Stafford takes the Lions out of all quarterback drama

Posted Mar 10, 2012

Nearly half of the teams in the NFL continue to court quarterback Peyton Manning this weekend and now comes the news that the Redskins have traded three first-round draft picks and a second-rounder to trade up to the No. 2 spot in the draft to draft Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III.

Two examples of how vitally important it is for teams to have a franchise quarterback and it has to make Lions fans appreciate Mathew Stafford a little more this weekend.

Sure, those same fans had to go through the embarrassment of an 0-16 season to have a chance to get Stafford, but none of that really matters now, right?

During the 14 seasons that Manning was the franchise face of the Colts, the Lions started 15 different quarterbacks.

Anyone remember Stoney Case and Frank Reich starting games for the Lions?

From 1998 through 2011, the Colts won 143 games, which included 11 seasons with at least 10 victories.

The Lions have managed one 10-win season over that span – 10 wins this past season – and have 71 total victories since 1998. That's an average of five wins per season.

Just for comparison's sake, though, Manning has never thrown for 5,000 yards in a season and threw more than 40 touchdowns once: 49 in 2004.

In just his third season, Stafford threw for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns in 2011.

"I see him as one of the top quarterbacks in the league," Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said of Stafford after the season.

"I don't think anybody's holding out and still evaluating that. Five thousand yards, 41 touchdowns – he's a great, young player. He's 23 years old (now 24) and he's a franchise quarterback, so I was really thrilled to see what he did."

Manning has a Super Bowl ring and has been a consistent performer year-in and year-out, so Stafford still has a long, long ways to go to be in his same category, but can a one-season sample size lend some to think he's on his way?

"He's going to do great things for our franchise," said Lions head coach Jim Schwartz of Stafford at last month's NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

"I sort of infamously said that when we were going through some tough times in Detroit but we still feel the same way. And the step that we took this year was an important step for us but it's only the surface of where we're going to be and where Matthew's going to be."

Then there are the Redskins, who, like the Lions before the 2009 Draft, have been desperately searching for a quarterback for decades.

They are throwing all their cards down on the Rams' table in hopes that Griffin III can be the face of their franchise for the next 14 years or so.

The Redskins sent this year's sixth-overall and 39th-overall picks and first-rounders in 2013 and 2014 to the Rams in exchange for this year's second-overall selection.

Think about this: let's say the Lions had to execute the same trade to get Stafford in 2009, instead of being able to select him with the No. 1-overall pick. If the Lions had given up their second-rounder that year and their next two first-rounders, there would be no Louis Delmas, Ndamukong Suh or Nick Fairley in Detroit.

That's a steep price to pay.

Some would argue that 0-16 was a steep price to pay, too.

So, as the drama surrounding Manning's next destination drags on through the weekend, and reaction out of Washington ratchets up, Lions fan can sit back and watch at a distance and be glad their not personally invested in it all.