Georgia junior quarterback Matthew Stafford says his impending decision will not be swayed by potential NFL destinations.
And, yes, he saw the Detroit Lions lose to the Tennessee Titans, 47-10, on Thanksgiving Day.
Stafford is being projected by NFL scouts as the top quarterback and possibly the top pick overall in the 2009 draft, should he make himself eligible. The Lions are 0-13 this season and have used five quarterbacks, three of whom are out this week.
“That won’t affect me,” Stafford said Tuesday. “You can’t control where you’re going to get picked or what team is going to take you, so you’ve just got to do the best you can do and see what happens.”
Stafford, who threw for 407 yards and five touchdowns Nov. 29 against Georgia Tech, said he’s in the “gathering stage.” He will go home to Dallas once the Bulldogs finish their on-campus workouts for the Capital One Bowl, and that’s when he expects the decision-making process to intensify.
The Bulldogs will practice in Athens through Dec. 20.
“It’s crazy because I have so much to think about right now, but my main focus truly is on Michigan State and trying to get this team ready to get our 10th win,” he said. “I get asked about it all day, every day. It’s always around and being talked about, but I understand why people want to know.”
Cincinnati (1-11-1), Kansas City (2-11), St. Louis (2-11) and Seattle (2-11) are also in obvious need of help, but the Lions are three losses away from being the first 0-16 team ever. Daunte Culpepper and Drew Henson are Detroit’s top two quarterbacks entering Sunday’s game at sizzling Indianapolis following injuries to Jon Kitna (back), Dan Orlovsky (thumb) and Drew Stanton (concussion).
Culpepper is starting despite a bad shoulder, while Henson, the Chattanooga Lookouts third baseman in 2000, has attempted two passes all year. On Henson’s stat page at ESPN.com, it states, “If you are considering Henson for your lineup this week, you must be in the deepest fantasy league of all time.”
Stafford quarterbacked Highland Park to the Texas Class AAAA state title in 2005 and led Georgia to a Sugar Bowl win and a No. 2 final ranking last season. He knows that going to a downtrodden NFL team will be an adjustment, no matter which draft he enters.
“I’ve thought about that, and I know that I can only do one thing,” he said. “Wherever it is that I end up going, I’ve got to try and rub off as much of that winning atmosphere as I can and do whatever I can to help that team win. My main goal is to get a win, whether that be in practice or in film study or the weight room or anything.
“Hopefully that can rub off on some of those guys, and at the same time I can learn what it takes to get it done at that level.”
Stafford has a great example of what it might take just an hour from Georgia’s campus. The Atlanta Falcons were thought to have the worst personnel in the NFL after last season but are 8-5 this year behind the play of rookie quarterback Matt Ryan, the No. 3 overall pick in April.
“He’s done a great job of leading the Falcons back to some winning times,” Stafford said. “They’re playing a whole lot better, and I think it has a lot to do with him. There are pieces around him, and it shows you how important the position of quarterback is in the NFL. If somebody can get in there and run the show and complete some balls, it can make a big difference.”
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...