Matt Stafford Remaining the Lions' Starter Is the Right Choice by Jim Schwartz
Coulda, shoulda, woulda. We need to pound the rock more. We need to wrap up on our tackles. My dead grandma could play quarterback for the Detroit Lions. We need to get seven in the red zone, not three. Fire Matt Millen. Same old Lions.
The Lions have been so bad, they have their own clichés.
One that Jim Schwartz is living by is, "Stick to your guns." He's announced that Matt Stafford is remaining the Detroit Lions' QB.
That's the best decision he's made so far this season.
We live in a "win now" NFL. We also live in a forgetful NFL. Fans and reporters alike tout the turnarounds of the Dolphins, Falcons, and Ravens. The Falcons went from 4-12 to 11-5 in one season. The Dolphins went from 1-15 to 11-5. The Ravens went from 5-11 to 11-5.
What they forget to tell you was that the Ravens were 13-3 in the previous season, the Dolphins were only down for two years (a 6-10 season preceded by a 9-7 season), and the Falcons were an average team for two years prior (7-9 and 8-8) after an 11-5 season in '04.
All of these teams seem to fall in the alternating seasons scheme. The Dolphins went from 10 wins in 2003 to four, nine, six, one, and eleven in the following seasons.
Baltimore started in '01 with 10 wins, then seven, 10, nine, six, 13, five, and 11. The Jets followed this pattern to a T: 2002 had nine wins, then six, 10, four, 10, four, and nine last year.
This tells you that all of these teams were capable of making the playoffs, but for whatever reason had the tendency to slide (for example, Atlanta losing Michael Vick). No team changes that much without having a decent enough team to make it in the first place.
A good example would be the Lions of the '90s. They alternated frequently from playoff team to loser.
Stafford has a lot to prove, according to the average NFL fan. He must live up to the hype surrounding Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan, and this year Mark Sanchez. He will be compared to these quarterbacks, as he has been already.
All the network watchdogs are watching the Stafford and Sanchez situations carefully. They're barking up the wrong tree. Darn, another cliché.
Sanchez will win Rookie of the Year this year, no doubt about it. He found himself a very comfortable situation with a team that had a winning record. Stafford, meanwhile, will break Peyton Manning's interception record wide open. He may even make it so high that he'll hold it for the rest of his life (and his children's children's children's lives).
I'm rather confident, though, that if it was Stafford with the Jets, they would be just as good, if not better. Who knows what Sanchez would be doing with the Lions? One thing I do know he wouldn't be doing: winning.
Many people were enraged when Schwartz called for Stafford to start over Daunte Culpepper. Culpepper seemed to have the better preseason and seemed to be back to his old self. He had a battle with the carpet, but that would have healed up by Week One.
I will admit that with Culpepper starting, we might be 1-1. We would most likely still be 0-2, though. I don't think that any sort of Daunte heroics would have helped us against the Saints, just as I don't think Donovan McNabb would have made the difference. Would it have been closer? Yes, but not enough.
The Saints are really good this year and may be good enough for the bye. Drew Brees will set records this year, and their defense will look better than they are, thanks to the cushion that Drew will give them in nearly every game.
The Vikings are just as good, though in a different way. Something tells me that coach Brad Childress was bashing heads in the locker room during halftime and that woke up the Vikings. Something also tells me that Schwartz wasn't as tough. The Vikings would still have woken up at halftime if it was Daunte under center.
Nearly three weeks later, people are still calling for Culpepper. "He'll give us the best chance to win games." Is that cliché yet? I could have sworn I heard that a hundred times last year about a hundred different players and/or coaches. Perhaps it's true, but winning games now hurts our chances for the future.
Pulling Stafford would be a mistake. If Schwartz removes the starter tag from Stafford, I'm calling for his head. He's made his bed (blast!), and once he changes that bed, it will never feel the same.
Right now, Stafford is confident. He seems able to brush off his mistakes, and he seems eager to take on the challenge. We have more expectations of him than we ever did Joey Harrington.
Matt seems to accept that and is so far embracing it. After giving up three interceptions to the Saints, he responded with a "been there, done that" (oh boy) attitude. I like that.
If he gets demoted, the bubble will burst (grr...), and Joey will be reborn. Schwartz can't do it. He won't do it. It won't help anyway (is that one?). Not only will it ruin a potentially great quarterback, but it will also start the doubting about Schwartz's skills.
Stafford's showing improvement—small, but significant. His QB rating nearly doubled, and will surely go up by at least 10 points this weekend. Washington is not New Orleans, nor is it Minnesota. They're more like Vikings-lite. This is good for the Lions, as I think they are more suited to this type of team.
The Lions won't hit 26, no matter what people may say. We may be facing a brutal first half of the schedule, but there are at least two achievable wins there in Washington and St. Louis.
Also on the schedule are the Packers in Green Bay. We're playing in Green Bay before Dec. 1 for the first time since 2003. Will that be a win? Probably not, but division matchups are very hard to predict.
Anything's possible, but 26 is too much of a Jim Rome fantasy for the Lions to attain. We will hit the bye week with at least one win. We should have two by the halfway mark. I could see one more if the Lions continue to improve—and they will improve.
The only way they won't improve is if they pull Stafford.
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