3. Aaron Rodgers- Quarterback (2005)
I wanted to put Aaron Rodgers at number one on this list, but reading a similar post at the Pride of Detroit site talked me out of it. Last year, Mike Payton tackled this particular juicy what-if scenario, one that isn’t talked about too often.
The Lions had an iffy quarterback situation in 2005, with Joey Harrington falling out of favor, and the number ten overall pick. Aaron Rodgers dropped way lower than anyone predicted, fell right into Matt Millen’s lap, and the Lions didn’t take him.
Considering the type of career Rodgers has had, including treating the Lions like his personal voodoo doll over and over, poking, prodding, and torturing us, on the surface this seems like a franchise-altering miss. Not so fast, according to Payton via SB Nation’s Pride of Detroit.
"“Because the reality is that probably even in this alternate universe, the Lions still have all the same problems. Charles Rogers still winds up flushing out of the league after 2005, Kevin Jones gets hurt and never fully recovers, Roy Williams never fully realizes his potential.”"
Payton gives a much needed reminder that during this period, the Lions were more than just a struggling team, and even more than just a perennially bad team. For a five year stretch, bad luck, terrible coaching, and even worse (mis)management in the front office was mixing and laying the ground work for the worst team in the history of the league.
As Payton plays out the scenario, he suggests that even if Rodgers were good enough to singlehandedly turn the tide on a few games per season, due to the other talent gaps, the Lions would still be topping out at five to seven years per season during that period. And who would take the fall for that? Payton continues …
"“… as we’ve learned from Matthew Stafford, having a really good quarterback on a crappy team is not good enough. Someone has to take the blame. It’s always the quarterback. In this case, it’s Rodgers.”"
Seeing some of the criticism leveled at Matthew Stafford through the years, it’s hard to argue with that. If after four years the Lions still weren’t very close to playoff level, Rodgers’s rookie contract would be up, the Lions would still be picking near the top of the draft, and still searching for a quarterback. Which somehow still brings them back in position to draft Matthew Stafford in 2009.
The logic isn’t perfect, and I do think Rodgers could have made a big difference in Detroit. I’m still including passing on him as a major draft day regret, but it’s not number one.
Lions drafted instead: Mike Williams
For the third year in a row, the Lions drafted a wide receiver in the top ten. Starting quarterback Joey Harrington lasted only one more year in Detroit, Mike Williams was a colossal bust, and Aaron Rodgers went to our biggest rivals and has been waterboarding us twice a year ever since.