Jason Smith or Matthew Stafford? The Right Choice for Detroit

The RantCorrespondent IMarch 24, 2009

IRVING, TX - NOVEMBER 20:  Roy Williams #11 and Joey Harrington #3 of the Detroit Lions share a few words during a break in play against the Dallas Cowboys during their game on November 20, 2005 at Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas.  The Cowboys defeated the Lions 20-7.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Detroit Lions' fans, keep your head up, because fortunately for you, the only place you can go is up.

Detroit hasn't been the best of places for football in recent years. Just think, Matt Millen won't be drafting Joey Harrington at No. 3, or maybe, a whole bunch of wide receivers when there are a lot of glaring needs.

The Lions have already been hitting with their offseason moves. The most important is the signing of head coach Jim Schwartz, who is going to bring a toughness and an edge to a team that has been lackluster in recent years.

Peterson, Henry, Jackson, and Buchanon bring a new look to a defense that allowed 30+ points a record 11 times.

The Lions have needs all over the field, and believe it or not, Schwartz knows this.

He also knows that if he takes a quarterback and he fails, Schwartz just lost himself a career as a NFL head coach. But if he takes a quarterback and he excels, he's a genius (i.e., Mike Smith of the Falcons).

Last year, Tony Sparano and the Miami Dolphins knew of this situation and passed on QB Matt Ryan and took LT Jake Long.

This wasn't necessarily a bad move looking back at Ryan's rookie season, but it helped both coaches in their first seasons tremendously.

The Dolphins were able to get themselves a fine left tackle who will anchor their offensive line for the next decade and address their quarterback situation with a veteran quarterback, while drafting a quarterback in the second round—Chad Henne, Long's teammate at Michigan.

For the Lions, first and foremost, there are very few people sold on Matthew Stafford.

When you're going to throw at least $72 million over six years—which is what Matt Ryan got at the No. 3 pick in last year's draft—as a management and coaching staff, you better be 100 percent sure that this is your guy.

If not, your team can be cash strapped for a few years, and someone is going to lose their job.

If you're Stafford, you better be ready for all the big lights and criticism, because for every small, wrong move you make, people will jump on you in an instant.

Are the Lions going to take a risk at a quarterback with the No. 1 pick and, if he fails, once again become the laughing stock of the NFL?

I think the people in Detroit are tired of quarterbacks making bold predictions—goodbye, Jon Kitna—and want to win some games and turn around a franchise that has been pretty dismal as of late.

Looking at the prospects who came in for visits: Stafford, Smith, Curry, and Raji, who or what seems to be the most logical choice?

I won't take Curry because that's way too much money for a linebacker who may only play two downs or Raji, who can't keep his weight down.

If I'm the Lions at No. 1, I'm going to take Smith.

Why not Smith? He is a big, athletic tackle who has experience at TE. Not only do you have Gosder Cherilus at right tackle but putting Jason Smith at left tackle gives you a pretty good outside of the offensive line.

Although Dante Culpepper might not be the long term solution, he doesn't have to be. There was a time when he was a $100 million quarterback and a sought after commodity in Minnesota.

Those days are long gone, but he still has enough in the tank to be a mediocre quarterback. If not, Jeff Garcia and Byron Leftwich are still out there.

If you need someone to come in and play well enough to win games, you can get a veteran from the streets. It's better to risk it on a proven veteran than a rookie who is going to get a huge contract.

There may be a quality offensive lineman around at No. 20, but what if Mark Sanchez or Josh Freeman, who could be this year's Joe Flacco, are still available? Do you wait 19 picks and draft a quarterback who may be as good or better than Stafford in the long run?

Josh Freeman could possibly be a great pick at No. 20, if he plays well enough to win games, and his contract will be much smaller than paying a quarterback at No. 1.

Freeman or Sanchez could just be a possibility, but if Schwartz has enough confidence in Drew Stanton, it is a possibly he could be the No. 2 guy until the team is ready to draft a quarterback. I feel the Lions have too many needs to draft a quarterback No. 1.

If he is a bust, the Lions have failed again and are the same old Lions. But, if the Lions go with the safe pick in Smith and don't draft a quarterback, who will have high expectations to bring this team back from day one, they can develop the team to the point where they are a quarterback or one player away from fielding a competitive team.

In addition to drafting a quarterback or bringing in a veteran free agent, which isn't likely, Jay Cutler still seems to be a strong possibility.

The Lions have the most ammunition to trade to get Cutler. I'm pretty sure, if I were in the situation, I would take Cutler over any of the quarterbacks available in this year's draft.

The Lions might not even need to give up their No. 1 pick to attain Cutler. John Clayton previously said on ESPN Radio that the Lions seem to be the most logical choice in a Cutler trade.

If I'm Jim Schwartz, I'm going to draft Smith at No. 1 and give my No. 20 and maybe another second-rounder or whatever it takes to get Cutler in a Lions uniform.

If the Lions have two first round offensive tackles, Kevin Smith, Calvin Johnson, and Cutler on offense with the additions on defense then, this team can make little noise, especially in the NFC North.  

So I end with this; the Detroit Lions have made significant moves this offseason for the betterment of their franchise. I believe that they will keep going in this direction, and with a few right moves in the next coming weeks, will have a legitimate shot at not being the same old Lions anymore.