neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor dark of night . . . a.k.a, mailbag

>> 9.16.2009

Earlier in the week, I shamelessly prompted you all to flood me with questions via comment, email, twitter, BBM, telephone, telegraph, smoke signals, or however you else could transfer your ideas to my brain.  Kindly, you folks obliged. Longtime reader Dennis voiced a question on a lot of folks' minds:

I was expecting to see a lot of Stafford-to-Pettigrew on hot routes, or as a safety relief for a rookie QB, but he was largely unnoticeable to my eye. He did not improve the running game either, but I could not always tell if he was in.

First let me say, I'm not finished with the offensive film breakdown, so I can't tell you exactly how much he was really in there. FYI, according to the official depth chart, Will Heller is actually the starting tight end. My guess would be that Pettigrew's quad injury, which kept him out of much of training camp and preseason, also kept him from actually earning the starting job. For the record, here's what Schwartz said:

"Yeah, you know there were a few times looking back at the film that we probably should’ve got him the ball. We were trying to push the ball deeper down the field and all of our tight ends were a little bit more open underneath but some of that again goes to being down and trying to catch back up in the game and it’s hard to be patient and take 5-yard gains when you need three scores in the fourth quarter."

That's a pretty reasonable answer. As we saw time and time again last season, being down by two or three touchdowns before you can open a beer means the OC might as well set his gameplan on fire. I think we'll see lots of Pettigrew in the second half of the Vikings game, once Megatron has stretched that Tampa 2 out a little bit and given him room to work underneath.

Don't forget, Pettigrew is a very effective receiver, but he's NOT an Antonio Gates or a Tony Gonzalez. You won't see him slicing down the seam and burning the defense for zillion-yard bombs.  He's a 5-to-15 yard route guy, a chain-mover who's huge and has great hands. He should also be a size mismatch against the Vikes starting strongside 'backer, 6'-2" , 242 lb. Chad Greeway.

From Travis Duncan, editor of Digital Sports Daily:

Because Jim Schwartz started Stafford in Week 1, are we really to believe that Matthew Stafford is the next Peyton Manning? Are Lions fans only getting set up for a major let down by putting the entire franchise on his shoulders during his rookie year?

Wow, that's a hot potato. I guess my first response would be . . . did Bill Polian set Colts fans up for a major letdown when he put the entire franchise on the shoulders of the first Peyton Manning?  When it's all said and done, Peyton will stand as the greatest quarterback ever to play--so anointing Stafford's head with THAT oil would be incredibly bold, and probably wrong.

It's apparent that Stafford has the physical tools to be as good as anyone has ever been. His arm is incredible, and he's more athletic than Manning. I've often thought that if he reaches his potential, the most apt comparison would actually be Elway . . . and man, it scares me to even put those words "on paper".

I've been round and round on this one . . . I've gone from thinking that drafting Stafford would be a critical, horrific mistake to thinking that starting him from Day 1 was absolutely the right decision. He will take his lumps--and I'm perfectly willing to accept that the Lions may win 1 or fewer games than they would have with Culpepper at the helm all year.  Culpepper's out of here at the end of the year; I want Stafford to have a year of experience, a year of film, and a year of chemistry with Megatron and Pettigrew and all those guys to build on for next season.

Another from Dennis:

I hardly heard Ernie Sims's name called at all, at least not until the late hit personal foul. Thoughts?

This goes back to the fact that the defense was on its heels from the get-go. Phillip Buchanon was a surprise scratch--so, facing the most potent passing offense in football, the Lions were starting Eric King at corner, and Marquand Manuel and rookie Louis Delmas at safety. Henry played well--and even got a pick!--but it was "All Hands On Deck" to try and stop the bleeding from the opening kickoff. The Lions were playing with a bend-but-don't-break philosophy. Again, to quote Schwartz: 

"On defense we knew that they were going to gain yards – points were the bottom line – we couldn’t allow touchdowns. We were poor on third down, we were poor on redzone defense and on those first two drives we allowed touchdowns on both and our offense went three-and-out right in between. You couldn’t start off the game any worse than we did."

So, all you've been hearing about all season? All that talk about Ernie Sims being unleashed, a 40% blitz ratio, taking the burden of read-and-react off of Sims' shoulders and just asking him to be a weapon up a lane? Yeah, all that stuff went away. There simply wasn't any choice; the Lions knew they simply didn't have the personnel to stop the Saints--so they tried to emphasize red zone defense, generating turnovers, and special teams excellence to keep the Saints on a long field and their offense on the short field. It almost worked. If Sims is again invisible in this Vikings game, feel free to be as concerned as you like.

From an anonymous commenter on the solicitation post:

Why do you rock so hard?
Because I am secretly the Reel Big Fish.

John, from Champaign, wrote a wonderful email centered around this question:

Just wondered if you could give a quick rundown on what the game day environment is like around Ford Field on game days, and possibly how that compared to the old days at the Silverdome? For long distance Lions fans like myself that aren't from MI or Detroit, I kind of wonder what's it's like sometimes, and how the losing has affected the game day experience.

Well, I would absolutely love to give you an answer.  Unfortunately, seeing the games live hasn't been something I've been able to do often enough, either.  I live in the Lansing area, not Detroit--so when I've gone, it's not been the kind of thing where I tailgate all morning and then party all night.  Second, when I was a little kid, spending the time and money to drive, park, eat, watch, etc. wasn't really something my mom was willing/able to do. The first time I was able to actually drive to and attend a Lions event on my own was the first training camp of the Millen era--so I can't really tell you how it used to be like in the Glory Days of Fontes and 5-11.

Honestly, the difference between the Silverdome and Ford Field, in my experience, has been that fans came to the Silverdome 80,000 strong, ready to raucously cheer for--or boo at--the home team at the drop of a hat.  Now, fans come to Ford Field on a pilgrimage of quiet desperation, hanging on every moment, hoping to see something, anything positive.

I honestly think that the crowd will be going nuts at the beginning of this game--and if the Lions play well or win, it's going to be a madhouse. But if the Lions are out of it early, it's going to be a long, dreary day--and it'll be mostly Vikes fans by the bitter end.

But as I've said, I'm making a point to be there for this game--and if I have to be a one-man 12th man, then with you all as my witness, I will. If I have any voice left at the end of this game, I'll consider myself a failure.

Thanks again for all the great questions, folks—please, hit me up again whenever you want!  You can email thelionsinwinter@gmail.com, hit me up on Twitter @lionsinwinter, or of course just comment here!

33 comments:

Matt,  September 16, 2009 at 2:18 PM  

Pettigrew - I think you're spot on that the rookie just didn't enough work in camp/pre-season to be fully integrated into the offense yet. Yet. When he does, I think his impact with be in the following areas and in this order:
Running game - Though he's a solid 2-way TE, his biggest impact will be run blocking. A "jumbo set" with him, Heller, and Terrelle Smith could be very effective, especially combined with playaction.
Red Zone - By this I mean more in the 1-to-10 yard area. When pounding Silent Bob and the jump ball to Megatron aren't working, Pettigrew is a big target in the endzone.
Safety Valve - In pre-season and Week 1, the RBs were obviously the main dump-off targets. As Pettigrew/Stafford become more comfortable, again, he is a big target when CJ isn't open downfield. Heller is, too, but he doesn't have Pettigrew's hands or athleticism.
Vs. Minnesota - Spot on again that he's an imposing match-up to Leber. A traditional way to "break" the Tampa 2 is using the TE between the deep safeties vs. the MLB dropping deep. Again, an imposing match-up against 6-1, 245 lbs. EJ Henderson. And while he's not Gonzo, Pettigrew has the athleticism to make these plays.

Stafford - I've made my position on him starting Week 1 and my reasons for it pretty clear. Comparing him to Manning is silly, IMO. Their college careers, mental make-ups, and strengths/weaknesses just aren't comparable. Manning went 3-13 (26 TDs, 28 INTs, 3700+ yards), then 13-3 (26, 15, 4100), and, in the most recent ESPN the Mag, Football Outsiders projects him to finish with about 72000 yards, 500 TDs, 250 INTs, and a 65% completion rate i.e. the greatest QB of all-time. I also literally can’t find a roster that lists his back-up in 1998 i.e. he was the ONLY option at QB. Same goes for Ryan and Flacco last season. I agree that Stafford's closest comparable "ceiling" is probably Elway. I think his closest comparison right now, though, is Carson Palmer. 3 year starter in a major college program (though Palmer was 3.5 years and didn't leave early), #1 overall pick by a perennial loser, and similar skill set. Of course, Palmer sat behind Kitna for a full year. I agree that Stafford needed to start at some point this season, preferably after the bye. The benefits of 6 extra games of experience (against 5 very tough Ds) don’t outweigh the risks of shattering his confidence or being “forced” to bench him. Schwartz has put himself in a VERY difficult position if Stafford doesn’t start playing better than he did in New Orleans soon.

Sims - His vanishing act since his rookie season is disturbing, but I think you’re right that it has more to do with the defense failing as a whole than Sims in particular. No LB can be successful without some help. Minnesota will be interesting. If the Lions can keep it close, it will give Sims a chance to fly around and at Peterson and Favre and start to regain his “future star” status. If/when he does, the Lions have a pretty nasty LB corps for at least the next couple of seasons.

Matt,  September 16, 2009 at 2:44 PM  

Game Day - I went to the Silverdome often as a kid and the environment was always fun (even in the tough years) partially because you always had the chance of seeing Barry break a long one and the Lions were usually competitive. A packed house was INSANELY loud with the roof overhead. There was also this funny air-pressure-change thing that happened when you walked through the doors; kind of like when you first crack your window on the highway. The last time I was there was festive going in as it was Week 4 of the last season of the Silverdome and the Lions were playing the Rams on Monday night. By the end of the 35-0 blowout, the mood was depressed, the team was on it's way to 0-12/2-14, the "old" Lions (Batch, Moore, Morton, Porcher, Elliss, Boyd) were on their way out the door, Millen was just getting started, and the Lions haven't played on Monday night since. Oh yeah, and I got lost on the way home. :-)

I have yet to attend a regular season game at Ford Field (which will change Sunday), but have been there for other events - including one pre-season game vs. the Steelers where Charlie Batch was, unfortunately IMO, horribly boo-ed. Ty is right that, recently, things are quietly desperate and fans are, and have always been, quick to turn on the team. That being said, we have also always been quick to latch on to ANYTHING positive. For example, at the Lions Uncaged event this year, I saw a dude rocking an EDDIE DRUMMOND PRO BOWL JERSEY (and, no, it wasn’t actually Eddie Drummond). Out and about in Detroit (for other events) and Lansing (where I live), I’ve seen many Stafford, Johnson, and Sims jerseys. While Lions fans don’t have a collective personality like those of Philly, KC, The Dawg Pound, or The Black Hole, I would categorize them, in my time, as optimistically pessimistic. Many fans love to hate on the team, the coaches, and the organization, but they stay tuned in and if/when the Lions put it together, you will see the biggest bandwagon in the country and a DOWNPOUR of love and support.

If the Lions start hot against the Vikings, the crowd will ROAR. If they come up short, the crowd will piss and moan (though, I don't expect boo-birds, except for Favre). If/when they win a Super Bowl, it will be the Red Wings times 100 (and that's saying something). Detroit will explode (maybe literally). They may elect Matt Stafford mayor for life and pass out jerseys at the city limit. The city has been waiting a LONG time to unabashedly root for this team.

Matt,  September 16, 2009 at 2:56 PM  

OK, now I got a question to add. . .

How the heck did Kalvin Pearson make this team over Stu Schweigart? Got a Schwartz quote explaining that one?

Neil September 16, 2009 at 4:36 PM  

If you are worried about your quarterback's confidence being shattered by playing poorly as a rookie, then chances are he doesn't have the sort of confidence/mental makeup necessary to succeed regardless of when he gets the chance. That's been my take since the very beginning.

And Peyton Manning is, I think, a very good player to compare Stafford to. Only, what the comparison needs to be is not to Manning's career, but rather to Manning coming out of college. Manning, like Stafford, was considered an incredibly talented player whose mental makeup was questioned. Manning, like Stafford, never managed to win the one big game in college. Manning, like Stafford, was the quarterback for a college program that was always consistently very good, but could never break through to be truly elite.

Comparing Stafford to Manning on a pro level is almost meaningless though at this point. We simply don't know how things are going to turn out with Stafford, just like no one really knew how things would turn out with Manning following his rookie year. But remember, the questions about mental makeup and the ability to win the big game plagued Manning until he finally won the Super Bowl.

Getting beat up in his rookie year certainly didn't destroy Manning's confidence, because regardless of all the questions, it turned out that in the end he had that innate ability to win and lead that not everybody has. And that's the thing, upstairs you either have it or you don't. Success doesn't magically make it better, and getting beat up doesn't magically make it go away. The only truly successful quarterbacks are the ones who can tune out both failure and success and just play. The idea that a quarterback can be ruined by early failure is, at least in my opinion, a myth and nothing more.

Sure, it's easy to point to guys like David Carr and say getting beat up early ruined him. But who's to say that he would have made it otherwise? I would suggest that players like Carr fail not because they are let down by the team around them causing them to lose confidence, but rather because they simply aren't all that good.

And, really, the pressure on Stafford now is actually considerably less than it would be in the future, primarily because no one really expects this team to be any good this season. They can still lose and no one's going to be out for Jim Schwartz's head. At least no one reasonable. So why waste time? Start moving forward now, even if the first initial steps are a little awkward and painful. You crawl, you walk, and then you run. It's just the way it is.

Superbowl tickets September 16, 2009 at 7:06 PM  

I'm just hoping they do well this year. I lived in Detroit from the time I was 5 until about 4 years ago and I have always had a soft spot for the Lions ever since. Now I live in Indy so I pull for Manning and crew but I still like to see the Lions kick a little ass every now and then.

Imperical Evidence September 16, 2009 at 11:27 PM  

Manning also went through his senior year , so lets just flush any more comparisons before we post them. They are not even near the mark , and slanted from the start.

Imperical Evidence

Matt,  September 16, 2009 at 11:35 PM  

Neil, I gotta' disagree. First, on Manning vs. Stafford in college. Yes, there are SOME similarities, but Manning was 39-6 as a starter and returned for his senior season despite finishing his degree in 3 years. Stafford was 27-7 and left early (IIRC, without a degree) probably because he wouldn't be the first overall pick in 2010. I don't have a problem with that and obviously a college degree doesn't mean much to a guy with $40 million in the bank, but I think these differences between the two speak to their level of preparedness entering the NFL. On the flipside, I don't think Manning was/is close to Stafford on a physical level (arm strength or athleticism). It's that mental stuff that has made him a great QB, though.

Second, Manning didn't get "beat up" as a rookie. Yes, he went 3-13 (same as IND in '97) and set the rookie record for interceptions, but 11 of the 28 were in his first four games. He then went on to set the rookie record for touchdowns, completions, attempts, and yards (the last two leading the AFC). Given all this, it's not really fair to say no one knew how Manning would turn out after his rookie year. Despite the INTs, he already looked great. Bill Polian: "I've never seen improvement like this from a rookie in all my years." In 1999, the Colts went 13-3.

Overall, though, my point is that comparing Stafford to Manning on any level is silly because Manning is probably the greatest NFL QB ever. It's like comparing rookie Reggie Bush to Barry Sanders or Michael Crabtree to Jerry Rice. It's just. . .silly.

Finally, I gotta' disagree with assuming that any rookie starter who doesn't make it wouldn't have anyway or that any rookie QB who starts at some point his rookie year and eventually makes it would have as a Week 1 starter. It simply isn't a valid argument; it's argument after the fact. You CAN say if a guy's got it, he's got it (like Manning) or if he's been "coddled" and he doesn't show it, he never had it (like, say, Andre Ware). David Carr might just suck or might have been great; Aaron Rodgers looks great now but might have sucked (or still been great) if Brett Favre retired in 2005. It's all hypothetical. You can say this:

"Sure, it's easy to point to guys like David Carr and say getting beat up early ruined him. But who's to say that he would have made it otherwise?"

But I can say "Who's to say it didn't ruin him?" and both our arguments are equally valid (0 = 0).

What's fact is that, when it comes to first round QBs, the "career success rate" is much higher amongst those who sit Week 1 versus those who start. Also, the "career fail rate" amongst 1st round, Week 1 starters is higher than the "career success rate." To buck these trends, you better be REALLY sure Stafford's the next John Elway.

Finally, if you don't think some adversity and boo-birds can affect a young QB's confidence, I give you Vince Young. This guy, like Stafford, was easily the best player on the field and adored by every fan in the stands for the first 20-some years of his life. Suddenly he's not anymore and he goes from Rookie of the Year to not sure if he wants to play anymore in a season. It DOES happen, it's NOT a myth. Do I think Stafford is the next Young or Carr or Couch or Akili/Alex or Klingler or Leaf or McCown or Shuler or Druckenmiller or Harrington? Heck no. But I'm also not ready to simply assume he's the next Elway, Aikman, or Manning because Schwartz decided to start him.

Matt,  September 16, 2009 at 11:36 PM  

Let me close with a few questions: Do you think it's better for Stafford's development that his first 6 games are @NO, MIN, WAS, @CHI, PIT, @GB -OR- STL, @SEA, @MIN, CLE, GB, @CIN? If starting Week 1 won't impact whether he's Carr or Elway, would sitting until Week 8? Doesn't Jim Schwartz, in trying to turn around an 0-16 team, HAVE to bench Stafford if he doesn't win a game (remember, '97 and '98 Colts had the same record)? How long does he get? How would that effect his confidence?

Sorry to rant and rave, but, to me, the Stafford situation is MUCH more complex than "Eh, fuck it, run 'im up the flagpole. . .see if anyone salutes." Of course, it's also now moot. He's Carr or he's Elway. We'll know within 5 years.

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Neil September 17, 2009 at 12:10 AM  

Oh, I agree that my argument isn't any more valid than that of the person who thinks that Stafford should sit. Nor do I think it is any less valid, however. That is probably why it's basically an unwinnable argument. None of us will ever know whether it was the right call or not. It simply is the call. I happen to like it. Others clearly don't.

It is probably wrong to start bringing other quarterbacks into the conversation, because, really, there are far too many variables that go into whether a guy succeeds or not. I probably shouldn't have headed down that road, but I saw it as a way to make an easy point, and I was probably wrong for doing that.

I do disagree with your point, Matt, on Vince Young. I would suggest that every quarterback in some stage of his development is going to go through the kinds of things that Young went through. Simply because he appeared to be the guy when everything was going rosy doesn't mean that he ever was the right man for the job. Perhaps the boo birds did ruin Vince Young, but at some point, you're going to get booed. It doesn't really matter when you start. If you can't handle it, you can't handle it. I fail to see how standing on the sideline holding a clipboard can somehow prepare you for that adversity better than actually being out there and facing it. Until it's there, you just don't know.

And, hey, it's not my site, but don't worry about ranting and raving. We all do it. It's a byproduct of being fans, and at the end of the day, that's what we all are, fans of the same team. We can disagree. That's cool.

Pacer September 17, 2009 at 12:12 AM  

The comments on this site,with the exception of Imperical, are well thought and nicely expressed.Matt and Neil-love your posts.Comparing Manning and Stafford works only for their college starts and their first year in the NFL-anything else is pure conjecture-fun-but pure conjecture. While I thought the Lions should start Culpepper until the bye, I really don't have a problem with the starting Stafford-anyone who believes that Daunte would have won the game as a starter in New Orleans is just not paying attention. As always, I love this site and the posters who take the time to think things through. Whether I or anyone else agrees with an individual poster in not all that important

Neil September 17, 2009 at 12:15 AM  

And to answer your question, well, this is where we differ. I happen to think that Schwartz has an enormously long rope to work with here. Leaving aside the question about Stafford's development, I don't think that Schwartz is under the gun to win right now. I think it's much more important to build a foundation for the future, and I think it would be silly to start railing against Schwartz for starting Stafford if the Lions continue to struggle. It's not as if the Lions have some golden ticket of a quarterback stashed on the bench. So, if you bench Stafford, then what? Go with someone who hasn't been any good in five years? The Lions aren't going to win much regardless of who plays.

Matt,  September 17, 2009 at 3:12 AM  

Neil, you're right, the decision has been made and, while I would say we can/will know if it was "good," I agree we can't ever know if it was "the best/right." Now, on to the argument. :-)

The Lions aren't going to win much with any quarterback, but they do HAVE to win. I don't mean, like, make a run at the play-offs. I mean, like, win an actual NFL game that counts. And I don't mean for Schwartz to save his job in 2010, but for him to have any hope of starting this big boat on its wide turn. IMO, 0-6 was/is a VERY real possibility with either QB and, IMO, if it gets to that point you have to start looking at a QB change, regardless of who you would be switching to or from. If it was Culpepper, it's easy to yank him and start The Stafford Era. The opposite is not so easy. And, regardless, the Stafford situation isn't about the 2009 Lions, it's about the 2009-19 Lions (and beyond).

I think your take on Young, again, is argument after the fact:

He HAS failed (so far) in the face of adversity, so it must be that he NEVER had it in the first place.

Everything from his first two NFL seasons on back says otherwise and, if he turns his career around from here on out, you would/could just argue after the fact, again, that he had the goods all along. Let's talk Tommy Maddox: Did he have "it" at UCLA, lose it to NFL adversity, find it in the AFL/XFL, use it in Pittsburgh, then lose it again when Big Ben took over after Maddox was hurt? Or did he react different ways to different challenges at different points in his life/career?

But I'm not looking at the Stafford situation by comparison to one or a few other guys, but from a distance. As I said, in general, 1st round QBs who start Week 1 fail more often than those who sit. Those who sit are generally more successful than those who start. These trends are skewed further when talking about underclassmen like Stafford. That is pretty much where fact ends and hypothesis begins, but it is a well-established trend and, therefore IMO, you better have a good reason to buck it. Does this mean sitting a guy is always better? Definitely not. There are exceptions on both sides, but I would argue that Stafford has done little so far to show that's he's on the Manning side of the exceptions. On to adversity. . .

It kinda' seems like you see all adversity equally:

You start in the league, you face adversity, you have what it takes and get passed it or you don't.

It isn't all the same, though, and different types/levels can/will elicit different responses from different players at different times. Getting sacked 76 times (Carr) is different than making 28 bad throws (Manning). Coaches/teams can take steps to mitigate adversity. Example: throw the rookie out there vs. STL with an offense that's had time to gel (very win-able) instead of into a Week 1 shoot-out vs. the league's best offense (a game the Lions, frankly, had virtually no chance of winning) followed up by five thumpings by some of the league's best defenses. That might test the kid's mettle, but it does not build confidence.

Matt,  September 17, 2009 at 3:14 AM  

And, here again, I think we just disagree. I don't think NFL players just have confidence or don't. In fact, I think they ALL have it coming in. They've all been the best player on the field, in the school, in the town, heck, in the state since they could walk. They've all got confidence. When you throw them in a game with a bunch of guys just like them for the first time in their lives, do they sink or swim? Initially, they pretty much all sink and have to re-learn how to swim. Is it easier to learn to swim in a pool or by falling over the rail of an oceanliner (or is it all just about whether or not you have the innate ability to float)? I believe a guy who is over-loaded early can essentially go "Whoa, this is WAAAY harder than college ball. I'm not sure I can cut it" and basically give up. But if things aren't quite so tough out of the gate, he can go "Whoa, this is harder than college ball, but it's coming together and I think I've got what it takes" and build on that. It's not just plug GUY into SITUATION and get RESULT, there is an A, B, C, D etc. for each part.

You alluded to the same thing about variables, but overall seem to discount that and go binary. Guys either have it or don't and that's that. I just disagree. I think that SOME guys just have it and SOME guys just don't, but MOST guys are in between. I'm a variable guy and I think the best way to develop any player is to control as many of them as possible allowing you to evaluate the effects of the others and adjust accordingly.

I think by starting Stafford Week 1, Schwartz gave up a LOT of control over not just Stafford now, but his and the team's future development. I'm not saying he can control every aspect of the player or the team, but that's why it is important to control what you can.

Anyway, I fear I've rambled on far too long again. I obviously love talking/analyzing Lions and football and I really, really appreciate the back-and-forth, especially with someone who I know is, ultimately, on the very same side. :-)

Ty September 17, 2009 at 10:07 AM  

First of all, let me say that I'm thrilled with both the quality AND quantity of discourse here; this is exactly why I started this site. Intelligent, rational, dedicated Lions fans gathering together to talk Lions, and nary a Jay Leno in sight . . .

For once, I'm going to have to abandon replying to each comment individually, and just add my voice to the conversation.

On Peyton Manning: First of all, bringing up the notion of comparing them IS valid. They both started multiple seasons at a traditional SEC power, both took over the job during their freshman year, both failed to achieve thier goal of winning a national championship, both faced questions as to whether they were really the best quarterback prospect in their draft class, both were the #1 overall pick in the NFL draft, both went to lousy teams, and both of those teams had very little in place except an amazing young wide receiver. So, no, you cannot dismiss out-of-hand any comparison between them as invalid.

Also, before we crown Peyton Mr. Stayed In School and Matthew Mr. Bolted For The Money, let us not forget this (from The Sporting News, April '97):

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1208/is_n14_v221/ai_19296068/?tag=content;col1

Bill Parcells, the kingpin of the Jets at the time, refused to guarantee Archie Manning that Peyton would be the #1 overall pick. So, Peyton stayed in school for a fourth year--despite already having graduated from Tennessee. Peyton had no legitimate reason to go back to school, other than really liking the color orange, and yet he did. Why? He wanted to ensure the best possible situation for himself--no less and no more than Stafford did. Lest you dismiss this as mere hearsay, it's well acknowledged that Archie pulled a similar stunt with his Eli, essentially demanding that the Chargers not draft him.

Further, what happened to Sam Bradford should highlight for everyone that the old ways are dead: if you are a "student-athlete" who is a lock to be a top ten pick, go pro. That chance may never come around again. Don't forget, too, that last year was supposed to be Georgia's title run; they lost Knowshown Moreno and their top two wide receivers along with Stafford. Coming back would have been an exercise in futility for Stafford. So: don't paint Peyton as a mature, prepared adult, and Stafford as an immature greenhorn, because of how and when they chose to enter the draft.

Also, I don't think it's a given that Peyton and Matthew differ all that much in terms of preparation, preparedness, approach to the game, or anything like that. One of the things that impressed Schwartz and the Lions was Stafford's savant-like recall and understanding of film. They'd put on a play from his sophomore year and ask him what happened, and he could rattle off the down, distance, play, situation, his thought process, his decision-making, the result all of that stuff, with no advance notice. Again, the announcers in the Saints game said that Matt watched the last five seasons' worth of film on Gregg Williams's defenses . . . just because he doesn't walk around calling himself a "student of the game" doesn't mean he isn't one.

to be cont'd . . .

Ty September 17, 2009 at 10:07 AM  

I'm not saying Stafford IS as prepared or dedicated or composed or ready as Peyton was, only that we don't know that he isn't. It's easy to say now that Peyton was a perfect, golden prospect, wise far beyond his years, poised and polished and confident--but not cocky!--and clearly destined for unfettered glory . . . but everyone in the NFL, or interested in it, was going around in circles that spring as to whether Manning or Leaf was really the best prospect.

I happen to think that Stafford does have the mental tenacity, coaching staff, and supporting cast it takes to suffer the slings and arrows of going right out there. I think he will learning from his many mistakes while making them, as Peyton and Aikman and Elway did before him, and I think he will be a very successful quarterback in this league.

But, as we've all said, the decision's been made. That ulimate discussion-killer, reality, has come to end all of our fun. :P

Peace
Ty

Ty September 17, 2009 at 10:22 AM  

Superbowl Tickets--

Not to go all Bill Clinton on you, but that depends on what your definition of "well" is! Will they win a game? Yes. Will they win more than one game? Yes. Will they contend for the playoffs? . . . no, I don't think so. My official prediction, set right before the preseason, was seven wins--though that looks pretty damn optimistic right at the moment. I'll say that if you expect four wins, and general competitiveness in most games, you'll be pleased--especially after the first five or six games are out of the way.

Peace
Ty

Ty September 17, 2009 at 10:29 AM  

Susan, or Margaret--

Thanks for reading! Your Microsoft Word tips, and articles about working from home, seem pretty sweet. If I may be so bold, what brings you, Susan--or Margaret--to my Lions blog?

Peace
Ty

Matt,  September 17, 2009 at 11:32 AM  

Okay, I had another big ol' post going and it got deleted by a site error and I was too stupid to back it up before clicking "Post Comment." Don't worry, it's coming back. :-)

In the interim, though, some other posts were made and I have a couple comments.

Back to the Manning comparisons. Again, there are certainly similarities between the two. My point was simply that comparing ANY ROOKIE, in any sport, to the GOAT is just a silly comparison to make. The GOAT, by definition, is the most exceptional exception. Start with something more realistic (like Palmer or Elway). That's all I'm saying.

I'm not going to get into a back and forth about how and why Stafford and Manning came out and who they were at the time. The fact of the matter is that Manning lost one less game in one more year. This whole debate is about the value of in-game experience, right? Well, Manning came in with more.

Saying stuff like:

"I'm not saying Stafford IS as prepared or dedicated or composed or ready as Peyton was, only that we don't know that he isn't."

Is, to me, what makes the "Hey, it worked for Manning" arguments (which seems to be a major one on TLIW) so questionable. You're right, we don't know, so why are we ASSUMING that he is and will end up just like Peyton? I'm not saying he WON'T, it's just a VERY assumptive argument based on little evidence. As for this:

"but everyone in the NFL, or interested in it, was going around in circles that spring as to whether Manning or Leaf was really the best prospect."

I don't think that's true. First of all, you have the media-hype factor. Any time there's multiple top QB prospects, there's going to be a 9-month firestorm on ESPN whether the prospects are close or not. Second, I was in the "interested" camp at the time and, y'all don't have to believe me, but I thought Manning was clearly superior. My one piece of hard evidence is that I went after and got Marvin Harrison on my fantasy team in 1998. :-)

A couple last tidbits before I rewrite my deleted post. Manning was a senior, Leaf a junior. Manning's first NFL victory was vs. Leaf. Leaf's $11.25 million signing bonus was the highest ever for a rookie at the time. Not trying to make any points here, just interesting stuff.

Matt,  September 17, 2009 at 12:57 PM  

OK, here's my rewritten post. It'll be another two-pager. Let me preface it by thanking/apologizing to everyone for blowing up this board. Obviously, I LOVE discussing this stuff and feel particularly strongly about this topic and I really appreciate anyone who takes the time to read and/or respond.

And, as we've all said, this debate is completely moot, but I still think it's fun to discuss. Thanks for the entertainment. :-)

REWRITE:
When I woke up this morning, I reread this thread and realized that, in trying to make my general, tangential points, I was being too negative about Stafford specifically.

I absolutely DO think Stafford has "it" and absolutely DO NOT think "it" will be ruined by starting Week 1. That being said, I think Neil and I just fundamentally disagree on the nature of "it." I just don't see "it" as some magical, immutable force. I believe "it" has to be nurtured and developed and that "it" CAN be squandered or at least not fully realized. Coming from this perspective, I think it's important to put Stafford is the best possible scenario to succeed, not just throw him out there and see what happens.

A lot of this is based on the Lions schedule. With either QB, I think 0-6 is very likely. When I first looked at it, I thought:

"Perfect! Culpepper can take the lumps vs. Minny & Pitt & Haynesworth & Kampman. By the bye week, we'll be screaming for his head and Schwartz can easily transition to The Stafford Era with a win vs. St. Louis. Sure, the Lions might be 1-6, but Stafford will be 1-0, have training camp, pre-season, and 7 weeks of practice and film study under his belt and take the helm of an offense that's had time to gel and is looking ahead to win-able games vs. SEA, CLE, and CIN, and, heck, even MIN, CHI, and GB the second time around."

This, to me, was pretty much the best scenario imaginable for a rookie QB. You give him plenty of time to adjust to life in the NFL (being a pro, especially QB, isn't just about game day), you let someone else suffer through the toughest part of the schedule (with the same end result), and you build the kid's (and team's and fanbase's) confidence with an easy first win followed by several win-able games. If you magically swapped Weeks 1-7 with Weeks 8-14, I would be much more agreeable to Stafford starting Week 1. I admit I'm making a lot of assumptions (mainly about STL and the first 6 opponents), but I don't think I'm out on a limb.

Matt,  September 17, 2009 at 12:57 PM  

I think, in the long-term, Stafford's ceiling probably is not raised much by starting Weeks 1-6 vs. starting Week 8. If anything, it may be lowered slightly. I just don't see how starting your career with a blow-out and 5 thumpings is a positive thing. Yeah, he has to face that at some point, but it doesn’t have to be the first 6 games of his career. His floor IMO, can only be lowered (largely because it’s relatively high to begin with). It's been popular on TLIW to utter the cliche (which I disagree with) "You can't learn anything holding a clipboard." Well, you can't learn anything on your back, either (I don't necessarily agree with this, but you take my point). When I compare starting Week 1 to starting Week 8, both the positives and negatives favor Week 8. Again, my opinion is based on a big picture/game theory perspective of choosing the option that yields the greatest overall expectation of success in the long-run. By my evaluation of all the variables I could conceive, this "best case scenario” was for Stafford to take over after the bye. Doesn’t mean he can’t/won’t succeed, even have MORE success, in a different scenario, just that, IMO, this one has the highest net expectation of long-term success.

Obviously, many people, including Schwartz, disagree with my opinion and/or evaluation. Now that the decision has been made, I expect/hope for the best, but I still disagree with the decision. I fully expect/predict Stafford to be in the Pro Bowl and the Lions to be in the play-offs in 2011 (maybe sooner). If this comes to pass and/or Stafford leads the Lions in a Manning-esque 2nd season, I think it will have more to do with starting Weeks 8-17 and subsequent off-seasons, drafts, training camps, and pre-seasons than with starting Weeks 1-6. In summary, we're all in agreement that dude will ultimately be a stud, but, IMO, it's MUCH more complex than simply "Throw him out there and let him sink or swim. Heck, it worked for Manning."

Neil September 17, 2009 at 2:23 PM  

Much of this comes down to you and I just approaching things from different places. Both of us, I think, are making different assumptions. The "it" factor is one of them. The Lions need to win, which you seem to think is immediate - I don't really agree - is another. And I don't think we can convince one another to change our positions regarding these assumptions, and since we can't do that, it becomes extremely difficult to come to an agreement regarding the issue of whether Stafford should start or sit right away.

One last thing that I will say that hasn't really been brought up: as a freshman at Georgia, Stafford was just brutal. He was pretty awful, and if I recall correctly, he was beat up behind a line that wasn't very good and he made a lot of bad throws. But he became better and better as his career progressed, which tells me that he is capable of getting knocked around without it ruining him. Now again, this may be argument after the fact, and he may have had an even better career if he hadn't started as a freshman. I don't know. Neither does anyone else. That's kind of the point. No one knows what's going to happen, so I just can't agree with the arguments that seem to be so sure that if he starts too early he will somehow be ruined any more than you can agree with an argument that says that starting early will somehow make him a better quarterback. There is no answer, and sadly, after the fact is all any of us will have to go on.

to be cont'd

Neil September 17, 2009 at 2:23 PM  

The statistics may indeed show that the percentage of quarterbacks who start right away who fail is higher than the percentage of quarterbacks who sit for a while. I would argue that there are probably other factors that play into that. For instance, most quarterbacks who have to start right away have to do so for teams that are inherently terrible. It's tough to overcome that sort of thing, and it sadly probably drags down the perception of those quarterbacks who are caught up in that. Meanwhile, a quarterback who has the luxury of sitting probably does so because he is on a team that can afford to be patient with him.

Unfortunately, Stafford finds himself on a bad team. The upside is it seems to be a bad team that has already bottomed out, and seems to have a clear cut picture of what they want to build and how they want to build it. And perhaps, ultimately, that is the point to this whole thing, and I think both sides need to realize this. Each situation is inherently different. It is almost impossible to predict with any accuracy what will happen by using past results because the variables are always different. I can't say he will succeed because Peyton Manning or Troy Aikman did and you can't say that he will fail because David Carr did.

And that's the center of this whole thing. For the Lions specific situation, I happen to think that Stafford should start. You and many others happen to think that he should sit for a few weeks. All this other talk about confidence and the "it" factor and other quarterbacks is only so much noise brought forward by both sides to add legitimacy to what is essentially unprovable.

We have both written a lot of words here, and it speaks to our passion as fans. But in the end, sadly, I think we're probably left with that age old chestnut of agreeing to disagree.

Matt,  September 18, 2009 at 10:19 AM  

I'll try to be quick. . .

On "ruining" Stafford. Again, I don't think at all that Stafford will be ruined by starting Week 1. I'm simply acknowledging it as a possibility, however slim. That tiny bit of risk (even if it's .0000001%) is outweighed by what as I see as no gain by starting him Week 1 vs. Week 8. Go back to my analysis of the schedule. If, as we all agree, the guy is most likely going to be great and not a failure whether he starts Week 1 or 8, what is the benefit of having him start his career @NO, MIN, WAS, @CHI, PIT, @GB instead of STL, @SEA, @MIN, CLE, GB, @CIN?

Again, my main point isn't about ruining him or not (it's just one argument towards the bigger point), it's that he should be put in the BEST POSSIBLE SCENARIO TO SUCCEED OVER THE LONG HAUL (not shouting, just drawing attention :-). If anyone disagrees with this, then, yes, we'll have to agree to disagree because you will be wrong :-P ;-). So far, though, no one has taken issue with this main point, just some of my smaller ones (and, yes, I/we digressed into "football theory" many times along the way which obscured the main point). I am perfectly willing to be convinced that starting Week 1 is the best scenario, but so far nobody has tried. Again, the only argument in favor of starting him Week 1, so far, is "It worked for Manning."

We've spent most of our time debating the "football theory" points of the argument and not the main one. So, please, someone, anyone, convince me that starting Stafford Week 1 is the BEST scenario for LONG-TERM success.

Matt,  September 18, 2009 at 3:55 PM  

Neil:

"Unfortunately, Stafford finds himself on a bad team. The upside is it seems to be a bad team that has already bottomed out, and seems to have a clear cut picture of what they want to build and how they want to build it."

This is why the Lions need to win IS "immediate," as you put it. Again, if we have to use the word "immediate," then my position isn't the usual definition of "needing to win immediately." However, if the Lions don't get, IMO, at least 3 wins this season, then it would NOT seem as though they've bottomed out and the, IMO, VERY significant strides Schwartz has already made will be in real danger of going to waste. The culture of losing will threaten to seep back into the lockerroom, despite the purges, and quality free agents will, once again, be difficult to recruit. So, yes, they do NEED to win this season (not necessarily before the bye, but at some point) to show that they HAVE something to build on and they ARE headed in the right direction. They CAN'T go 0-16 again. Frankly, if they don't get that win I've been predicting against the Rams (perhaps the only team in the NFL that everyone can agree is clearly worse than the Lions), it will be a very bad sign that the big boat I mentioned before isn't turning.

I fully think/believe/predict all the positives and none of the negatives I just mentioned will come to pass for the Lions in 2009. But they gotta' prove it. You seem to think that what they've done so far is already enough (they don't need any wins this season?). I disagree.

"I can't say he will succeed because Peyton Manning or Troy Aikman did and you can't say that he will fail because David Carr did."

OK, not to be harsh, but this is frustrating me. I never said/wrote that; you are misinterpretting. Early in this discussion, I made the "he's Carr or Elway" comment, which was stupid on my part and doesn't reflect the depth of my opinion, which I thought I had clarified since that comment. Let me try again: I'm of the opinion that Carr's career had something, but not everything, to do with him being thrown to the wolves Week 1. I think he COULD have been better had he sat (starting Week 1 was NOT his "best case scenario"). Would it have made Carr the next Elway? Probably not, but he could have been better than he was/is now. I'm simply acknowledging that this same thing COULD be applied to Stafford. You don't have to acknowledge or agree with that, but at least acknowledge the argument I'm ACTUALLY making.

Again, sorry to go off. I LOVE a good debate, but I HATE when my opponent argues against a point I wasn't making. If I misinterpretted your comment, then let me apologize in advance. :-)

Matt,  September 18, 2009 at 3:57 PM  

Let's set Stafford aside for a moment (it's probably more than run its course anyway) and go back to our "quarterback theory" debate. . .

"The statistics may indeed show. . .to be patient with him."

Doesn't this paragraph run contrary to your theory of "it?" Shouldn't those “it” guys drafted by bad teams have lifted those teams up overtime or at least had future success with other teams? Are those that did the true “it” guys and all failures just never have “it” or is it about how they were developed and the teams around them? Not prove-able, but fun to discuss. . .

Let's look at Top 15 picks (bad teams) going back to 1990 (approximately the "postmodern/free agency/salary cap era"), when they started, who started over them or backed them up, and how their careers turned out (at least so far):

Week 1 Starters
Jeff George* - Jack Trudeau - GOOD
Drew Bledsoe - Scott Secules - GOOD
Rick Mirer - Dan McGwire - FAIL
Peyton Manning - ?No one? - GREAT
Ryan Leaf - Craig Whelihan - FAIL
Tim Couch* - Ty Detmer - FAIL
David Carr - Danny Wuerffel - FAIL
Joey Harrington** - Mike McMahon - FAIL
Matt Ryan - Chris Redman - GOOD
*May not have started Week 1, but played Week 1 and started Week 2
**May not have started Week 1, but played Week 1 & 2 and started Week 3

Year 1 Starters
Andre Ware - Rodney Peete - FAIL
David Klingler - Boomer Esaison - FAIL
Heath Shuler - John Friesz - FAIL
Trent Dilfer - Craig Erickson - GOOD
Steve McNair - Chris Chandler - GOOD
Kerry Collins - Frank Reich - GOOD
Donovan McNabb - Doug Pederson - GOOD
Akili Smith - Jeff Blake - FAIL
Cade McNown - Shane Matthews - FAIL
Michael Vick - Chris Chandler - ?G/F?
Byron Leftwich - Mark Brunell - GOOD
Eli Manning - Kurt Warner - GOOD
Ben Roethlisberger - Tommy Maddox - GOOD
Alex Smith - Tim Rattay - FAIL
Vince Young - Kerry Collins - FAIL
Matt Leinart - Kurt Warner - FAIL
Jay Cutler - Jake Plummer - GOOD
JaMarcus Russell - D.Culpepper/J.McCown - FAIL

Year 1 Sitters
Daunte Culpepper - J.George/R.Cunningham - GOOD
Carson Palmer - Jon Kitna - GOOD
Philip Rivers - D.Brees/D.Flutie - GOOD

Analysis to follow

Matt,  September 18, 2009 at 4:02 PM  

Obviously, there are going to be problems with analysis such as sample size/available data and subjectivity of "career rating." Early 2nd rounders (still good player, still bad team), like Drew Brees and Charlie Batch, and players taken with traded picks, like Joe Flacco, are left out. Still, some interesting things jump out:

-Overall, Top 15 QBs are about 50/50 (depending on your take on Vick). 1st overall picks mirror this. This supports the paragraph I quoted and also suggests league-wide problems with QB evaluation and/or development. That being said, 11 of the guys on this list were Week 1 starters in 2009.

-Week 1 Starters are, essentially and unanimously, their team's only option. Conventional NFL wisdom leans heavily towards sitting if any viable option is available.

-The starters are worse than average, the sitters (combined) are better, regardless of Vick.

-Only Year 1 Sitters are clearly successful (though very small sample). Possible conclusion: a full year of practice/NFL life, a second training camp/pre-season, and an additional influx of talent through the draft and free agency makes a big difference.

-Not 100% sure about this, but none of these players, once they became the starter, was benched during that season for a reason other than injury.

-Six teams repeat (ATL, CIN, DET, IND, SD, and Oilers/Titans). Including Stafford, the Lions and Bengals are the only 3-peaters.

-Only Peyton Manning can currently be considered GREAT (maybe Big Ben, too). There is a lot of range amongst GOOD QBs. Some of them are borderline GREAT, some are borderline FAIL, some could still go either way, but most, IMO, will simply remain GOOD. More data, and perhaps a more defined rating system, is needed.

-This is going a little out on a limb, but: The "a good QB is a good QB regardless of when he starts" theory is supported (I think you could bump most of the GOOD QBs up or down the lists and they’d still be GOOD), but the inverse is still inconclusive - especially given that bumping anyone to Year 1 Sitter suggests success (again, sample size issue). However, the “ruination” theory is NOT supported by the lack of difference in results between Week 1 Starters and Year 1 Starters, but IS supported by the Year 1 Sitters AND when they are combined with Year 1 Starters.

What does all this mean? I don't know. I just thought it'd be interesting to look at and, if I'm going to do the legwork anyway, I might as well share what I find. :-)

Matt,  September 18, 2009 at 4:10 PM  

Just want to expand slightly on my own thought:

"I fully think/believe/predict all the positives and none of the negatives I just mentioned will come to pass for the Lions in 2009. But they gotta' prove it. You seem to think that what they've done so far is already enough."

Let me just say that, off the top of my head, the ONLY decisions the Lions have made in '09 that I really have beef with are starting Stafford and cutting Schweigart. Basically, I think EVERYTHING else is great, shows that they are headed in the right direction, and provides a solid foundation to build upon. However, I think the "sub-floor" is getting some Ws in '09.

Neil September 18, 2009 at 7:44 PM  

"I can't say he will succeed because Peyton Manning or Troy Aikman did and you can't say that he will fail because David Carr did."

I'm sorry if this was misinterpreted but I wasn't trying to say that you did say that. I just worded it poorly. It was more me saying that just like you can't stand it when people say "But, but, Peyton Manning . . .", I can't stand it when people arguing the other side say "But, but, David Carr . . ."

I wasn't thinking of you specifically or responding to you specifically when I made that comment. I'm sorry you took it that way, I certainly wasn't trying to twist your argument or argue against something that you never said. Again, it was just sort of a general "Let's not do this" for both sides, the "But, Manning . . ." side and the "But, Carr . . ." side.

Neil September 18, 2009 at 8:09 PM  

To clarify, I respect your argument immensely, even if I don't necessarily agree with it. And, if anything, I am happy to be able to argue this with someone who ISN'T trotting out the tired "He will be ruined because that's what happened to David Carr" kind of argument.

In fact, we have spent so much time discussing ruination when it seems that neither one of us really is worried about that as the issue. Instead, where we seem to differ is on whether or not the Lions need to win right now. This is something I actually go back and forth on quite a bit. I would like to see them win - would love to, actually, but if they have a bad season, I don't think it's going to be disastrous for the franchise/the new regime. I think what would be bad for them is expecting immediate success and then overreacting when they don't achieve it this season.

Neil September 18, 2009 at 8:09 PM  

Now, I suppose that brings us into what actually constitutes a bad season. You seem to think that there is still further to fall. I just don't see this. I mean, they went 0-16 last season. What is beneath that? Really, I am not expecting a significant uptick in wins this season(and by that, I mean anything in the six and above range.) I would absolutely love it if it happened, but I think they can go 5-11 this season, and if that happens, I won't consider it a failure. That's a five win increase, and while it's still a poor record, it speaks to the depths to which this team plummeted a year ago. There can be significant improvement without it being reflected in the record. Or, to put it another way, I think that it will be reflected in the record, but without the context of 0-16 it will be difficult, if not impossible, for someone to see that improvement. In order to understand why 5-11 would be a significant improvement, one would need to understand why 0-16 is almost absurdly terrible.

And I suspect that might be where we differ on our argument. You seem to think, or at least hope, that the Lions will indeed make significant improvement. But, you also seem to think that starting Stafford decreases the odds of that happening. And that's where you and I differ. I tend to think that Daunte Culpepper offers no real advantages over Matthew Stafford as a starter right now. Basically, I don't think that starting Culpepper will result in the team being any better. And, I think it would be a mistake to wait out the first half of the year and then insert Stafford for the second half of the season. I think that would cause a break in overall team continuity, which would then cause the team to almost have to start over again in the second half of the season, thus creating a situation where the pressure to win would become more severe. In other words, I would rather give Stafford and this team a chance to get several wins over a 16 game stretch rather than take our lumps with Culpepper and then hope that Stafford and the Lions can somehow play .500 ball over the last half of the season despite not having played with one another in an actual game before. I simply don't think that you can swap Culpepper out for Stafford and expect that the offense wouldn't skip a beat.

I am of the belief that whenever Stafford started would constitute a new beginning. I would rather have that new beginning with 16 games left to go on the schedule than with 8 games to go.

Neil September 18, 2009 at 8:10 PM  

Also, one thing we can agree upon: I too hated the decision to cut Schweigert. :)

Matt,  September 19, 2009 at 12:59 AM  

Neil, your first post is right on. I don’t think either of us agrees with the “But But”s on either side or can stand either argument. If we each HAD to pick one or the other, though, I think we’d be in opposite camps. So, I GET most of the “But But” Carr arguments. Give me some of the Manning ones because I think the “best case” is a combination of those.

“In fact, we have spent so much time discussing ruination when it seems that neither one of us really is worried about that as the issue.”

Absolutely!

“Instead, where we seem to differ is on whether or not the Lions need to win right now.”

Actually, we don’t.

“Really, I am not expecting a significant uptick in wins this season. . .significant improvement without it being reflected in the record.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. The only thing I would add is that I think not showing significant improvement is semi-disastrous. It’s almost as bad as going 0-16 in the first place. To use my ship metaphor, the Lions have been turning REAL slow for a long time and I’m looking for some solid signs that the wheel is being spun hard. The turnaround will still take awhile, but I want to see it start in earnest.

“You seem to think, or at least hope, that the Lions will indeed make significant improvement. . ..you also seem to think that starting Stafford decreases the odds of that happening.”

Not really. I would predict 5-11 myself and see that as a significant improvement, whichever QB is starting. I also think 1-15 and 8-8 are possible and equally likely with either QB. Looking at 2009 in isolation, I really don’t care which QB starts ‘cause the Lions, in 2009, won’t be much good either way. The reason I think Stafford should sit the first few games is that he, and therefore the Lions, will be better for it AFTER 2009. That being said, who cares if inserting Stafford causes bumps in the road of 2009 (which it would) if it’s the best thing for 2010 and beyond? Everyone knows he’s the future, even if some veterans were really pulling for Culpepper. I don't think a transition would cause excessive bumps and the Lions would still be on track for 5-11. Some of these arguments are essentially the same you use in favoring Week 1. I guess we just differ on which road has fewer bumps and leads to “a better tomorrow.”

“I am of the belief that whenever Stafford started would constitute a new beginning. I would rather have that new beginning with 16 games left to go on the schedule than with 8 games to go.”

Me too. But I’m less concerned with how many games he plays his first season than I am with the type and quality of games he plays. I want the “new beginning” to “start off on the right foot." For me, the new beginning isn’t Week 1, but Win 1. So, yeah, I guess in a way I DO see the need to win as “immediate” – as in, we can’t get on with the business of winning until we get that first win.

And now Schweigert. What the heck was up with that? I don't know how he looked in practice, but I watched almost all of almost every pre-season game and, as near as I could tell, as soon as he stepped on the field all he did was make plays.

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