Case in point, the 2003 draft: The Lions were the owners of the second pick in the draft and were in need of a wide receiver, and it just so happened that a local kid, Charles Rogers of Saginaw, Mich., had just finished an absolutely stellar career at Michigan State as a wide receiver.
That same year there was another wide receiver by the name of Andre Johnson who was coming out of the University of Miami. The debate was on. Who was the better wide receiver?
The consensus in the end was that Rogers was a better player.
The Lions had to take him, right? I mean, after all, they needed a wide receiver, he was a hometown kid, and he was considered the best at the position. Most Lions fans would have torn Ford Field apart if the Lions had decided on Johnson instead of Rogers.
In the end, the Lions did select Rogers as the No. 2 pick in the draft. Johnson was selected one pick later, at No. 3, by the Houston Texans. The results?
Six years later, Charles Rogers is in trouble with the law (again) and has been out of the NFL for just about three years. And Andre Johnson? Well, he is considered one of the top three young wide receivers in the league.
The fans got the player that most of them, including me, wanted, and it was the wrong choice. Not to mention he was a huge waste of money for the Lions, or the fact that going into this offseason, the Lions still needed another wide receiver (that, however, is for a different article).
This year the Lions own the first pick in the draft, and it looks like they are going to select Matthew Stafford, a strong-armed quarterback from the University of Georgia.
However, most Lions fans want the team to select Aaron Curry, the linebacker from Wake Forest, even going as far as chanting, “Don’t draft Staf-ford” at the uniform unveiling press conference the Lions held earlier this week.
Could we be facing another 2003? Could the player the fans want be the wrong choice for the organization? It isn’t clear at this point, and only time will tell.
What is clear at this point is the fact that it’s time for Lions fans to prove that they are fans. If/when commissioner Roger Goodell steps to the podium Saturday afternoon, and announces, “With the first pick in the 2009 NFL draft, the Detroit Lions select Matthew Stafford, quarterback, Georgia,” Lions fans need to accept the pick.
We don’t need to boo, or in the case of most of us who will be watching the draft at home, we don’t need to throw our nachos at the TV.
What we need to do is cheer the kid on the first time he takes the field as a member of the Detroit Lions. At that point he’ll be our quarterback, our guy.
We don’t need to sit back hoping for him to fail so that we can run out and say, “I told you so," reminiscent of how so many supposed “Lions fans” rooted for the team to go 0-16 this past season, just so they could gloat over how bad the franchise is.
We need to accept that people who know far more about football than you or me, or any of the local sports radio jockeys, think this kid is the real deal—the franchise quarterback that we have been missing since Bobby Lane left.
We need to trust that Martin Mayhew, James “Shack” Harris, and coach Jim Schwartz (who is rumored to have lobbied for Stafford) have made a far more informed decision than we could have. These guys have done nothing as of yet to lead us to believe that they are just another rehash of Matt Millen mistakes.
Until Matt Stafford fails, we as Lions fans must accept that he was the right choice. He is our quarterback, and if we want to truly call ourselves fans, we will cheer for him like crazy on Sundays.