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Season in Review: Quarterbacks

Going into the 2009 season with a rookie starting quarterback significantly lowered my expectations of the performance of the quarterback position. The results were right around what I was expecting; completion percentage in the low 50’s, 18-22 interceptions and very few wins. What I didn’t expect was to come away from the season with as much hope for Matthew Stafford’s future.

Joey Harrington had an impressive rookie season, even appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated as one of the NFL’s top “Young Guns.” Harrington’s career fizzled because of a lack of intangibles, lack of support from coaches and poor talent around him. Stafford from all appearances has the intangibles, he has the support of his coaches, now he just needs more talent around him.

I will be the first to admit I thought it was a mistake to start him right off the bat, and in some respects, it was. He started developing bad habits, had ball security issues, took a lot of hits and eventually got placed on Injured Reserve. Stafford also inspired his teammates, gave the team and fans hope for the future and learned a lot in the process. There is always significant risk in starting a rookie quarterback, and more often than not it backfires. The early reviews look like Stafford got the right amount of experience and made just enough mistakes to learn from them without having his confidence destroyed.

Here are some brief comments on each quarterback and what direction the Lions will take in the offseason.

Matthew Stafford: Obviously, Stafford is the future of the franchise and his first goal is to heal up during the offseason. He needs to take the next step in his development and leadership and put in the type of film study and throwing regimens that the great ones do. 2010 Season: Will be the starter

Daunte Culpepper: His play was completely erratic and his desire to be a starter became a mini-distraction at points during the season. He played his best in his first start against Pittsburgh and in his last start against Chicago. Everything in between was a disaster. 2010 Season: He should be replaced, but has the potential to return if the Lions can’t find a suitable replacement.

Drew Stanton: If he were a baseball player instead of a football player, he would be a relief pitcher. He can come in and provide a spark for a while, but he hasn’t been able to get it done over the long haul. Grading Stanton is difficult because there is a very limited body of work on which to judge him, one start and a handful of relief appearances in three years. 2010 Season: Should be back as inexpensive 3rd QB. With a solid offseason he could compete for the back up spot.

Offseason Goal(s): The Lions should be in the market for a veteran backup, but the options will be limited. It’s looking very likely that the 2010 season will be uncapped, so the free agent pool will be thin. Players will have to be in the league for six years to qualify as an unrestricted free agent instead of four. The best opportunity will most likely be players that have high salaries that haven’t lived up to them. Without a cap, teams will be able to cut players with high salaries without facing an accelerated cap hit. While there will be fewer unrestricted free agents, there should be more players being cut.

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