Training camp is nine days in and every Lions fan has seen the news. “Matthew Stafford looks great,” “Stafford impresses teammates and coaches alike,” “Matthew Stafford is the real deal.” However, we’ve all seen this before. In August of 2002, Lions fans succumbed to the nastiest four-letter word of them all, hope.
Joey Harrington was impressive in training camp, wowing everybody with his accuracy and intelligence. Mike McMahon would only hold him off for so long and then lead the Lions into the future. Harrington had a promising rookie year, Mooch was hired and undermined Harrington in his second season and then he became a punch line in his third and fourth years.
Stafford isn’t much different at this point. Harrington was a Heisman candidate, Stafford was the star quarterback on the top ranked team in the country going into his final season. Harrington had great accuracy, mechanics and was a proven winner. His detractors said he was a system quarterback, didn’t have a strong enough arm and he was over hyped. Stafford has the big arm, has been in the spotlight since high school and came from a pro-style system. His detractors question his decision-making, accuracy and maturity.
Harrington was cheered heartily when he debuted in Ford Field and later that season was on the cover of Sports Illustrated as one of the promising young guns of the future, where did hope turn to hate?
Last season Harrington spoke about how he wasn’t ready to start but the coaches put him in there. He started to feel more comfortable as the season went along because Morninwheg allowed Joey to take shots downfield and take risks, however that all changed when Mooch came to town. Mooch was a very conservative play caller and despised turnovers. Harrington said the pressure of avoiding turnovers handcuffed him and made him second-guess everything he did. The confidence he gained his rookie year evaporated.
Stafford has a luxury that Harrington was not afforded, and that is the support of the organization. The front office and coaching staff are behind him, Harrington was a scapegoat. Stafford was drafted to fit this coaching staff’s vision; Harrington was a square peg being jammed into a round hole. Stafford seemingly has captured the support of the fans and locker room, but until there are results showing in the win column, I will keep my expectations tempered.