For the past ten years, quarterbacks taken first overall have struggled mightily in their first season. Tim Couch, Eli Manning, David Carr, Jamarcus Russell and Alex Smith just to name a few. For Detroit Lions and former Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford, that is not the case. Stafford scored amazingly well on the Wonderlick test at 32, started all three years at Georgia, and showed he could make every throw that it would take to become an NFL quarterback.
Joining the 0-16 Lions, Stafford’s expectations aren’t too high as the entire city of Detroit is submerged in poverty, famine and lack of essential resources in the area. With an unemployment rate at 24%, the people in the city are looking for something to hang their hat on and something to look forward to. Stafford may be the light at the end of the tunnel as the Lions return a team improved from a season ago, and the former Bulldog will have very good targets in WR Calvin Johnson and TE Brandon Pettigrew. Signing a contract early on in negotiations, Stafford has been involved in all OTA’s and training camp practices, only improving his chances of starting this season and performing well.
Stafford has always been a fast starter, most notably his freshman season at Georgia where Stafford started as a true freshman, throwing for 1,749 yards and 7 TD’s. Although he threw 13 interceptions, Stafford showed glimpses of greatness and the Detroit fans will hope for the same this year. Battling with Daunte Culpepper, the competition for the starting job should only make each quarterback better. Culpepper had a rough year last season as did each player on the team, passing for 786 yards and 4 TD’s. Culpepper was coming off knee surgery after a season ending surgery in 2006, and has never been the same.
The Lions should be much improved this season as new head coach Jim Schwartz looks to at least win one game this season and Detroit starts off with a road game in the Superdome in New Orleans. For the first six games, Detroit might lose all six as they play at New Orleans, home vs the Vikings, home vs the Redskins, at Chicago, home against the Steelers then at Green Bay. This seems like a brutal schedule for a team that hasn’t won a game since 2007. Detroit’s likely wins are November 1st, in a home game vs St. Louis, the next week at Seattle, then November 22nd in a home game against the lowly Cleveland Browns, a team that I think honestly the Lions could have beat last year if they had played. Detroit did beat Cleveland in the preseason, and the Browns have some of the same problems as Detroit in that both teams are going through coaching changes, they both have a quarterback controversy and are cities that have high unemployment rates. After a winless season, the expectations aren’t too high for Stafford and with his current situation it looks like he might have a chance to win Rookie of the Year and bring the Detroit franchise to a win total around five, mediocre for most teams but just right for the Lions.