For your sake. For his sake. Making Matthew Stafford the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft was a mistake.
The Lions should've taken a tackle. Any Smith — Jason, Andre, Granny — would do. Or they could've taken that nice linebacker, Aaron Curry. He was cutting his asking price just to get into Detroit. Who exactly does that these days?
Why couldn't you see that taking a quarterback to lead not just a “bad team” but an “historically bad team” is a loser from jump street?
You couldn't, could you?
You are Charlie Brown lining up the field goal. Stafford’s potential is Lucy holding the football. You think that this time it will work. Yet you will wind up on your collective backs with a scribble over your head.
If Matthew Stafford had done at Georgia what Peyton Manning did at Tennessee — came in as a starter and played at a consistently high level for four seasons — then fine. Peyton Manning was the No. 1 overall pick for practically three years before he came out.
Instead, Matthew Stafford did at Georgia what guys like Alex Smith did at Utah or JaMarcus Russell did at LSU. Frequently looked tremendous. Intermittently looked like he just wandered in from a chemistry lab and somebody plopped a helmet on his head and said, “Go get ‘em, kid.”
Mike Mayock of the NFL Network, a man who’s made his reputation in the past few years as a straight-shooting (and accurate) analyst, will tell anyone with ears Stafford is not worth taking No. 1.
Georgia — with all the talent spread around it’s roster and the purported best quarterback in the nation — couldn’t win the SEC with this kid running the show. And the Lions, unless that was an deceptively good 0-16 record they compiled last year, don’t have much talent.
And that’s what will spell doom for Stafford and for Detroit. They are trying to put the roof on before the foundation’s poured.
Charlie Casserley, the Texans GM who took David Carr with the first pick in the 2002 draft, spoke this week about “forcing the need” at quarterback with that top pick.
Said Casserley, “(With Carr), we felt, ‘If we don’t take the quarterback now, we’re not gonna get one and we needed to get started building the team.”
But the care and feeding of a franchise quarterback is more complicated than that.
He needs to be able to come in and learn from a professional whose game is similar to his. Daunte Culpepper is not that guy.
He needs to be allowed to watch, take his lumps, figure out some things, take more lumps, and then succeed all without judgment being gaveled out on him.
Legendary agent Leigh Steinberg, a man who had 15 players selected either first or second in the draft, told us this week, “The transition from college to professional is dramatic and it is difficult. The game is exponentially faster, more complex, the pressure is immense and the continuing development of the media with 200 TV stations and their analysts, talk radio, internet, bloggers leads to everyone wanting to render the most instantaneous judgment. That puts the quarterback in the pressure cooker.
“Developing a quarterback is a slow and methodical process and usually the team that selects a quarterback No. 1 has the fewest tools to provide to that player,” Steinberg added. “So when a quarterback is least able to mentally withstand the pressure on and off the field, he is facing the situation at its worst.”
Lack of talent around the quarterback is what dooms him. It’s what ruined David Carr, who absorbed 76 sacks in his rookie year. And it will take down Stafford too.
This is not to say that Matthew Stafford isn’t a good football player who could one day, with the right team, be great. But if you’re as bad as the Lions are, you have to figure out first whether you can field a team capable of winning one game before bringing in someone who’ll be wrongly viewed as a football messiah.
And that’s what Stafford’s going to have heaped on his plate.
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