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Starting Stafford Too Huge a Risk for Lions

DETROIT – After seeing rookie sensations Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco evolve into legitimate starters last year in the Matthew StaffordNFL, the temptation was too much for the Detroit Lions and Coach Jim Schwartz.

With the season opening September 13th with a road game in New Orleans followed by a visit from the Minnesota Vikings, Schwartz ignored the risks and named Matthew Stafford the starter.

Putting the young slinger across from Minnesota’s swarming defensive line just eight days into his NFL career may evolve into a human sacrifice and reinvent the name ‘Purple People Eaters’ for the Vikings.

The Vikings sacked Lions quarterbacks a total of 10 times in the two games last year. That is a risky scenario to place a young rookie quarterback in who is trying to build confidence.

Stafford has an incredible arm, there’s no doubt about that but it’s hard to throw with a 300-lb. lineman’s arms wrapped around you.

We’ve been hearing the Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco theories but those two rookies stood behind proven offensive lines last year and were given plenty of protection throughout their 11-5 seasons. There’s talk about how improved the Lions O line is this year but why not wait a few weeks to verify that.

The league’s best quarterbacks crumble under excessive pressure up front, even Tom Brady as seen in the Super Bowl game when the New York Giants knocked Brady totally off his game upsetting the heavily-favored New England Patriots.

The NFL game is a sprint compared to NCAA and Stafford could have gotten a feel for the pace and speed of the game by watching the first few Sundays from the sidelines.

There would be a lesser argument for handing Stafford a clipboard and headset in New Orleans if this were a ‘Stafford vs. Stanton’ or a ‘Stafford vs. Orlovsky’ debate but the Lions have a proven Pro Bowl quarterback on their roster, Daunte Culpepper who has thrown for 23,208 yards in his career. That’s 13 miles; more than 232 football fields.

Culpepper deserves a legitimate chance to reinvent himself. It happens all the time. John Travolta did it on the screen with Pulp Fiction; Chad Pennington did it on the field with Miami last year.

Culpepper, the three-time Pro Bowl player showed up 30 pounds lighter in game shape before the season started expecting to start. Now that he finds himself out of the starting position he was never given a chance to lose, there may be some bad locker room karma heading the Lions way.

When Daunte joined the Lions in October 2008 we covered that story, “Daunte Should Avoid the Lions”. The Lions have a knack for finishing player’s careers on a sour note (Google Tatum Bell and Marcus Pollard). If Culpepper sits rotting away on the bench while he has some arm left, he could join that group. You have to wonder; Will Daunte ask to be traded?

Culpepper appears committed to again making a mark in the NFL and he cannot do that collecting splinters on the bench.

Playing against former teams brings the best out of athletes as we see ever week when ex-Lions visit Detroit and have career days after being traded or cut. I would have expected the best out of Daunte against his former Vikings team during Week Two at Ford Field.

The logical decision would have been to sit Stafford for at least two weeks then re-evaluate his progress, the O line and the team then go from there. William Clay Ford is always more interested in selling tickets as in the case with hurrying quarterback Joey Harrington, a first-round dud that was never given a fair chance to develop.

The Lions got impatient. This is clearly a rebuilding time, just as the past decade has been so what would a few more weeks of development have mattered?

 This is unlikely to be a playoff season but the Lions are taking a chance of destroying the confidence of their franchise $78 million investment-another reason this team is, and may always be, destined to be a loser.

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More Matthew Stafford Articles:

Get Ready Lions, Stafford Knows How to Party!

Why Stafford and Detroit Lions are a Bad Marriage

Bitch-Slap-of-the-Week – Matthew Stafford

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