published Saturday, April 25th, 2009

Epps: We should be worried for Stafford


by Darren Epps
Audio clip

Todd McShay

  • photo
    Georgia Tech's Kyle Jackson gets his arm on Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford. Georgia Tech won, 45-42. (Photo/Mark E. Johnson)

Almost every time I think of Detroit, I remember two lines from the ridiculous film “Kentucky Fried Movie,” which will absolutely cost you 20 IQ points if you watch it (bringing me down to a robust 58).

Here’s one exchange:

“These are the Hartz Mountains of Asia. A terrain so rugged, so treacherous, no country will claim it.”

“Worse than Detroit?”

(With a grimace) “I’m afraid so.”

And ... CIA agent: “You can’t scare me.”

Doctor: “Fine. Take him to ... Detroit!”

CIA agent: “No! No! Not Detroit! No! No, please! Anything but that!”

There’s a point here. I think. Oh, yeah — former Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford is not making any of the above comments. Based on his recent statements, he seems to genuinely want to (a) play in Detroit and (b) play for an 0-16 team.

I don’t think we’ll see men in suits dragging Stafford to the podium this afternoon or an uncomfortable moment in front of the cameras like we saw with Eli Manning and the Chargers. After all, Stafford and the Lions agreed Friday night on a deal guaranteeing him $41.7 million over six years.

If the Lions didn’t pick Stafford, he would have fallen several spots and lost about $20 million. He could probably buy Michigan with $20 million right now.

Stafford also gets an opportunity to become a legitimate hero to a beleaguered franchise, a symbol of hope to a state in need of inspiration. If he succeeds even a little in Detroit — and expectations aren’t very high — he’ll unquestionably enjoy his next paycheck after he becomes a free agent.

But I worry about Stafford. I worry because the Lions have needs at running back, fullback, offensive tackle, offensive guard, center, defensive end, defensive tackle, linebacker, safety, cornerback and punter (Jason Hanson is solid at kicker).

I worry because I saw what an inept team desperate for a quarterback did to David Carr. I worry because Stafford spent just three years in college (Matt Ryan was a fifth-year senior), and quarterbacks who leave early often struggle.

Stafford should not take a single snap in 2009. But you know he will. I say this with confidence because I know the history of Lions quarterbacks. A quick overview:

— Quarterback Bobby Layne led Detroit to an NFL championship in 1957. The Lions traded him the next year. They have not won an NFL title since. Layne is still their all-time passing leader.

— In 1991, the Lions selected Andre Ware seventh overall. He started six games in his career.

— Other Lions quarterbacks: Rusty Hilger, Chuck Long, Charlie Batch, Mike McMahon and Don Majkowski. None of them are in the NFL Hall of Fame.

— In 2002, the Lions selected Joey Harrington third overall and started him 12 times in his first year. He threw 62 interceptions in four seasons and finished 18-37 as a starter.

— Jon Kitna went to the Lions after some success in Cincinnati as a starter in 2003 and as Carson Palmer’s backup. He was awful in Detroit, and I’m also certain he was decapitated at some point last season.

— Last year, quarterback Dan Orlovsky unwittingly ran through the back of the end zone for a safety while scrambling out of the pocket. The play epitomized the Lions’ 0-16 season.

Stafford is a 21-year-old quarterback heading to one of the worst franchises in NFL history. This seems like a very bad combination. I guess it could be worse, but the Hartz Mountains of Asia don’t have a football team.

Sure, Stafford is getting $41.7 million in guaranteed money. But at what cost?

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