three cups deep: it begins

>> 7.27.2009

As I reach the bitter dregs of the day’s second cup of coffee, I realize it’s time to reflect back on Lions happenings this weekend.  Of course, this being the very tail end of the hard offseason, very little actually happened, so opportunities to reflect are minimal.  However, there are definitely a few things worth discussing as training camp looms at the end of the week:

  • Scout.com’s Adam Caplan reported that veteran DT Hollis Thomas recently worked out for his old team, the Eagles.  The 35-year-old Thomas is listed at 335 pounds, and is a natural big body in the Grady Jackson mold.  At his peak, Thomas was one of the best interior lineman in the league—his play with the Saints last season, however, was definitely nowhere near that peak.  Further, Caplan reports that Thomas weighed in at far more than his listed playing weight, and the Eagles let him leave without offering him a contract.  Mike Florio of PFT noted that Hollis’ short list is rumored to include the Rams—and whether the Eagles remain an option is unclear.  John Niyo of the Detroit News blogged yesterday that the Lions remain in the market for a veteran defensive lineman, and Thomas would certainly fill a need.  With Jackson possibly/probably out for the first four games, Thomas would serve a purpose even if he hit the wall by the bye week.  If he were to get in shape and be even a fraction of what he was, he’d be a very valuable rent-a-player to plug into the thin DT rotation.  It’s unknown whether the Lions are on Hollis’ rumored short list, but it would be too natural of a fit for the Lions to not have explored the possibility.
  • John Niyo also posted “Ten Hot Topics” going into training camp; he starts with comparing the dramatic roster makeover to the 2008 Dolphins’ offseason, then asks some of the key questions on everyone’s lips, and answers some others along the way.
  • Nick Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press published a wonderful article delving deeply into Matthew Stafford’s roots in Highland Park, his rise through the Texas football culture, his connections to Bobby Layne, and his seeming destiny to lead the Lions back to glory.  It’s a great, great read with a lot of info; it layers many details over the broad brush strokes we’ve painted Stafford with over the past few months.  Anyone who booed or cursed Stafford when he was drafted, take a few minutes to read this; it’ll be worth it.
  • Tom Kowalski over at Mlive.com has put another log on the Matt Stafford Starting Week One fire with his latest.  I’ve made my thoughts well known both here and elsewhere: Stafford is the real deal and the future of the franchise; pussyfooting around with a washed-up vet for a few games before giving Stafford the reigns does nothing but steal valuable first-team reps in training camp and the preseason.

I absolutely cannot wait for training camp to go live.  From here on out, there won’t be a weekend without football until February!  I’ve also got a couple irons in the fire here at TLIW as well; as your blogger I advise you to watch this space.

7 comments:

Pacer July 27, 2009 at 11:36 PM  

Hi Ty-read your comments on M-Live today re Stafford, the article and Culpepper. I am a little surprised about your stance on Culpepper. He may indeed be washed up, but maybe not. So far the Lions are more than happy with him and I don't think they are just "mouthing platitudes". I have believed since the day they signed him that one of the prime reasons to do so was to bridge the gap of a young QB they knew they would probably have to draft either in 2009 or 2010. It may not have been an exact, in detail plan, but I believe Mayhew knew exactly what he was doing. I don't believe the signing of Culpepper, then extending him, hiring Linehan and then drafting Stafford was in any way a coincidence.
If Culpepper plays well, the Lions win some games, Stafford will watch and learn and then eventually start. If Culpepper plays in a mediocre but not poor way and Stafford is not ready they still have Stafford progressing and perhaps the Lions don't stink out the joint until he is ready to lead the team. If Culpepper plays poorly then Stafford starts, ready or not and hopefully Culpepper is a capable backup for 2009.
In other words I think Culpepper is an intricle part of the Lions for 2009 and I don't think he is washed up. He lost literally 2 years to the knee injury even though he played in the second year. He then bounced from Oakland to Miami. He has not played well (or at all) in 5 years, including 2008 when he joined the Lions. All true. Discount the 1st 2 because of the injury and the last because of not being in playing shape, coming in late and learning the playbook as QB on a very bad team. The 2 years in between, the Raiders and the Dolphins, 2 teams in turmoil at the time.
I have never particularly been a Culpepper fan but he was once a pro bowl QB and now is united with the OC who helped make him a pro bowler.He is also 32 (I believe).

We'll see what happens but you may end up being glad that the Lions did not just hand the ball to Stafford

Neil July 27, 2009 at 11:57 PM  

The thing is, is how many chances does Culpepper get? I mean, the last five years have been lost for him, and everyone keeps doing the whole wait, maybe this time he'll be back thing, but doesn't it make more sense to conclude that the dude is probably done? I don't know, not to sound too harsh or anything, but it just seems like five years from now, someone will be saying "Okay, he lost two years to the knee injury, then he was on some bad teams, then he was 300 lbs., then he had his arm fall off, then he reported to camp with AIDS, then he was beaten by coked out werewolves, but this is the year he bounces back I SWEAR."

As for Stafford starting right away, I've been a big proponent of this from the start. I'd rather get the brutality out of the way this year and then go into next year with a young starter on the verge of stardom. And if it somehow "ruins" him as I've see people opine, well then he probably was never going to make it anyway. The only way this whole thing works is if aside from his rocket arm he has the toughness that separates the quality NFL starters from the rattled pretenders who get happy feet and start chucking the ball out of bounds as soon as a defensive end winks at them. And if he has that toughness, then a season of learning on the job will only make him better and more experienced sooner rather than later. And if he doesn't have that toughness? Well, then it doesn't really matter when he starts anyway, because he's not gonna make it. Really, what do the Lions have to lose? A few games this season? I'll take it if it means that in 2010 they'll be primed to take it up a notch with a young star quarterback who's already paid his dues.

Ty July 28, 2009 at 9:23 AM  

Pacer--

I think that Culpepper was and is a strawman--a theoretically legitimate NFL starting quarterback who, if the Lions had not drafted Stafford, could be legitimately run out there and provide some expectation of success. If he succeeded, well, great--and if he failed, well, he bought the Lions a year to evaluate and adjust.

I really believe that Mayhew and/or Lewand felt that Drew Stanton wasn't ready to take over the team--and if they ran him out there last season, he'd get swamped just like Culpepper did, and fans, coaches, and players alike would write DS off forever. It was better to go sign Culpepper and let him take the lumps, both at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009.

For what it's worth, I believe Jim Schwartz hired Scott Linehan for two general reasons:

1) Linehan, like Cunningham, had failed as a head coach after establishing himself as a very-well-respected coordinator. Linehan, like Cunningham, wanted a place to settle down and merely do what he does best for as long as he's wanted. Linehan, like Cunningham, respects Schwartz, and is perfectly happy to sit at his left hand. Linehan is an excellent coordinator, and yet Schwartz needs not fear that Linehan wants his (or any other) head coaching job.

2) Linehan has proven that his system can be very successful with a talented-yet-raw quarterback. He's proven that he can extract touchdowns from a raw talent with a big-time arm, whether or not dude can successfully break down NFL defenses. I think the Lions knew that they were drafting a QB highly, either this year or next, and they wanted an OC who could work with a rookie or second-year kid. Linehan's hiring had little do to with Culpepper specifically, and a lot to do with not needing a savvy triggerman to run his offense (as Martz did).

As far as Culpepper himself goes, even at his "peak", I was screaming to anyone who would listen that Culepper lost with his boneheaded mistakes as many games as he won with his arm and his legs. He shows up huge when it doesn't matter, and he's AWFUL when it does. I've pointed out many times that his "Would Have Been The MVP Year", 2004, he threw 39 TDs and had a passer rating of 110.0, and yet the Vikings went 8-8. He won a lot of fantasy football players a lot of fantasy titles, but the greatest actual acheivement of the Culpepper-era Vikings was getting pistol-whipped 41-0 in the NFC Championship Game, by a Giants squad that many regard as one of the most mediocre Super Bowl teams ever.

Culpepper was horrifying last year, and has been so for a very long time. He's well removed from the "glory days" where I thought he wasn't that good anyway, and the problem wasn't and isn't his weight, his knee, his evaporated running skills, or his erratic cannon. It's his head. He's a prop the Lions can put out there to take a beating, and a low bar to jump over for the new franchise quarterback.

I don't think the Lions will need to hand the ball to Stafford--if it's an open competition, Stafford will win in short order. What I'm really dreading is them handing the ball to Culpepper when Stafford's already ready--and better.

Peace
Ty

Ty July 28, 2009 at 11:45 AM  

Neil--

You had me at "coked out werewolves".

Still, this: "As for Stafford starting right away, I've been a big proponent of this from the start. I'd rather get the brutality out of the way this year and then go into next year with a young starter on the verge of stardom. And if it somehow 'ruins' him as I've see people opine, well then he probably was never going to make it anyway."

IMO, is absolutely on point. Joey Harrington needed the time out of the spotlight to develop into an NFL quarterback. Matthew Stafford already is one; he just needs to get out there and do it.

Peace
Ty

Pacer July 28, 2009 at 9:01 PM  

Ty-I don't think you need to worry about Stafford not starting if he meets the 2 criteria laid out by the head coach. If he is the best and if he is ready. If that happens Stafford starts. The question is what happens if he does not meet the coach's criteria. The management have said for some time they would seriously look at bringing in an experienced QB. They have not but maybe they are waiting for training camp cast offs.If they don't bring in another QB then you have to infer they are happy with what they have and that includes Culpepper. The question then would be who starts if Stafford is not ready-Culpepper or Stanton? Of those 2 who would you pick? I would pick Culpepper. There is no way he is anything other than a short term solution. I can't imagine any other scenario even in the near term.

If Stafford is ready he should start and I believe he will.

DrewsLions July 28, 2009 at 10:07 PM  

Ty - Love your stance on Stafford. Ditto, here. Been trying to get everyone to see that same POV over at POD with minimal success. Not sure why it's so hard to see the overall investment in Stafford and why there is no sense in wasting time with anyone else. If Stafford busts, he busts. But they've put all their chips in on him and they better find out what kind of hand they have. Nothing like folding on the first hand by playing Culpepper.

I have to agree that with everything that I've seen so far, Stafford looks more than ready to lead this team right now. Sure, maybe Culpepper might be a better quarterback than Stafford as I type. But it is in the best interest of this franchise to start Stafford week one if he's ready. All this "he has to be the best" blah, blah, blah is posturing by the Lions, pure and simple. Schwartz says that because he has to... it's the PC thing to do and it keeps him from having to renege on his comments later. They will start Stafford this year and I believe and hope that it is in New Orleans on week one.

Keep up the good work!
Drew

Anonymous,  July 28, 2009 at 11:10 PM  

after reading nick's article on staf, i'm convinced more than ever that he's ready to be our starting QB....that being said, i STILL wanna see what peppy's got, if anything [i think he does and he's gonna open up a lot of eyes in camp/preseason/reg season]....call it blind optimism, but i really believe it's gonna be peppy v 2.0 this year....THAT being said, if staf is, in the coaching staff's opinion, head and shoulders above peppy during camp/preseason, i want him under center come week 1....this coaching staff has done more than enough in the past with their previous teams and with the lions that i have 100% confidence in the decisions they're making and have made thus far....i have absolutely no doubt that the best QB will be out there week 1.

man....first time i've ever actually checked OTHER team's web sites to read the practice notes and whatnot cuz i'm THAT pumped up for football season to start....i'm gonna be ALL OVER every lions site prof or otherwise like the lions fiend i am....=D

GO LIONS

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