Stafford Provides One Sure Thing: Hope

On the heels of the National Football League’s most futile season, the Detroit Lions are looking to Matthew Stafford to provide the spark they need to revitalize the franchise.'s Mike Mady analyzes the risk and reward associated with Detroit's new No. 1 pick.

On the heels of the National Football League’s most futile season, the Detroit Lions are looking to Matthew Stafford to provide the spark they need to revitalize the franchise.

Owning the first overall pick in the draft, the Lions decided that Stafford represented the best on-the-field, long-term prospect for their organization. Also, the Lions decided that Stafford offered the most immediate gain off of the field.

On the field, the thought is Stafford will develop into the franchise signal caller that the Lions haven’t had since – as Jim Schwartz put it – Bobby Layne. The belief that Stafford will provide stability to the game’s most important position cemented him as the draft’s top pick.

The Lions’ confidence in Stafford is a characteristic shared by the decision makers who selected Peyton Manning No. 1 overall and Tim Couch No. 1 overall. The selection of a quarterback is a high risk/high reward pick as a poor selection can set a franchise back 10 years but the rewards of obtaining an elite quarterback can provide a team with a decade of success.

HEIGHT ::  6-3  WEIGHT ::  238
2008 (Georgia) Stats
Rating 153.54
Touchdowns 25
Yards 3,459
Interceptions 10
Completion % 61.4
Stafford led Georgia to a 27-6 overall record in three seasons. He declared with one remaining year of eligibility.

It may be a year or two before we know which of the above scenarios plays out for the Lions, but we can look at recent history to potentially enlighten us.

In the last 11 years, 17 quarterbacks have been selected in the top-10, eight of which went No. 1 overall. Some of the recent selections (Vince Young, JaMarcus Russell and Matt Leinart) can’t be distinguished as successful or failed picks at this point of time. Of the remaining 14 top-10 selections, seven can be argued as ‘busts’ and the remaining seven developed into productive starters that propelled their team to winning records, division crowns and – in some cases – even Super Bowls.

Of the eight top selections, four have panned out and three have terribly failed, with Russell being the variable that could balance the scales.

So, as it appears, the above information provides little insight towards predicting Stafford’s future but a closer look may provide some assurance to fans. Of his draft-worth predecessors, there are four teams that twice used a top-10 pick on a quarterback within an eight-year span. Those teams are the Indianapolis Colts, San Diego Chargers, Cincinati Bengals and Atlanta Falcons. All of them got it right the second time.

The Colts went from Jeff George to Peyton Manning, the Chargers went from Ryan Leaf to Phillip Rivers (although they traded Eli Manning for him) and the Bengals went from Akili Smith to Carson Palmer. The Falcons’ original selection of Michael Vick shouldn’t be considered a bust but off-the-field issues forced them to replace him with Matt Ryan.

The Lions used the No. 3 overall pick in the 2002 draft to select Joey Harrington, needless to say, the selection turned out to be a failure. Will the Lions further the trend and finally enjoy the fruits of a successful quarterback?

As mentioned above, the on-field impact may not be evident for a year or two, but the off-field impact should be immediate, which may have been the reason Stafford was irresistible to the Lions.

The Lions are a team with a tarnished reputation and a restless fan base. The team struggled to sell out games last season and had little to offer fans to entice them to consistently attend games. Detroit has gone two-consecutive years without a pro-bowler and hasn’t enjoyed a winning season since 2000 or the playoffs since 1999.

The Lions finally have something to sell to the fans.

Stafford will immediately create excitement for the team, as a star-quarterback’s marketability is unrivaled in football. The Lions already have one of the league’s best receivers in Calvin Jonson and the Stafford-to-Jonson cheers have already begun with some fans.

Even though it’s unlikely Stafford will be the opening-day starter -- or even start a game this season, you can expect to see many fans with STAFFORD stitched onto their back in the confines of Ford Field.

As the adage goes, offense sells tickets and defense wins championships and with no reason to believe there is a championship in the Lions’ immediate future, the Lions’ management should at least enjoy increased ticket sales.

For the Lions, Stafford is hope. He’s their chance to break free from mediocrity and, for the first time in recent memory, give the fans something to cheer for.

Lions Report Top Stories