Why Drew Stanton should start over Daunte Culpepper for Lions on Turkey Day

Keith SheltonAnalyst INovember 24, 2009

DETROIT - NOVEMBER 23:  Quarterback Drew Stanton #5 of the Detroit Lions drops back to pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the NFL game at Ford Field on November 23, 2008 in Detroit, Michigan.  The Buccaneers defeated the Lions 38-20.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

It figures.

Many Lions fans watched and listened at the edge of their seats last Sunday as they watched the star rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford, complete a thrilling game that ranks as the greatest comeback in Detroit Lions history, and he did it with a separated AC joint (shoulder).

It's the archetypal birth of a legend story and it will be told for years to come when Stafford is a perennial pro-bowler, when the Lions can look back on these days and laugh;just ask Peyton Manning.

It figures then, that Detroit's newest hero will almost certainly be out for the annual Thanksgiving Day game and probably Calvin Johnson too. 


Do I need to explain how big of a bummer this is? The Lions get one nationally televised game per year; ONE.

For pretty much the past decade, the Lions have used this one nationally televised game to basically give the NFL reason to take away their one nationally televised game.

They have been blown out repeatedly on Thanksgiving. I don't even want to remember last year's game, when the Lions seemed to go to new heights by allowing Tennessee to score inside the first minute of the game, and the Lions got the ball first!

This is especially painful for those of us who vaguely remember the days when Detroit played their best game on Turkey Day. Even in a rough season, the Lions would rise up and defy all logic, beating a better team.

My point? With Stafford and Johnson, the Lions had a chance to do just that this Thanksgiving. Green Bay is decidedly mediocre this year, which means they are leaps and bounds better than our Lions.

But with Stafford coming off the game of his life, and Calvin Johnson returning to dominating form, the Lions had chance for a Thanksgiving win. Even the media thought so.

No Stafford? No Johnson? Forget about it.

The Lions of course were without both Stafford and Johnson the first time they faced the Packers this season, and they were thoroughly dominated by a score of 26-0. Do we really want to watch that again?

Really, who wants to watch Daunte Culpepper throw to scrub receivers that will drop passes all day long. It's no fun watching the Lions defense repeatedly get burned, when the offense has no recourse.

That's the funny thing about Culpepper too. Most years, the Lions backup quarterback is the most popular man in Detroit.

This year, he is anything but. Lions fans, get this, actually like their starting quarterback; crazy, I know.

Culpepper gives us no reason to be excited. A freshly sold out stadium bought tickets believing they were going to get a show and now they'll get a nap instead.

Most importantly, the nation will fume once again. There will again be talk of taking away the Lions hold on the annual Thanksgiving Day game.

Daunte Culpepper cannot take that field and the Lions at least have to be competitive. They at least have to show the nation something.

So the Lions must start Drew Stanton in the event that Matthew Stafford is too hurt to play.

Yeah, yeah, I know.

I know Stanton is nothing to get excited about either. I know the Detroit coaches think poorly of him. Hell, the Lions former offensive line coach, Jim Coletto famously declared last season that he couldn't in good faith start Stanton. Why? Because he didn't want the kid to embarrass himself.

This was in the middle of an 0-16 season in which Dan Orlovsky had lost a game by running out the back of the endzone and Coletto didn't want Stanton to embarrass himself?

Truthfully, Drew Stanton is a poor practice quarterback. He always has been though, going back to his days at Michigan State and going all the way back to his high school days at Harrison High School.

Stanton however, is a gamer like Stafford.

This is why I've always wondered why the coaches soured on him. He embodies great football qualities. He's far from the most talented quarterback out there, but he will compete for you until the bitter end.

I guess in the NFL, or maybe just on the Lions, you make or break yourself on the practice field. Hell, we always hear about how great the Lions play in practice.

If Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson cannot play, William Clay Ford, Martin Mayhew, and the coaching staff, owes Lions fans and the nation, a competitive game.

They aren't going to get it from Daunte Culpepper, he's gone next year anyway. Maybe Drew Stanton is too, but he at least deserves a real shot at latching on with the team at proving to the coaches that he can play.

Put Stanton out there on Thanksgiving and lets see what he can do. Why not? I suspect he'll be playing by halftime anyway once the score is out of hand. Let's avoid that and let the man compete from the start.

The Lions should do whatever possible to avoid forcing NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's hand.


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