Upon signing Moore in late April, the Lions were thrown into the heart of a quandary that has vexed NFL teams for years: How do you accommodate a player with elite college success but a lackluster professional skill set?
Kellen Moore, you see, is the winningest quarterback in the esteemed history of college football, racking up 50 wins during his prosperous stint at Boise State. A true winner if there ever was one.
The problem with being labeled a "winner," however, is just how nebulous that term can be. It fails to account for variables such as the talent around him, and – more saliently for anybody who played at Boise State – the talent on the other side of the ball. Some questioned if Moore would even translate from the WAC/MWC to the SEC––how could he possibly translate from the WAC/MWC to the NFL?
Those hypotheticals were made graphically tangible this offseason when the Detroit media excoriated Moore's weak arm and propensity to throw floaters into traffic. Coach Jim Schwartz has been quick to come to Moore's defense, but even he concedes "that he doesn't have the strongest arm (or) prototypical size."
As far as the games are concerned, Moore has been a mixed bag. He's appeared as the third QB in all three preseason contests, plodding his way to 50 percent completions, 223 yards, one TD and two INT.
So why, exactly, would demoting Moore be a mistake?
Well, for one thing, Detroit doesn't have a third quarterback. Carrying two QBs is a risky proposition for any team, especially one whose starter has the foreboding injury history of Matthew Stafford. In many ways, it would be an impractical affront to put Moore on the practice squad––one that could seriously shatter his confidence.
But more importantly, cutting Moore would cost him an invaluable opportunity to grow as a player. Yes, being coined a "winner" is a nebulous achievement, but if nothing else, it certainly shows that he's willing to put in work, willing to improve. He's smart, driven and even if his body might not ever mold into an NFL prototype, his mind has a chance.
That progression, however, can only be achieved through experience. Moore's shown that he's willing to do everything he can to get better in the film room, but some aspects of maturation can only happen in certain milieus. He needs to learn what it's like to travel with a team. He needs to know, firsthand, what an opposing NFL crowd sounds like. He needs to watch the walkthroughs, wear the headset, feel the soul-crushing pain of a last-second loss.
All those things help a young quarterback evolve into a mature quarterback. And with the preseason success of Russell Wilson – another acclaimed college QB who was deemed too small to play in the NFL – Detroit would be foolish to consciously stop a young signal caller from developing.
Especially one who's been proving pundits wrong his entire life.