Is Matt Stafford Another Cursed Lion QB?
Way back in the late 1950's, when the Detroit Lions were winning NFL championships, their quarterback was the legendary Bobby Layne. As only the Lions could, they actually traded their championship winning quarterback.
As legend would have it, Layne cursed the Lions to the point that they would never again reach the heights that he had them. Over the past 50 years and change, his curse has proved itself to be pretty darn effective, with only one playoff win since 1957.
As fate would have it, the Lions in 2009 drafted number one overall a quarterback who went to the same high school as did Layne, in the person of Matthew Stafford. With such karma in place, surely this QB with this type of background could not miss, could he?
In true Lion fashion, however, Stafford has shown promise while being a little injury prone. Just this past Sunday, he was injured in the first game when tackled by Chicago Bear DE Julius Peppers.
His right (throwing) shoulder has been seriously injured for the second time in as many years. His sprain/separation is expected to keep him on the sidelines for the next eight weeks, or half of this season!
So, the question of the day is: Is Stafford another in the long list of Lions QBs that seem to be unable to shake the curse of Bobby Layne? We will examine several contenders that offer up a solid affirmative to this question.
As always, read, review, debate and enjoy! I look forward to your comments!
7. Gary Danielson
Mr. Danielson is the first Lion QB of note that I can remember, and in true Lion fashion, this is how I remember him: He was on the front page of the sports section with his whole leg in a cast! His knee injury knocked him out of the 1979 season, in which the Lions went an underwhelming 2-14.
Danielson, before he was an ace television analyst for both ABC and CBS, was a decent player from Purdue. He was at first the young lion (pardon the pun) challenging Greg Landry for the starting nod. But due to injuries, he would eventually lose his spot to relatively unknown Eric Hipple.
His career would reach an apex when he led the Lions to the playoffs and was on the verge of upsetting the defending champion San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park. In an ironic twist, the 49ers won their first Super Bowl on the Lions homefield!
As fate would have it, all the Lions needed was a relatively chip-shot field goal from their clutch kicker, (Steady) Eddie Murray. In a redundant Lions theme, however, Murray missed the field goal, the 49ers won, and the Lions would not sniff the playoffs for approximately 10 years. Danielson's career would never reach such heights again.
6. Rodney Peete
The Future Mr. Holly Robinson
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Rodney Peete has lived a good life. He is married to Hollywood actress Holly Robinson, has children, hosted The Best Damned Sports Show Period, and even has a Super Bowl ring. With the Dallas Cowboys and not the Lions, unfortunately.
Peete's future looked pretty good when he was drafted in the second round of the 1989 NFL draft. He came to Detroit in the same draft with the man who beat him for the Heisman trophy, Barry Sanders.
Peete's tenure in the Motor City was filled with injuries, a rotating quarterback controversy and the ONE plaoff victory the Lions had in those 50 years (a 1991 win against the Cowboys). In Lion fashion, though, he was injured and was NOT the starter for that game!
Peete would eventually be moved out of Motown, play for the Cowboys, Eagles, Redskins, Raiders and Panthers before moving on to Hollywood. All in all, his career cannot be downplayed, but the apex, winning the Super Bowl, did not happen for him with the Lions, but the Cowboys, as a backup QB.
5. Erik Kramer
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Erik Kramer was a good guy, and even a good QB, so he obviously could NOT stay as a Lion QB!
Kramer seemingly came out of nowhere. He was Rodney Peete's backup, which automatically made him the most popular player on the team. Peete's many injuries always meant that the team needed to have a good QB ready to go on a moment's notice.
In 1991, Kramer stepped in for Peete, and led the team to its most successful season in the last 50 years. The team got hot and made a run to the 1991 playoffs.
Kramer led them to a victory over the young Dallas Cowboys (who would go on to win three of the next four Super Bowls). The NFC Championship game was a 41-0 pasting at the hands of the eventual Super Bowl winners, the Washington Redskins.
The Lions, led by Kramer, seemed to be ready to jump up to the ranks of the NFC elite. But due to career-ending injuries, the unfortunate death of G Eric Andolsek and inconsistent coaching, they never made that next step.
After two more years, Kramer had enough of the roller coaster ride that were the Lions under coach Wayne Fontes, and he left in 1993 to play for the Chicago Bears!
For the Lions fans, that was a slap to the face, but a good career move for Kramer, who was rewarded with a good contract and starting position, which he never could get from the Lions.
4. Joey Harrington
Joey Heisman on the run Again?
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Joey Harrington was set to take over the Motor City.
He was a top draft pick from Oregon, filled with enthusiasm and a hunger to win that was not only unmatched, it was...unmet in Detroit.
The first draft pick of the Matt Millen error, uh, era, Harrington had a joie de vivre that was looked at as pure rah-rah enthusiasm.
Unfortunately, his selection was a bad fit with the team, as there was no offensive line to protect him. This led to too many sacks and rushed throws. His poor receivers dropped too many passes, which Coach Steve Mariucci blamed on... Harrington? You figure that one out.
Harrington's time in Detroit was marked by no winning seasons, more interceptions than touchdowns, a hodge podge of receivers and running backs and a good heaping helping of blame from his coaches!
The West Coast offense did not match his skill set, and rather than adjust the system, Lion coaches Marty Morninwheg and Steve Mariucci demanded that Harrington adjust! This rarely works in the pro ranks, where the best way to win is get players that fit your system or move those players for ones that do fit.
Neither happened in Harrington's case until both he and the coaches were shown the door.
In an ironic twist of fate, Harrington's next team was the Miami Dolphins, and though he was no great success there, either (the product of a bad beginning to his career), his first season there was highlighted by a win seen on national tv against who else? Your Detroit Lions, of course.
3. Scott Mitchell
Let's Hope Scott Mitchell is Handing off to Barry Sanders here
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Scott Mitchell is a most interesting case.
He was a backup to Dan Marino in Miami. Marino was hurt for half of the 1994 season, and in steps Scott Mitchell. Mitchell looks good for half the season, which is also his free agent season and the Lions swoop in and sign the big lefthander. Seems to be the right move, right?
Mitchell did have skills, as he set the record for most passing yards for the team in a season. He hooked up with Herman Moore, Brett Perriman, Johnny Morton, etc. to take the team to the playoffs three times as a Leo.
But Mitchell was not a leader. He could not get the team past the first round of the playoffs while he was in Detroit. He had an embarrassing episode when he appeared to be drunk on a local news broadcast dressed up at a costume party as his coach, Wayne Fontes.
He was not respected as the quarterback should be in the locker room. His talents on the field did not parlay to his being the leader on the field.
By the end of his time in Detroit, he was sick of the Lions, and the feeling was mutual. He left and became the QB for the Ravens, who not long after getting rid of Mitchell, went out and won themselves a Super Bowl!
The kicker to the Lions getting Mitchell as a free agent? They could have had Hall of Famer Warren Moon, who was also a free agent, and reportedly wanted to come to the Lions! He went to Minnesota and threw for a ton of yards, playoff wins and Pro Bowl appearances there, instead.
2. Chuck Long
Remember This Guy? He Almost won the Heisman!
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Chuck Long was the runner-up to Bo Jackson for the 1986 Heisman trophy and the first round draft pick of the Lions in 1987. That he was replaced in two years just about tells you everything you need to know about his tenure in Detroit.
His arm? Too weak.
His leadership abilities? Non-existent.
His ability to read pro-level defenses? See above.
Long was such a disappointment that he only merits a mention because he was yet another savior of the organization when he was drafted.
A Midwest guy with ties to the Big Ten meant nothing when it was time to hit the field. He was a starter for all of two years before the team had enough and benched him for rookie Rodney Peete in the 1989 season.
Hopes pinned on Long went nowhere fast.
He has made a good career as a coach and coordinator in the college ranks, most notably working for Oklahoma and coaching Heisman trophy winner Jason White.
Chuck Long. A good college guy. A horrible pro prospect.
1. Andre Ware
A Sign of Things to Come?
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Andre Ware. A bust of EPIC PROPORTIONS!
Ware was the 1989 Heisman Trophy winning QB from the University of Houston. He was a Run-N-Shoot QB drafted to run a Run-N-Shoot team. This should be a can't miss situation, right?
Wrong. Way wrong.
After Ware was drafted in 1990, he held out. And missed ALL of training camp. No QB can afford this, even if the team runs the same basic offense that he ran in college.
Too much was missed, the chance to effectively compete for the starter's position, the chance to develop chemistry with the receivers and the chance to prove himself as a professional.
By the time the next season rolled around, Ware was just a high-priced backup. He never could become the starter in Detroit. Or Oakland. Or Parts Unknown, wherever he went to play after leaving the Motor City!
Ware just did not become a good NFL QB. He sort of was the forerunner to JaMarcus Russell, to a degree.
Andre Ware could have been a contender, a leader, a Hall of Famer with the right breaks. Instead, he became the biggest bust for your Detroit Lions. He has since become a radio host and a college football commentator.
He has also become the greatest embodiment of the Bobby Layne Curse of the Detroit Lions.
There's Still Time, Matt!
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Hopefully, Matthew Stafford will not become another in the long line of Lion QBs who did not perform as they should.
I did not even mention the stories of Greg Landry, Joe Ferguson, etc. for lack of time and space.
Needless to say, Stafford is still young and has time on his side.
Please Matt, turn it around! The Lions need you to, as does the city of Detroit!
You can do it. We believe in you!