The day before the draft. Some will consider what the Lions do a step in the right direction and others will view it as an utter disaster.
But regardless of how each person feels, the one thing all need to recognize is this; the Lions upper management and coaching staff has a plan. And so far, they have been sticking to their guns.
Tom Lewand, he of the famed "F$*k em until next year" memo, and Martin Mayhew have made it known they wish to rebuild the team via the draft. It's a practice recognized around the NFL and it does seem to work. Just take a look at the Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, and Miami Dolphins of last year, all of whom built their teams via the draft and saw immediate results.
Both the Falcons and the Ravens started first year quarterbacks, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco. Both brought their teams to the playoffs and if nothing major happens injury-wise, to the team or quarterbacks, they will be perennial playoff teams over the next five to seven years. Atlanta made a great move in getting All-World Tight End Tony Gonzalez which is going to make Matt Ryan an even better quarterback.
But something seemed to have gotten lost in translation from last year. In the coming weeks of the draft, a lot of talk has been going around the success of the Falcons and the Ravens. But little has been said about teams that went the other way, using veteran quarterbacks to guide a younger team. I am speaking of the Super Bowl runner-up Arizona Cardinals with Kurt Warner and Tennessee Titans with Kerry Collins.
Now before anyone gets an idea that this article is going to be about a man-crush on Dante Culpepper, you're wrong. I am not a fan of Culpepper but I have to recognize his accomplishments of 2003 and 2004. A lot of people were upset we traded away Jon Kitna since it was felt he was the best chance for the Lions to win while a new QB was waiting in the wings.
Let's compare Culpepper's two best years with the Vikings and Kitna's two years with the Lions as the starter:
Culpepper, 2003 & 2004: 8,196 yards 64 TD's 22 INT's 83 sacks 103.65 QB rating.
Kitna, 2006 & 2007: 8,276 yards 39 TD's 42 INT's 114 sacks 80.4 QB rating
Both threw for over 8,000 yards. But Culpepper beat's Kitna in just about every other category. The only one that concerns me is Culpepper's sack total which I feel is largely due to mobility issues. Kitna's sack total was largely due to an offensive line that could not pass protect.
All I am saying here is that Culpepper, who reported to camp in the best shape he's been in for a long time, could be a serviceable QB. Over his career, he has a far better TD to INT ratio than Kitna, 146/100 to 152/151 respectively.
No, Culpepper isn't going to lead the Lions to the Super Bowl, that is highly improbable. But what he does give the Lions is time. I have stated in many articles the Lions are going to be taking Matt Stafford in this year's draft. It's not the smartest choice they are making since the defense needs so much more help than the offense. But they are going to take Stafford and make him the cornerstone of the Lions. Not just the offense but he is going to be their Peyton, their Eli, their Brett, their Elway.
The Lions may surprise a lot of people this year. And one draft pick does not a playoff team make. This draft is not about the number one pick for the Lions. It's going to be the 20th, 33rd, 65th, 82nd, 174th, and 255th picks. The lower picks are where great teams find players they can build on right away. So if and when Stafford is going to be ready to lead the Lions, he will at least have a fighting chance with those players having at least two years experience under their belts. In a perfect draft (if there is such a thing), these players won't wash out. But there are going to be holes to fill every year.
The Lions need to get to a point where they are filling only pot holes, not chasms the size of the Grand Canyon.