Friday, November 6, 2009

Thoughts on the Lions' Fat-Faced Franchise QB, plus Week Nine Picks

An Honest Question About Matthew Stafford

The other day, while watching Monday Night Football at Boston’s Pizzeria, a guy by the name of Jon Timmer asked the question, “How good is Matthew Stafford… like where does he rank from 1-32?” My immediate answer, “Probably around 38 or 40.” A guy by the name of Crazy Keith agreed with me. I began to think of all the backup QBs in the league that are more appealing starting options than Stafford, and there were a lot of them. This honest question that Timmer posed is intriguing, especially considering that the Lions drafted Matt Stafford with the 1st overall pick and are paying him the kind of money I can’t even dream about.

There are three ways to look at Timmer’s question:

Rank every quarterback in the league, with their current contracts.

Rank every quarterback if signed to a hypothetical 1-year, $5 million dollar deal, to win the 2010 Super Bowl.

Rank every quarterback, signed to a 6-year, $50 million dollar deal, to be your franchise QB.

With each question the list changes significantly. Let’s start with the first one. Of all the quarterbacks in the NFL, current contracts included, where would I rank Matthew Stafford?

Dead last. That’s right, last. Worst. Assuming every team has 3 QBs on the roster, that’s 96th out of 96. There are some terrible QBs out there, and some terribly overpaid QBs, but there are only two guys who fit into both categories: Matt Stafford, and JaMarcus Russell. Unlike Russell, Stafford actually has a snowball’s chance in hell of one day being a legitimate quarterback. But the reason I’d rather have Russell and his current deal is that 2 of the 6 years on his deal are already done; I’d rather be stuck with Russell for 4 years and about $42 million than Stafford for 6 years and $72 million. No question.

In fact, of all the players in the entire NFL, there is no one I would want LESS than Matt Stafford, current contracts included. The only close choices are Russell, Albert Haynesworth ($100+ over the next seven years) or Terrell Suggs (6 years, $63 million) or perhaps Eli Manning’s $107 million contract. All of these players are preposterously overpaid. But the difference between them and Stafford? They can all actually help you win. Stafford can help you lose.

Which leads to the next question: if I could sign any quarterback to a 1-year contract for 2010 and pay them all a constant salary, who would it be, and where would Stafford rank?

I’ve tackled this conundrum before, but usually at the top of the list, debating the merits of Pro Bowl caliber quarterbacks. Not unless you’re a Lions fan do you even need to think about the bottom of the list. But anyway…

Numbers 1-3

Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees.
Or Brees, Brady, and Manning.
Or Brady, Manning, Brees.

In some order. That’s a debate to be resolved some other time – like the 2009 postseason. For now, it’s obvious that those are your top three, and I have no idea which order to rank them in.

4 - Ben Roethlisberger.

For the first five years of his career, all he did was win Super Bowls. Now he studies defenses; he has mastered the pump fake; he is unquestionably the best out-of-the-pocket QB in the NFL. And, he’s one of the best two-minute-drill QBs. He really is becoming the total package. The only thing he lacks is a likeable personality.

5 – Brett Favre.

He’s proved the doubters wrong this year, leading Minnesota to a 7-1 record and smoking Green Bay twice. Why is he the fifth best quarterback to sign to a one-year deal, even at the gray age of 40? Because he’s got more than 475 games of NFL experience; that’s almost a solid month of on-the-field game experience. Compare that to rising star Matt Ryan, who has less than 24 hours of on-field NFL experience.

6 – Kurt Warner

With Warner coming off a six-turnover game, the timing for this ranking isn’t very good. But that’s what you get with Kurt: some stinkbombs along with some 400 yard masterpieces. He showed last year that he knows how to lead and win in the playoffs, and that’s what I want if all I’m getting is a one-year deal. Plus, he’s a born-again Christian. That’s gotta count for something.

7 – Aaron Rodgers

If not for the Packers’ leaky offensive line, A-Rod would be having a much better season, and the Pack would be 5-2, at least. He’s wouldn’t get any better protection from the hypothetical 2010 Lions, but he remains a strong-armed, mobile and smart QB who would excel on a better offense.

Numbers 8 - 19

Carson Palmer, Matt Ryan, Phillip Rivers, Matt Schaub, Tony Romo, Joe Flacco, Donovan McNabb, Eli Manning, Matt Hasslebeck, Jay Cutler, Kyle Orton, David Garrard.

In some order, that’s twelve starting quarterbacks who are undoubtedly better than Matt Stafford, hands down, not even close, no question about it. There’s a time and a place to rank them more accurately, but this isn’t it.

20 – Kevin Kolb
The best back-up in the NFL, and maybe a top-10 QB when he gets his chance to shine someday.

21 - 23
Matt Cassel, Kerry Collins, Jake Delhomme.
All having bad seasons, but all had great seasons last year. I’d rather have a guy who sucks but has proven that he can play, than a guy who sucks and has no track record.

24 – Mark Sanchez.
Stafford’s fellow rookie QB has played some awful games as of late, but he hasn’t played down to the level of Mr. Stafford yet. His team is still gaining yards and he can still throw with some accuracy. Sanchez has 8 TDs and 10 picks; Stafford has 3 TDs and 7 picks. Stafford’s run the ball in twice, but Sanchez has run in three times. Plus Sanchez didn’t miss three games with a (fake) injury, all because he didn’t want to look stupid against Pittsburgh (like Stafford did).

25 – 26
Alex Smith, Shaun Hill.
I’m not sure what to make of the 49ers situation, but I know for sure that both of these guys are better right now than Matthew.

27 – Jim Sorgi.
I’ve never actually seen him play, but I’m just assuming …

Jon Kitna, Kellen Clemens, Matt Redman, Seneca Wallace, Chad Pennington, Sage Rosenfels, Kyle Boller, Chad Henne, Tyler Thigpen, Todd Collins.

Ten capable backup QBs who are all better QBs than Stafford if given the same offense to work with. For just a one-year deal, remember. And there’s one other guy …

38 – Charlie Batch.

39 – Trent Edwards
Now we get to the truly terrible guys. Uck…

40 – Jason Campbell.
Truly horrible. Truly better than Stafford.

41 - 43
Brady Quinn, David Carr, Matt Leinart.
I’m not convinced that all three of these guys are completely useless. For just one season. I think you win more games with any one of these guys than Matthew.

44 – Derek Anderson.
This is the most painful one yet. Anderson’s passer rating this season is 36.2, which is worse than if he were to throw the ball into the crowd on every single play. But he had a great season in 2007, and Stafford has never had one good NFL game. I’d rather have Anderson. I would, I’m telling you.

45 – Jeff Garcia.
He’s old and been out of the league a while, but I’m guessing he’d still do an okay job.

46 - 47
Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford.
Since this is for a hypothetical 2010 season, than yes, I would rather start one of these rookies fresh out of the gate than fat-faced Stafford. They were better last year in college and they’ll be better once they join the NFL.

48- Matthew Stafford.
Forty-eight. That might look like a horrible ranking, but hey, take heart Matthew: at least you rank above 20 or so other guys who play QB professionally, including: Marc Bulger, JaMarcus Russell, Byron Leftwich, Josh Johnson, Josh Freeman, Matt Moore, Kevin O’Donnell, Brooks Bollinger, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bruce Gradkowski, Byron Leftwich, Daunte Culpepper, Brad Johnson, Brian Brohm, Drew Stanton, Rex Grossman, Michael Vick, Vince Young, and Joey Harrington.

We have a lot to be proud of Lions fans.

And now for the most pertinent question: which quarterback would you most want to build a franchise around, if financial obligations were not a factor? This is obviously Matt’s best chance, because of his youth and his supposed “upside.” I’ll try to rid Stafford’s nightmarish contract from my consciousness and judge fairly, forgetting about the $72 million dollars the Lions spent on the chubby kid who doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing…

1. Tom Brady
2. Drew Brees
3. Peyton Manning
I think the first two guys have more years left in the tank than Peyton, but no way you can go wrong with any of these three.

4. Ben Roethlisberger

5. Matt Ryan.
I really, really like this kid’s future. He’s a young Drew Brees.

6. Aaron Rodgers.
7. Joe Flacco.
8. Carson Palmer.
9. Tony Romo.
10. Phillip Rivers.
11. Kevin Kolb.

11. Mark Sanchez.
The kid they call ‘Sanchise’ is the definition of a franchise QB: he’s bubbling with energy, leadership, poise, moxie, likeability… all those intangibles that really truly matter. And Stafford has none of them. Literally, none.

12. Matt Schaub.
13. Eli Manning.
14. Jay Cutler.

15. Matt Hasslebeck
16. Donovan McNabb
Neither of these two have many years left in their careers, but I’d rather have two or three solid years than six crappy years.

17. Matt Cassel.
18. David Garrard.

19. Matt Stafford …

This is significantly better than I was expecting to rank him… but with his youth and the possibility of someday being good, he’s a more appealing option than someone’s who already proven how low their ceiling is. From what I’ve seen from Stafford so far, I think he’s the next JaMarcus or the NFL’s version of Darko. You have to wonder how SO many NFL scouts can be SO WRONG, and completely whiff on the #1 overall pick. But it’s happened before. More than once. It’s amazing those guys have jobs.

But anyway, the fact that Stafford ends up in my top 20 of QBs to build a team around both surprises and amazes me. Mind you, this is in a make-believe world where Stafford only makes $8 million a year instead of $12 million a year. Remember that in the real world, Stafford and his contract are the most deadly, team-killing combination in the NFL and the reason that the Lions won’t be climbing out of the NFC North basement for another decade, unless Stafford suddenly turns things around and becomes a Pro Bowler. What are the chances of that happening? Realistically, maybe 20%. Maybe less.

But still on the promise of that hope, I’m willing to rank Stafford above guys like Leinart, Quinn and Vince Young; above Trent Edwards and Jake Delhomme and even Brett Favre, who honestly might play six more years in the NFL; even ahead of Jason Campbell and both 49ers QBs and the enigma that is Jim Sorgi, all of whom are better than Stafford at present day.

So with all that being said, let’s get on with the Week Nine Picks.

Baltimore @ Cincinnati
It might not seem like it at first glance, but this just might be the most important game of the week. The winner keeps pace with Pittsburgh, and the loser falls behind in the playoff race. (That’s assuming Pittsburgh beats Denver on Monday night, which is a safe assumption). Both of these teams play excellent football on both sides and are well-coached. Baltimore is just a little bit better, but Cincy is at home, coming off a bye, and riding a wave of blow-out momentum. The Ravens, who handed Denver its first loss, are also on an emotional high. Expect this one to be well-fought and come down to the wire. I see game coming down to the last play, and Baltimore’s kicker - who missed the potential game-winning field goal against Minnesota a few weeks ago - goes from goat to hero. Baltimore 28-27.

Houston @ Indianapolis
The Texans are playing good as of late – three wins in a row, and completely shutting down the opposing running game – but they are no match for Indy. Nobody is. However, this does have the makings of a letdown game because the Colts might be caught thinking about New England next week. If Tony Dungy were still the coach, this would be a non-issue. Tough test for Jim Caldwell or whatever his name is. But the Colts still have Peyton Manning, so they should be fine. It’ll be raining fantasy points in this one. Indy 38-27.

Green Bay @ Tampa Bay
The classic battle of the Bays. This used to be a great rivalry when both teams played in the old NFC Central. Now it’s an utter mismatch. Both of these teams are extremely frustrated right now; the Packers just got beat by Brett Favre. For the second time this season. At Lambeau Field. Tampa, meanwhile, has the stench of being the only winless team now on their hands. Green Bay is just a little bit more pissed off, and a whole lot more talented, so they roll here – Packers by 15.

Arizona @ Chicago
The difference in this game is that Arizona can afford to lose this game, because the NFC West is awful, while Chicago can’t afford to lose in the competitive NFC North. Is that enough edge for the Bears to win? I’m a little nervous whenever Kurt Warner plays an outdoor game in the cold, but geez, doesn’t it seem like we’re long overdue for Fitzgerald to completely dominate a game and win singlehandedly? (Or maybe I just think that because I just traded for him in fantasy football?) This game completely baffles me. I don’t know anything about either of these teams. I’ll go with Arizona because they have the likeability factor. AZ by 6.

Kansas City @ Jacksonville
What a Stink Bowl. Jags by 4.

Here’s an interesting story: Chiefs fans started an online petition begging the general manager to extend Larry Johnson’s suspension and keep him off the team, indefinitely. Why? Because LJ is 75 yards from surpassing Priest Holmes as KC’s all-time leader rusher, and they vehemently don’t want that to happen. Says the petition: “(Johnson) has never represented anything close to the values that we have for our Chiefs and it would be another dagger to the fans that continue to support this proud franchise.”
My thoughts: You’ve got to give the fans what they want!! I can completely relate to this. When you have nothing to cheer for on the field and only the pride of your franchise, you can’t live with a blemish like Larry Johnson as your team’s all-time leading rusher. Priest Holmes is a player you can be proud of. Plus, it’s not like having LJ in the backfield is an improvement over Jamaal Charles, who actually has upside. LJ is terrible this year anyway! Please, Chiefs management, give the fans what they want! Do it for all of us suffering football fans! Keep Larry Johnson off the field! (Incidentally, I just put in a waiver request for Jamaal Charles.)

Miami @ New England
As pesky as the Dolphins are, one of the Cardinal Rules of the NFL is that you don’t bet against a great coach or QB who’s had a bye week to prepare for a sub-par secondary, especially one that’s starting two rookie CBs. The Patriots have a great coach AND a great QB, and a great dislike for the Dolphins, who destroyed them last year and then kept them out of the playoffs. Big game upcoming from Brady. New England by 17, or more if they decide to run up the score.

Washington @ Atlanta
Falcons win easily. Will this be the game that finally gets Jim Zorn fired? 28-7.

Carolina @ New Orleans
Now that the Saints have a huge target on their backs, every game becomes difficult, even the games against Jake Delhomme. Carolina played its most complete game last week and finally got Steve Smith involved in the offense. But come on. You think I’m picking against Drew Brees? Not a chance. Saints by 10.

Detroit @ Seattle
A late afternoon game on the west coast. I don’t think the Lions should even bother showing up. Seriously, they should just forfeit the game and stay in Detroit. This could be even uglier than the game at Lambeau a few weeks ago. I HATE the fact that I’m playing against Hasslebeck in fantasy football. That’s called being double-screwed. Seahawks by 50.

Tennessee @ San Francisco
Vince Young against Alex Smith!! Hide the women and children, this could get ugly!! San Fran wins this one against a truly terrible Tennessee team. Niners by nine.

San Diego @ New York Giants
Okay, so who the heck are we dealing with when it comes to the New York Giants? Super Bowl aspirant, or 8-8 disappointment. They’ve lost 3 games in a row, and three weeks ago they were widely considered the best team in the NFC. First Drew Brees completely owned them, then the Cardinals killed them in the second half, and the Eagles absolutely brutalized them last week. So what now? Are the Chargers catching them at the right time? Or are the Giants actually still good and just the victims of tough scheduling? The game’s in New York and I still don’t think much of the Chargers; the truth is I want San Diego to win because I would love it if Denver missed the playoffs, but I don’t care much for San Diego either. I might as well be realistic and pick the Giants. They are a much better team. NY 24, SD 10.

Dallas @ Philadelphia
Both of these teams are 5-2, which doesn’t even seem possible. Three weeks ago, when the Eagles lost to Oakland and Dallas was barely able to beat the Chiefs in overtime, we all thought the NFC East was a no-contest. Now, with the help of the Giants, these two are tied for the division lead. Which makes this game positively HUGE. I just love the way Philly is playing; the offense has so many weapons, so much speed, and Brian Westbrook should be back on the field, which makes their screen passing game deadly.

Dallas still has a lot of dysfunction right now. Did you see that blurb from Roy Williams, talking about Tony Romo and Miles Austin. “It’s not even funny. Not even close. I’m the #1 receiver, but things are just going number 2’s way. He gets the ball thrown correctly his way. I’m stretching and falling and doing everything. ” WHAT?? Are you freaking serious Roy?? HELLO, your team has won three games in a row. Your teammate, Miles Austin, has five TDs and 500 yards in the last three games, (the only three starts of his beautiful young career!), and he has been the best wide receiver in the ENTIRE NFL over that span. Now defenses have to pay attention to him on every play, and that opens up the field for you. Now your offense can actually throw the ball, as well as run. Now, your team is actually winning games. And you’re COMPLAINING??!? Unbelievable. What an unbelievable selfish thing to say. Is this Roy’s impression of Terrell Owens or what? Geez oh Pete.

On that note, I’m picking Philly. 28-17.

Pittsburgh @ Denver
I’m excited to see Denver lose its second straight game, especially on national TV, on a Monday night. I don’t know why, but I just loathe Denver this year. This will be the only time I cheer for the Steelers all year. Pittsburgh by 14.

Some awful teams are on byes this week: Bills, Browns, Rams, and Raiders. Also the Jets and Vikings.

Enjoy week nine everyone. I would say GO LIONS, but what’s the point this week. They have NO CHANCE against Seattle. None. And Seattle’s not even that good. Ugh.

1 comment:

  1. Wow - nice analysis of QB's! I love the three categories you assigned - well done! The Lions could be in trouble with this guy but Daunte has looked horrible too.