Detroit Lions Position Analysis: Quarterback

By PFC writer Gerald Mallory Jr.

This is the first of several analyses for various positions on the Detroit Lions. When a team goes 0-16, there are few if any bright spots on the roster. There are a handful of players the Lions fill secure building their team around, namely; WR Calvin Johnson, RB Kevin Smith, RT Gosder Cherilus, K Jason Hanson and LB Ernie Sims. Aside for those names and maybe a few others the Lions roster looks bleak. Unfortunately, this is also the case for one of the most important positions in all of sports: Quarterback. Here is a brief outlook of the quarterback position for the Lions.

Not since Bobby Lane (circa the late1950’s) have the Lions had a quarterback that consistently played well and won. The inglorious list is full of high draft picks, high priced free agents, young hopefuls that never panned out, and journeymen all of whom failed to live up to their potential as QB for Detroit. These players include Chuck Long, Andre Ware, Scott Mitchell, Rodney Peete, Mike McMahon, Erik Kramer, Joey Harrington, Charlie Batch, and most recently Jon Kitna’ who is currently on the roster but will likely be cut. The Metro Detroit area is full of diehard Lions fans that have been waiting for a franchise quarterback literally for decades. Their current roster doesn’t look promising in that regard.

As stated earlier, Jon Kitna is on the roster but might not be for long. From being curiously being placed on IR mid season last year to the signing of Daunte Culpepper, all points indicate Kitna will be gone. He is due a $500,000 roster bonus at the end of the month. With Culpepper restructuring his contract to stay in Detroit next year there doesn’t seem to be enough room for two veteran QBs on a rebuilding team. Kitna could never control his proclivity for late game turnovers and seems to be a welcome subtraction out of Detroit.

Drew Stanton had a solid career with the Michigan State Spartans. After being selected as the No. 2 pick in the second round in 2007s draft he would appear to be the perfect candidate to assume the starting role for the team. Unfortunately this is not the case. He has seen very little regular season playing time being the 3rd string QB. Although he has shown flashes of mobility and ability to move down the field in the few stretches he plays, it has usually been against other 3rd string talent in preseason games. He is still raw, lacking the fundamentals and accuracy it takes to be an elite QB at the pro level. He has also been prone to injury going on IR his rookie year and spraining his thumb in the preseason last year. As of now, he is a better athlete than an actual quarterback and it is doubtful he will start next year barring injuries.

Dan Orlovsky was the Lions 2nd string QB for most of last year. Due to injuries he started almost half (7) of the Lions games last year. In 2008 he threw for 1616 yards with 8 TDs  8 INTs with a QB rating of 72.6. His stats screamed one thing to most who saw him play: MEDIOCIRTY. He is a player that is average at many things but not exception or great at anything. If the Lions decide to draft a QB he is likely to join Jon Kitna out of town. Some argue though that of all the Lions QBs, he is probably the most consistent and would turnover the ball the least. These factors can be a huge plus on a team desperately in need of rebuilding.

Daunte Culpepper is the odds on favorite to emerge as the starter heading into the 2009 season. Signed mid-season by General Manager Martin Mayhew, Culpepper only threw for 786 yds with 4 TDs and 6 INTs over a 5 game span. All signs indicate though that he will start in ’09. He recently restructured his contract to remain on the roster next year. This restructuring however also provides less cap penalty if he is cut which is something to consider if he struggles in camp, the preseason, or regular season.

Many project the Lions to draft a QB with the No. 1 overall pick; specifically Matthew Stafford. Culpepper could easily play the role of placeholder/veteran until Stafford is ready to play in a year or so. Former Lions WR Mike Furrey told the media he was informed that Culpepper was going to be the starter in 2009. Those reports have since been denied by the Lions. Lions Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan coached Culpepper during his most successful years in Minnesota. His big arm makes him a good complement to the long ball threat Calvin Johnson, similar to what Culpepper had in Minnesota with Randy Moss. With a full off-season alongside the Lions staff and players along with improved conditioning, Culpepper may be serviceable to good in Detroit. He also has the potential to struggle with a shaky offensive line and his turnover issues.

There are quarterbacks not currently on the roster that are options as well. College standouts Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez, and Josh Freeman are all projected 1st round quarterbacks. The Lions; with the first overall pick and another pick (20th) in the first round, have the flexibility to acquire any of these players.

Byron Leftwich is another possibility. The Lions recently acquired James Harris from Jacksonville to help with personnel moves. He worked with Leftwich and may make a push to bring him in Detroit. There are also rumors that QB Derek Anderson will be traded by the Browns in favor of Brady Quinn. This is yet again another possibility for Detroit who have 5 draft picks in the first 3 rounds. Whoever steps on the field for the Lions beginning in 2009 better prepare themselves for a daunting tasks but remain confident that he can help turn things around.