It was not very long ago, just under two years to be exact, when there was massive debate among Lions fans about a franchise quarterback. After a winless season the Lions had the first overall selection of the 2009 NFL Draft. With that pick there was debate about which player to select. Should it be Matt Stafford or Mark Sanchez? There was also a lot of talk about trading that pick and others to the Denver Broncos for Jay Cutler.
Fast forward to the present and much has happened. Matt Stafford has been injured and missed significant time, but has flashed great promise. Mark Sanchez has had flashes of greatness followed by long periods of very average play. After Sunday’s NFC Championship it’s easy to say that the Jay Cutler story is just starting and it’s not a good one.
Mark Sanchez has been in the AFC Championship two straight years. Sanchez benefits from a very good run game and a great defense, but clearly as a second year player he has done some good things. He has also been very average for the most part. Yes he has won road playoff games and for those that only look at certain numbers there is no argument that one can make to say that Sanchez would have been the better pick.
It is my opinion that Mark Sanchez is a very average quarterback who benefits from a very good team. He plays behind a great offensive line, has very good running backs and one of the better defenses in the NFL. It should come as no surprise that the New York Jets have won playoff games. They are a very good football team.
Jay Cutler is an enigma to say the least. He put up great numbers in Denver only to be traded to the Chicago Bears after his third NFL season. It says something that the Broncos were willing to move past him. Finding a franchise quarterback is not an easy thing to do and trading that player away is significant. They did receiver Kyle Orton and multiple first round draft picks for him.
Jay Cutler was a turnover machine in 2009 and pulled it together in 2010 to put the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship game. We all know what happened in that one. Needless to say, most Bears fans would like to have that trade back if they had the chance today.
Jay Cutler is a big time quarterback but lacks very important intangibles, leadership foremost. He also suffers from horrible body language on the field and on the sidelines. He looks like he just doesn’t care and that is a huge problem for him to have. It will be very difficult for him to overcome the perception that most people have for him, the perception that he is a brat, that he is not tough enough and that he can’t be a leader.
We all know Matt Stafford’s story very well. We all know that he has to stay on the field for this comparison to be fair, for right now it is not. Make no mistake, Matt Stafford has enough of “it” that he has the ability to make this comparison seem silly down the road. I believe that the Lions made the right choice in April of 2009 in selecting Matt Stafford, especially over the prospect of trading for Cutler. Which player would Bears fans want today?
The Sanchez/Stafford comparison should draw argument as some will choose to simply choose the player who has won more, but I think it is more complicated than that. I love the idea that this team has Matt Stafford at quarterback and I would not want it any other way.