that's the magic of this time of year: trying to snare wisps of hints of rumors of football out of the ether, and weave them into something we can wrap around ourselves until autumn.


Jim,  May 18, 2009 at 9:01 AM  

In a way I hope you're actually wrong about this. I've always been of the opinion that the difference between Calvin Johnson and Chuck Rogers, the difference between Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf lies in practice.

I think the truly great players in the NFL work their tails off in practice and on the field. Sure you have the occasional Brett Favre who could take a shit in a box Monday - Saturday but still showed up and played great football for a good chunk of his career on Sunday. But I would think specifically at the QB position those who work the hardest on and off the field are the ones who will be successful.

The point of this comment is not to denigrate Drew's work ethic and certainly it's not that I am rooting against him. I just hope he's bringing it everyday in practice because well, he's not gonna beat out Stafford. The best case scenario is that he can beat out Cpepp and (again this is only a best situation for Drew) hope that Stafford goes down for a few games.

David M,  May 18, 2009 at 10:27 AM  

I have always wondered why there is such a reluctance to play Drew Stanton on part of of the coaching staff and front office. He has taken advantage of the opportunities given to him. Wouldn't you have liked to have seen him have a real chance to start a few games before drafting Stafford?
At the very least, I would like an explanation why he has seen the field so little (besides the cliche' response that he is "raw").

Square,  May 18, 2009 at 10:30 AM  

Good point Jim. Maybe being a "gamer" would help him in the backup role? A guy that can come off the bench and show up big for a game is better than a competent clipboard holder that folds in a real game situation (at IMO).

Ty,  May 18, 2009 at 7:10 PM  


I didn't mean to imply that he's slacking off in practice, or that he's not giving it his all. Drew's an effort guy, if nothing else. What I'm saying is, he's the exact opposite of a Ryan Leaf or a Jeff George--two guys who looked incredible in what PFT calls "underwear work", individual drills that don't mimic game situations. Drew's never thrown a very pretty ball, nor has he been a model of consistency when it comes to arm strength and accuracy. Based just on how he throws the same pass over and over to rotating scrubs, you'd never think he was anything special. But when it's third and goal, and you want a play made, he can make plays.


Ty,  May 18, 2009 at 7:24 PM  

David (By the way folks, David's really doing some great analytical work over on; I highly recommend it!)--

It's long been my supposition that Drew was regarded amongst the Lions coaching staff and front office as a typical Millen second-round pick. Millen made his the second-round reach his signature move; usually for either a "WHOA freaky talent" guy like Boss Bailey, or an "I like this kid" shot in the dark like Teddy Lehman.

I don't think Mike Martz wanted anything to do with Drew Stanton, and the way he tore Drew down and then left him on the shelf bears that out. It's obvious that Mayhew, the way he talks about the needs at QB, was one of the guys in the room groaning when Millen turned Drew's name in. Drew's only hope right now is to impress the pants off of Loeffler and Schwartz, so they'll fight with Mayhew for him like they fought for Stafford. My point in the above piece was that he'll get, unfortunately, very few chances to do so, except in scrimmage situations like these.


Jim,  May 18, 2009 at 8:20 PM  


I understand, but I think for the most part the subset of QBs who are Hall of Famers or even starters for that matter are comparable in their "underwear work" and their gameday performances. I think he's in a position where he's "behind" and the only way he'll get caught up is by being remarkable in every phase of the offseason life cycle. Obviously they won't sit Stafford beyond this year, if even that long. So Drew needs to make his mark and quickly if he plans to land with another team.

Ultimately, Drew's biggest problem, I believe is the preposterous turnover in his coaches since leaving school. As far as head coaches go he has played for Bobby Williams, John L Smith and Rod Marinelli. That's a poker table I'd like to sit at. Followed as his QB coaches, of which between HS and college there have been six. How can a player do anything consistently when they have eight different bosses?

I do think there is at least a career backup in Drew Stanton. I think he picked for the right team, I just wish it had been five years later.

But hey, he outlasted John Beck.

Ty,  May 18, 2009 at 11:23 PM  


That's my hope, that they see Stanton as a good #2. It's difficult, because the common way of doing things is that with a franchise quarterback in place, you want your #2 to be a steady hand, who can come in in case of injury and keep things moving for the rest of the game without too much falloff. A good example of this is Kerry Collins in Tennesee; a bad example of this is Brad Johnson in Dallas. This idea of a veteran QB, a steady hand at the tiller--this is the player the Lions don't have. Culpepper's an extremely volatile risk-reward guy, and Stanton's barely seen the field.

When you have your young franchise QB and your steady veteran influence, the third QB can be practically anybody. Basically, Stanton has to be as good as he possibly can be. He can't displace Stafford, not anytime soon, but what he can do is outplay Culpepper. Whether that's for the #2 gig, or if they bring in that "Veteran QB" then maybe for the #3.

Actually, just thinking out loud here, if they bring in a veteran QB to back up Stafford, then Culpepper's probably the one on the ouside looking in. If they signed a (yuck) Grossman, it's probably because they're unhappy with Culpepper as The Veteran--and you wouldn't keep a washed-up dude as your #3 over your recent second-round pick who's never really gotten a chance.


DrewsLions,  May 19, 2009 at 11:20 AM  

Sadly, I don't believe that Stanton will ever get his shot in Detroit. I was one of those screaming for Marinelli to give him a shot last year. Had Stanton gotten say... 6 starts last year, it could have drastically changed the drafting of Stafford. Don't get me wrong... I was one of the biggest supporters of the Lions drafting Stafford, but if Stanton had gotten a shot to show his stuff, we may not have had to take him.

It's all semantics now, because for all we know, Stanton could have failed miserably in full-time duty under center and the Lions would have drafted Stafford anyway. But my point is that we'll never know what Stanton is capable of here in Detroit. He'll most likely be traded next year (or even this year) for a late round pick. Being stuck behind a veteran and first overall pick is less than ideal for a struggling quarterback in Stanton's position. Too bad.

Ty,  May 19, 2009 at 4:13 PM  


Again, I agree completely that he's absolutely got to make the most of every second this offseason. I actually don't hold any hope of him starting this season; I just want the Lions to commit to Drew as at least the #3 this season.

Really, it's all up to Culpepper--if he's excellent, the Lions will keep Stafford on the bench, and Stanton will probably be released in lieu of a seasoned vet. If Culpepper's Culpepper, Stafford could quickly take over--at which point, thye probably release Culpepper and get a surer hand as the "veteran guy". THAT scenario buys Stanton a whole year to establish himself as a capable #2.


Ty,  May 19, 2009 at 4:29 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ty,  May 19, 2009 at 4:35 PM  


Good to hear from you, man! I agree that it looks bleak for the notion of Drew Stanton as the Lions' starter. However, I think there are a few plausible scenarios where he ends up biding his time and becoming to the Lions what Charlie Batch was for the Steelers--a beloved hometown boy who dutifully serves as a very capable backup for many years. Failing that, if Dan Orlovksy can get a nice little free agent deal after a few games of 72.0-rating football, Drew ought to be able to get a look or two, depending on how he does this preseason.


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