Column: QB or not QB: From Ron Wolf with Love

Two of the greatest NFL trades ever made, according to former Packers' GM Ron Wolf, involve Green Bay, but the important thing is the best trade EVER involved the Lions. And the player we got? The great Bobby Layne, whose framed picture hangs in the inner sanctum of all Lions Fans.

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By Frank J. Bunker Columnist

Being a Detroit Lions Fan bends the mind. I should know, I’ve been one most of my life. For all of you who wonder about how far beyond the bend they’ve taken me, here’s proof.

The other day, as a thought-experiment, I compared being a Lions Fan to finding a Bobby Layne bobble-head doll. To make things more puzzling, I discover the bobble-head is instead like one of those little Russian dolls that hold a series of smaller dolls, each inside the other.

Still thinking outside the box, while trying to keep from stepping over to sanity, I remembered what Winston Churchill said: "I cannot forecast to you the actions of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."

Wow. A real poser, that question. What’s it got to do with football?

Believe it or not, what he said about Russia applies to the NFL, particularly the upcoming 2002 NFL draft. If you can keep from nodding off, please read on.

When Lion Fans open the two halves of the Bobby Layne figure, they discover inside the Hall of Famer another, slightly smaller bobble-head. And then they pass through the likes of bobble-headed Russian dolls with the countenances of Karl Sweetan and Gary Danielson and Scott Mitchell you get to Charlie Batch and Mike McMahon.

What’s really weird is they’re all smiling as their heads move up and down. Now, even though the 2002 are both, debatably, quality quarterbacks, to many, those are pretty scary sights.

Unfortunately, the most scared of all aren’t defensive backs. They’re Lions Fans.

QB or not QB

In a nutshell, as it were, here’s the dilemma facing the Lions two months before the NFL draft:

On the one hand, the Lions #3 pick could land some all-pro power to the line-up.

On the other, the pick could be traded for multiple picks to land us all kinds of contributors, several of whom could be starters.

The choice seems easy right? Several guys can do more damage than one, in football and in Las Vegas.

But the QB spot is the most important, as I’ve heard said lately by Al Michael’s Hairdresser.

Keeping that in mind, I introduce an interesting press release, dated 10/19/01, from one Ron Wolf.

Now, I don’t like what this guy has done to the Detroit Lions over the years, this guy, but I will say the former Packers' GM knows football. If you haven’t seen this before, check out his list of the five biggest trades, taken from an official NFL press release.



1950 - Lions trade for QB Bobby Layne from New York Bulldogs for E Bob Mann. Layne goes on to throw for 26,000 yards, and help Detroit to three NFL titles. Wolf: "He was a Hall of Fame player who turned the Lions' franchise around."


1953 - Tied for second-largest trade in NFL history - 15 players. Colts trade T Mike McCormack, DT Don Colo, LB Tom Catlin, DB John Petitbon and G Herschell Forester to Browns for DBs Don Shula, Bert Rechichar and Carl Taseff, LB Ed Sharkey, E Gern Nagler, QB Harry Agganis, Ts Dick Batten and Shu Sheets, and Gs Art Spinney and Elmer Willhoite. Browns acquisitions help them to four title-game appearances in next five years and two championships. Wolf: "It gave the Browns a Hall of Famer (McCormack) and kept their dynasty intact."


1992 - Packers trade for QB Brett Favre from Atlanta for first-round draft choice. See above for results. Wolf: "When we made the deal, we knew we were going to sink or swim with him."


1959 - Packers trade for T Henry Jordan from Cleveland for a fourth-round choice. Jordan becomes a fixture in Packers dynasty. Plays in four Pro Bowls, seven NFL title games and Super Bowls I and II. Wolf: "A Hall of Famer."


1987 - 49ers trade for QB Steve Young from Tampa Bay for second- and fourth-round choices. Young proceeds to lead San Francisco to four NFC Championship Game appearances and capture Super Bowl XXIX title as MVP. Wolf: "He kept the legacy going."

-- courtesy NFL


Even though two of his picks involve Packers, the important thing is the best trade EVER involved the Lions. And the player we got? The great Bobby Layne, whose framed picture hangs in the inner sanctum of all Lions Fans.

One key stat I just made up for this argument goes like this. THE measure of the relative value of history’s great quarterbacks involves the number of championships the player meant per franchise, as well as that number as a percentage to the total number of championships. So, Favre, with 1 of the Pack’s 12 NFL championships has about 8.33 percent of the Title Town’s haul. As much as I like Favre as a player, think about Bart Starr’s 5 of 12 championships, or 41.6 percent. Pretty impressive.

Think now of Mr. Bobby Layne. The Lions obtained him from the New York Bulldogs?

He led the Lions for 3 championships of the 4 the Lions have won. That’s a stunning 75.0 percent. That, too, is pretty impressive.

Another interesting stat to think of is the total percentage of championships of the Packers and Lions versus the number of years the squads have been part of the NFL. How many possible championships has each team won?

For the Pack, which started play in the second NFL season of 1921, that means they’ve won 12 of a possible 81 championships, or 14.8% of all NFL titles belong to Green Bay. Hmmm. They don’t call it Title Town for nothing.

What’s even more depressing from the Lions’ standpoint is the total percentage of championships of the Lions versus the number of years the squad’s been part of the NFL. Since the first season in 1934, the Lions have won 4 of a possible 68 NFL championships. That’s a humbling 5.9%. And for the last 44 years, the contribution toward improving that statistic is exactly worth less than half a cheeselog.

THAT’s why a QB is so important. Meaning one player may be worth several players on the field. Even starters. And this is why, Lions Fans, this draft is such a dilemma, Bobby Layne bobble-head or no.

If I squint my eyes, the smallest bobble-head drops out from underneath all the others. It starts to look like Al Michaels. What’s scary is, he’s laughing.

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