Daily mailbag: Stafford's impact on fans

April, 23, 2009
4/23/09
11:30
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Tom of East Lansing, Mich., watched Wednesday's video about the public impact of Detroit drafting quarterback Matthew Stafford. (The NFL Live panel suggested that Stafford, as a quarterback, would motivate fans and maximize marketing and ticket sales in the Detroit area.)

 Stafford

Let's just say that Tom, and many other Lions fans we've heard from this week, disputes that premise.

On the surface, it's a reasonable argument. Usually, nothing generates fan excitement more than the arrival of a young quarterback. But in this case, there is circumstantial evidence that the Lions' fan base is significantly split about Stafford -- who will be the Lions' top choice as long as he agrees this week to a contract. Tom writes, in part:

Detroit has the best fans in America (proven by how we stick around no matter what) and yet the Lions need to make a pick that motivates us? Sells tickets?! Yeah, great way to win, building a franchise based on ticket sales and jersey orders. However, what is really funny is that THE FANS DON'T WANT STAFFORD!! There was a stinking chant for Aaron Curry at the logo unveiling. Does that not mean anything?! Now, they shouldn't draft based on what the fans want. BUT, if you are going to, AT LEAST MAKE SURE THAT YOU ARE DRAFTING THE PLAYER THAT THE FANS ACTUALLY WANT!!!

There is no easy way to scientifically gauge a true representative sample of Lions fans. (Sorry, the Black and Blue blog budget doesn't allow for hiring Gallup pollsters.) Tom's note is similar to many I've received, although those sentiments could simply be a vocal minority.

But it's a fact that hundreds of fans chanted for the Lions to draft Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry earlier this week. And several readers have pointed out this poll on the Lions' Web site, where 26,000 people voted for their choice as the No. 1 overall pick. (Or, at least, 26,000 votes were registered.) Curry led the voting with 37 percent, followed by Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith at 25 percent. Stafford was third with 23 percent of the votes.

Again, there's nothing scientific about an open online poll. But if these results actually do represent a cross-section of Lions fans, it appears the team won't get the kind of immediate jolt of unfettered enthusiasm you could usually expect by drafting a quarterback No. 1 overall.

Lions officials have said repeatedly that their choice wouldn't be guided by public opinion. But in every instance, the base of the conversation was that Stafford would be the fan's choice. I don't think the Lions are leaning toward Stafford because they think fans will embrace him, but who would have thought drafting a quarterback would prove an unpopular decision?

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