Training camp can’t come fast enough. It’s only ten days away and after not having any actual Lions football to write about for over six months it feels like it’s never going to get here. I still have a couple more articles to write before the players report to Allen Park on July 26th, and I’m tired of reading all of the top ten lists out there. I noticed that I haven’t written a piece lately on how great Matthew Stafford is.
As a lifelong fan who’s long in the tooth and has witnessed the parade of–let’s be nice here–‘marginal’ quarterbacks the Lions have trotted out there, I can’t say enough about the current quarterback situation for the Lions. Matt Stafford has all the markings of a future Hall of Fame quarterback. He had the second-best season a 23 year old has EVER had in the NFL, Dan Marino being the best. His 5,038 yards in passing was the fifth most in NFL history. I know I’m gushing over him but I can’t help myself. I’ve been watching the NFL since the days when they were only black and white images on the TV. I’ve admired the work of John Elway, Terry Bradshaw, Dan Fouts and others who commanded the game from the most important position in sports. I’ve watched those guys knowing all along that my beloved Lions usually had crap at that position. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Lions have had only one quarterback, Greg Landry in 1970, make the Pro Bowl and the fact that they’ve never been close enough to even sniff the Super Bowl. I don’t have to be jealous anymore.
The likes of a Matthew Stafford has never been seen in Detroit in my lifetime. I never saw Bobby Layne play, but even though he was a winner, he threw the worst spiral in NFL history. The Lions have had high first round draft choices come through town before, but we knew they didn’t have what it takes. Did anyone REALLY think Joey “Blue Skies” Harrington was going to lead the tough city of Detroit to a championship with that demeanor? Everyone knew Andre Ware was hopeless after discovering that his favorite target was the carpet of the Silverdome. We’ve had guys come out of nowhere, like Eric Hipple, to make a big splash only to fade away just as quickly as the came. The free agent market brought us Scott Mitchell, whose psyche was as fragile as a candle in the wind.
I remember when Matt Stafford first got to town. After only a couple of practices, Mike O’Hara, “The Godfather” of writing about Detroit lions football, reported after watching Stafford in practice, and MORE importantly, around his teammates in the locker room, that he “got it”. Whatever “it” is, Stafford has it. He was right on the money with that observation. After winning the Comeback player of the Year award at the ESPYs last week, Stafford said “I just want to say how thankful I am to share this with the city of Detroit that’s on a comeback of its own. The city has been through a lot and we’re just one of the teams there that are trying to make them happy and proud, give them something to cheer for.”
I think Stafford is fast becoming the symbol of his new home in Detroit. Cities take a lot of pride in their sports teams, and the Lions are finally starting to make Detroit proud and like Coach Schwartz says, “It all starts with Number nine”.