Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Ballad Of Ol' Plucky: The Final Verse (I Mean It This Time)

Drew Stanton, chillin' with his bros. If this were Matthew Stafford, those bros would be girls and, well, that's the difference between a star starting quarterback in the NFL and whatever the hell Drew Stanton is. Is that a ridiculous and offensive thing to say? Yes, but then again I am a ridiculous and occasionally offensive man. I contain multitudes, what can I say?

I know I blathered on yesterday about how time was against me and then proceeded to write a billion words making me look like an insufferable ass, but today I mean it, damn it. And yeah, yeah, I know that you all just rolled your eyes and thought “Jesus, this guy, eh?” but I am just throwing it out there in case you get to the end of this post and think “Hey, wait a minute, where’s the rest?” So there. Oh, also, because Friday is Christmas Eve, I’m going to do the preview post on Thursday which means that The Great Willie Young will have to be put on hiatus, which makes me sad, but fuck it, what are you gonna do? This will also happen next week considering that Friday is New Year’s Eve which means that we have likely seen the last of The Adventures of the Great Willie Young. At least for the rest of this season. I’ll probably throw a few more of his glorious tales out there in the offseason when nothing else is going on, so don’t fret mon amis.

Anyway, today I guess I have to talk about Drew Stanton again. I don’t blame you if you just pushed away from your computer in disgust. I don’t like it either. It is especially galling since I vowed just last week to never talk about him again. And now here we are, and I have talked about him in every post since then. This has made me look like a tremendous ass and I apologize. But to hell with all that, Drew Stanton just keeps rising from the deeps and taunting me and there’s no way that I can let that go. The narrative has changed. I no longer hate Ol’ Plucky but that doesn’t mean I’m all that fond of him either, you know? Part of making my peace with him was the knowledge that he would soon be gone and that I wouldn’t have to deal with any of, well, any of this anymore.

And so I cheered him on against the Bucs, my soul finally unburdened of the massive hate boner that I had been lugging around with me for far too long. I’ll pause while you acquire the mental image of me dragging around a gigantic hate boner. Also, you should probably note that a hate boner is up to ten times more dense than a normal boner due to the intense concentration of pure hate right at the center. Okay, got it? Good. I was happy that he did well because he was the quarterback for the Detroit Lions. I had come to an understanding with Drew Stanton’s place on the team and that allowed me to accept him for what he was – and for what he isn’t.

It’s that last part that seems to have gotten lost for some people in the aftermath of the Lions win over Tampa Bay. Ty wrote a little piece last night that basically reminded everyone that the Lions are still just a 4-10 team and we need to calm the fuck down and reign in our expectations for the rest of the season. I feel the same way about Stanton. After the win, it came to my attention that there were people calling in to the horrible, horrible land of talk radio and demanding – yes demanding – that Stanton be named the starting quarterback for next season. I’ll pause again to give you time to let that whacky shit sink in.

Okay. If you are done laughing your ass off or hyperventilating into a paper bag, we can move on. That little anecdote is possibly apocryphal since I wouldn’t listen to sports talk radio if you put a gun filled with AIDS and aged whale semen to my head. Someone somewhere out there is probably shaking their head and thinking that this is irresponsible on my part, but here is where I say that I am not a journalist and I really don’t give a fuck. Whether or not this actually happened – I was told that it did, and in my lazy defense, that’s enough for me to work with – I can believe that it happened because people are incredibly stupid.

I, uh . . . do I really need to argue the counter to that ridiculous bullshit? I hope not. But that’s not really the point here. That is the extreme reaction of hysterical retards and there is no point in arguing with extremists, you know? They will just babble at you wide eyed and vacant, possessed by some evil kind of stupidity that neither you nor I can truly comprehend. You just have to let them talk themselves into oblivion and then wave goodbye as they tumble off a cliff of retardation. The point is, is that if that extreme reaction is out there, it means that there are probably a sizable number of people who aren’t willing to go that far but are at least willing to respect the idea in spirit. These are the people who I kind of want to yell at here.

Stanton is what he is. It would be wrong to diminish that at this point and to do so would be a naked exercise in bitter delusion. He’s not a horrible quarterback. Not anymore. I still don’t believe he is even a quality backup – he’s far too inconsistent and needs to be heavily protected by a sound gameplan – but I’m now willing to say that he can probably latch on somewhere as a lower tier backup. And by that, I mean some team can probably live with him as their backup if they can’t find anyone else. I know that sounds like hilariously faint praise, but if you have followed anything I’ve written about Ol’ Plucky, you know it’s damn near miraculous that I even went that far.

But I think that it’s accurate. Let’s all agree, right now, that anyone who thinks that Stanton is a reasonable regular starting quarterback in the NFL is delusional. Can we do that? Please? Okay. The real question becomes, then, is he capable of being a solid backup quarterback? And that’s where I fear a lot of us will still disagree. Like I said in the last paragraph, I think that some team could live with Stanton as a backup if they can’t find anyone else. If they can’t find anyone else. That is the key phrase there. The problem with Stanton is that you never know when you’re going to get a game like he played on Sunday against the Bucs or whether he’s going to waddle off the field after shitting his pants like he did against the Packers. You need to be able to rely on your backup more than that.

Further, his consistency problem is one that’s not likely to be corrected with experience. That’s an important point – maybe the most important point – that people need to keep in mind. Often times, young quarterbacks who are inconsistent are inconsistent because they are stupid. They grow and they mature, the game slows down for them and they are able to use their natural talent in a controlled way. Stanton’s inconsistency on the other hand is largely defined by the team around him. If things are going well – if the running game is firing and the defense is playing well and the offensive coordinator understands how to use him and his receivers are helping him out – he can be a functional NFL quarterback. And sometimes, even if all of that is happening, he’ll still shit all over himself. Again, think back to the game against the Packers. If even one of those things is off, he’s screwed. If the running game isn’t working, then that forces Stanton to make plays, which he can’t do because he has no arm. Stanton needs to be kept on schedule, which is to say that he needs to be asked to throw on 2nd and 6 or 3rd and 4 rather than on 3rd and 12. If you’re forced to ask Stanton to make plays on 3rd and 12, well, get ready for a shit ton of Yakety Sax. If the defense isn’t playing well, then it’s going to require your quarterback to make plays to keep the offense in the game. Once again, this is a recipe for disaster when it comes to Stanton. He will press and he will throw interceptions or take horrible sacks or try to dribble the ball or something stupid like that. If his offensive coordinator doesn’t understand how to use him, and sends receivers deep or asks Stanton to drop throws in over the shoulder or anything like that, you’re just going to get a bunch of wild incompletions and terrible interceptions. The dude has no arm strength and even worse, he has no touch. You can live with a noodle armed quarterback if he has machine like accuracy and is capable of putting the ball right on the spot. Stanton doesn’t and he can’t. If you ask him to do this, you will be fucked. If Stanton’s receivers aren’t named St. Calvin and aren’t bailing him out when he throws a marginal pass, you’re going to see a whole lot of frustrating incompletions and you will likely spend your day beating your loved ones and eating your own fist.

I feel like that pretty much sums it up, you know? I mean, that is just a mountain of things that need to go right in order for Stanton to be at all successful. You just can’t count on that. You can’t. You need all of that to happen and you need Stanton to be at the top of his game. When that happens, you can win with him. That’s what’s happened the last two weeks. Hell, really, it only happened in the game against the Bucs. The game against the Packers shouldn’t really be used to bolster the pro-Stanton argument since that game saw a super-human effort by the defense and the Stanton led Lions only scored 7 points. The point is, is that in order for Stanton to be at all effective, the stars have to align for you perfectly. They did against the Bucs, miraculously, but this is not something that is likely to repeat itself with any regularity.

Look, I have made my feelings on Stanton known, but I don’t think I’m being unfair to Ol’ Plucky here. He is what he is. I am willing to accept that, both the good and the bad. I just wish people who only want to see the good would be just as honest with themselves about the situation. I mean, there is a reason why the Lions keep trying to rush Shaun Hill back out onto the field, and that’s because he’s clearly – clearly – a better option. You just can’t rely on Stanton. You can’t. The coaches know this. They understand this and it’s reflected by their actions.

I understand that there are fans who want to see Stanton do well. Maybe they love his Ol’ Pluckiness and his Ecksteinian Grit and all that bullshit or maybe they love the fact that he is a local boy who played for Michigan St. Or maybe – God help them – they actually feel like he is an untapped mine of talent. And I think that a lot of these fans would love to see Stanton grab the backup job from Shaun Hill. I am not one of those fans. Even if Stanton plays out of his mind and proves that he deserves to at least be in the conversation when it comes to the number two quarterback, I don’t want him there. He’s not going to be better than Shaun Hill. He’s just not. But assuming that he somehow manages to prove himself Hill’s equal, I still say no. I know that a lot of fans would pick Stanton in an instant for all of the various reasons I mentioned earlier, but no . . . just, no. There has been too much damage done. There is too much of a stink on Stanton that will never be completely washed off. Even though I have made my peace with Ol’ Plucky, I will always see Millen in him. I will always see Marinelli and Joey Harrington and Charles Rogers and all the rest. We need a divorce. It’s the only way either one of us is going to be happy.

I’m glad that Drew Stanton played so well against the Buccaneers. He was the quarterback who led us to our first road victory in three years. He will always have that, and I’m glad that he will. I’m glad that when I think about him, that will pop into my head. I’m glad that we were able to salvage something beautiful out of this ugly relationship. But it’s too late and if we keep pressing our luck there will be many, many more ugly moments than there will be beautiful ones so for all of us, I think we need to just give Stanton his respect knucks here, and then open the door and show him out. It’s time.


JP said...

In a way it's almost fitting that it was Plucky that ended the road losing streak that began under Marinelli, the same coach that threw him under the bus and said that he would "embarass himself" if allowed to play. And while he has occasionally shit himself, it's not like Rod has a real good record when it comes to that either, I mean when the guy walks, it really does look like he shit himself. Maybe it just takes one to know one.

But yeah, it's time to spread those gritty wings and find his way to another team.

Oh and by the way, I wish I had more time to comment because just about everything posted this week has been pure gold, and I feel like I'm just not supportive enough for the magic that routinely goes on here. And I really hope that Matt S(?) keeps sending you those emails, because the both that I've read have been piss your pants, milk out the nose, cant take a breath funny.

Neil said...

Thanks as always, JP. You are part of the weird little family here and I appreciate your comments, my dude.

And yeah, Stanton being the one to QB the team to its first road victory is one of those weird things that in retrospect just makes perfect sense. Like, of course he was the guy, you know?

Also, Matt does those every time the Lions win, meaning that there haven't been a lot of them the last few years, but hopefully it also means that we'll get to see them more often in the future. If anything, it gives us one more reason to root for the Lions. Just this past week, he sent me the ones that he did for the wins earlier this season and the ones from last season, and I'll probably put those up one at a time after the season is over. So you have that to look forward to.

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