Monday, January 19, 2009

Lions Season Review, Part 1: Quarterbacks

Okay, I think I am going to take a look at each position group in separate posts, which is no doubt insane and will cause me to run out of here like a werewolf by the time I'm done, but what the hell, nothing can match the misery of 0-16 and so if I could handle that while it happened I'm sure I can handle this - probably. So, let's get on with it already.

We will start with the obvious, and that is, of course, quarterback, the cesspool and breeding ground for countless failed Lions seasons. They don't get more failed than 0-16 though, so it is pretty safe to say that this year's corps of signal callers went beyond the usual bumbling mediocrity and established a new low water mark for general incompetence and embarrassing ineptitude.

Going into the season it seemed like this was a position that was in somewhat capable hands. John Kitna had been a productive if mistake prone quarterback for the past couple of seasons in Detroit and had even had a pro bowl caliber season his last year as a starter in Cincinnati before Carson Palmer forced him out. I predicted that with Mike Martz gone that Kitna would see a decrease in his numbers but that his interceptions would also see a drop. Well . . .

758 yds, 5TD, 5INT, 72.2 passer rating

Those are Kitna's numbers for the year and will almost assuredly be the final numbers that Kitna puts up as a Lion. Of course, there's not really that much you can take away from them - other than they are painfully mediocre - because they were piled up in 4 measly games. It was at that point that Kitna's back went out or the team just said fuck it and told the dude to stay home, depending on who you believe. Regardless, it says something about Kitna and his ability to lead this team - or the lack thereof - that when he got hurt the team wasn't exactly falling all over itself to try to get him back on the field. Instead, they used the classic uh, don't call us we'll call you routine and for the rest of the season Kitna presumably sat on his ass and read the Bible while the Lions spectacularly failed.

Even with Kitna, the team was doomed to a painfully bad finish, but they probably could have snagged a win or two here or there. But with Kitna gone, the team was left in the hands of Safety Dan.

Sigh. No matter what he does - or more likely doesn't do - the rest of his career, Dan Orlovsky will always be remembered for deciding to merrily stroll out of the back of the end zone at the Metrodome in one of the most bizarre and genuinely retarded plays you will ever see. Oh, and by the way, the Lions lost that game by 2 points.

1616 yds, 8TD, 8INT, 72.6 passer rating

Those mediocre numbers would be Dan Orlovsky's, piled up in ten games, and if you'll look, they are startlingly similar to Kitna's. Unfortunately, for Kitna, those are bad numbers, the floor for him if you will, while with Orlovsky they are basically the ceiling, the best he can do. Orlovsky has a pop gun arm and isn't going to win any games for you. Unfortunately for the Lions, no one else on the team was going to either and so what happened isn't exactly the biggest surprise. Orlovsky was a below average quarterback on a terrible team, not exactly a recipe for even the barest competence. But when he broke his thumb, we found out that things could get even worse. Enter the Culpepper.

Daunte Culpepper used to be a good quarterback. He did. He once led my fantasy football team to a championship, so there is that. Unfortunately, in 2008, Daunte was a 300 pound quarterback coming off a serious knee injury which wrecked his career a few years ago. Since then, every year, it's been said that he's returning to his former self, he's got his mobility back, and some lucky team will ride his cannon arm to victory and parades and probably whores and drugs and everything else that comes along with being on an awesome football team. But no, it turns out that Daunte just sucks now. Whatever he had is gone, lost, and while you can make the excuse for him that he didn't have any time to really practice with the Lions, learn the plays, etc., the reality is that he's had an excuse for the last several seasons and sooner or later it's going to have to dawn on everyone that he's merely a past his prime quarterback whose window closed a while ago. He hasn't come back and he's not coming back.

786 yds, 4TD, 6INT, 63.9 passer rating

That's what Daunte managed in five game with the Lions before he too was injured. And what they show is what everyone saw on the field, a dude who pretty much sucked copious amounts of dick with the Lions. It seemed like in every game he played that Daunte would make one big play to Calvin Johnson and then would go quiet for the rest of the game, turfing balls and throwing stupid interceptions until the Lions were safely beaten once again. His reign as the Detroit quarterback was short and brutal, and I would like to never speak of it again.

Of course, the hidden story in all of this is that the Lions so called quarterback of the future, Drew Stanton, never started a single game while all of this madness was going on. Through all the ineptitude and all the apocalyptic horrors that went on, it seems like the coaching staff never seriously considered giving him a shot. And while there are those who will say that he deserved this shot, and will use it to condemn an already condemned coach in Rod Marinelli, isn't it more likely that Drew Stanton just isn't any good? I mean, the dude couldn't beat out a guy with a broken thumb who liked to take long walks on end zone lines, or a guy who was woefully out of shape, hadn't played all season, and spent the week before his first game acting as the chauffer for his daughter. And we're supposed to believe that if he were the starter that the Lions would have fared any better? Please. Stanton got in the game as a garbage time QB on a few occasions and looked overmatched. His first game he looked like he was hyperventilating in the huddle. His last game he was concussed. So much for the future.

Drew Henson also got in a couple of snaps for the Lions with everybody else dead or dying, and he was sacked more times than he actually managed to throw the ball. I don't think anything else needs to be said there.

What we learned: We learned that the Lions need a quarterback - badly. Before the season, I predicted that the Lions would be fairly mediocre at quarterback with John Kitna in there. I also predicted the apocalypse if Kitna was injured. Well, that's pretty much exactly what happened. When Kitna went down, a sinking ship broke completely apart and became unsalvageable. 0-4 quickly turned into 0-16 and a big reason for that was the inability of the Lions remaining quarterbacks to make any plays. And while Orlovsky at times looked like he might give the Lions a chance, in the end the scoreboard always read the wrong way for the Lions. He simply doesn't have the arm or the overall talent to be the guy to lead this or any other team. Meanwhile, it was confirmed that Daunte Culpepper is pretty much finished and that Drew Stanton is pretty much a bust. Shit got so bad that I routinely called for the coaches to just say fuck it and run the Wildcat with Calvin Johnson even though I knew it would lead to St. Calvin's untimely death. What happened at quarterback was pretty much the worst case scenario for the Lions, and like just about everything else this season, it was the scenario that ended up playing out.

What we can expect: Kitna will be gone. I suspect Culpepper will be done too. Orlovsky will probably stick around as the backup. Maybe. Who knows? But what really needs to happen here is pretty much a complete overhaul. All of these guys have the stink of complete failure on them now. Everybody on the team does, but these guys, as the quarterbacks, have it even more. When a team wins the Super Bowl, the quarterback is always the guy who gets the most glory. It's just the way it works. Hell, everybody even remembers Trent Dilfer for being a dude who just didn't fuck up for the Ravens when they won it all. It works the other way too. 0-16 isn't something that can be forgotten and Kitna, Orlovsky, Culpepper and Stanton have to deal with that. They just probably shouldn't do it in Detroit. More than likely, the Lions will draft Matt Stafford, the Georgia quarterback with the rocket arm who the scouts are drooling over. Maybe that will work out, maybe not, but with Matt Cassel being brought back by the Patriots, the Lions almost have to go through the draft to find their quarterback. I'm not all that optimistic. This is a team whose last three first round draft picks at quarterback have been Joey Harrington, Andre Ware and Chuck Long. That doesn't engender a whole lot of confidence, but who knows, maybe Stafford's tendency to get out of shape and make crucial mistakes in big games won't follow him to the pros. I doubt it, but what the hell, onward and upward and all that. Personally, I just hope that someday soon we can find someone, anyone, whether it be through the draft, through free agency, or a dude bagging groceries, who can give the Lions something we haven't had in fifty years, and that is a quarterback who when the game is on the line can make us smile and think that everything will be alright. I know, I know, but a dude can dream, can't he? At least I didn't start rambling about NAZIS or anything in this post.

What I Said Before the Season: Grade: C- if Kitna doesn't fuck anything up too badly, D+ if he is the Kitna I expect him to be and F if either Orlovsky or Stanton have to play.

Final Grade: I almost said D- because there were times when Orlovsky didn't look completely horrible, but . . . 0-16, you know? F.


Ty said...

Absolutely classic stuff. I laughed out loud three or four times . . . and I gasped when I saw Kitna and Orlovksy's numbers. I'm not sure if it proves Kitna's no good, proves Dan-O's better than I thought he was, or proves it's the fault of the sievesque O-line and horrible coaching . . . but it's eyebrow raising. As for 'pepper?

"It seemed like in every game he played that Daunte would make one big play to Calvin Johnson and then would go quiet for the rest of the game, turfing balls and throwing stupid interceptions until the Lions were safely beaten once again."

To me, this has always been Culpepper's game. He had a wall of future HoF linemen in front of him, a monster tailback in Robert Smith behind him, and Randy Moss and Cris Carter to throw to. He'd land a 50-yarder to Moss, and a garbage time score to Carter, and be absolutely putrid in between, the Vikes would lose, and the football world would say, "Eh, he got 260 yards and 2 TDs. Threw a crucial pick and lost a fumble at the goal line, but hey I won my fantasy game. Culpepper for MVP!!"

Neil said...

Thanks man. I expect I will go mad by the time I get to the defense. It will be . . . ugly.

Harpo said...