Money vs. Experience: The Detroit Lions' Quarterback Controversy

Charles ClintonCorrespondent IMay 21, 2009

DETROIT , MI - NOVEMBER 27:  Quarterback Daunte Culpepper #11 of the Detroit Lions drops back to pass the ball during the game against the Tennessee Titans on November 27, 2008 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. Tennessee won the game 47-10. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The Detroit Lions are going to have an interesting choice on their hands this August. 

Coming off a win-less season that everybody has been talking about, new Head Coach Jim Schwartz will have to look at the two potential starting quarterbacks for this season.

One is an experienced player who, years ago, led the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC championship game.  The other is the first-round pick in the draft and one of the highest paid players on the team. 

The Lions have not had a decent signal caller since Scott Mitchell in 1995, who along with Barry Sanders and Herman Moore led the Lions to record offensive numbers. 

Arguably, to some, that was a fluke season as Mitchell faded fast after that year.  The Lions have been unable to find consistency in the passing game for quite some time, a problem that has been exacerbated by a woeful offensive line. 

Both quarterbacks have shown some mobility.  Daunte Culpepper was once considered the next Michael Vick, leading the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game in only his second season.

He has put on lots of weight since then and does not have the open field speed that he had when he first entered the league. 

He doesn't have Randy Moss to throw to either. 

Matt Stafford showed some impressive open-field speed while at Georgia, as well as a great arm and ability to throw on the run, which will be sorely tested when he starts playing in regular games with the Lions.

Because of the $41.5 million contract he's under, that playing time will probably come at some point during this season.  The question, is will he be able to handle it? 

Culpepper, who has been plagued by injuries the past four seasons, has said that this is the most healthy he's been since 2004—his best statistical year.  If he can show mere flashes of himself from that season, he's going to play. But when? 

It's safe to say that whoever does better in the preseason will be the man who gets the job for the first game of the regular season on Sept. 13 in New Orleans.  The question is not only who is it going to be, but when that man fouls up, will he get yanked for the other guy?

I think that Culpepper will start out the season, and Stafford will initially get garbage time in the blowout losses.  Early enough into the season they will lose enough games to want to throw the rookie into the fire and Stafford will be expected to perform. 

The important thing about the Lions is that the expectations are so low that a rookie quarterback can come in and show mere flashes of greatness and he won't look like a draft bust. 

His rookie-season stats may be irrelevant if he has a good career, but the real test will be if he can bounce back from a difficult season.