NFC North: JaMarcus Russell

NFC North links: Carimi dealt to Bucs

June, 10, 2013
6/10/13
8:59
AM ET

Chicago Bears

Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune: "If Gabe Carimi’s goal was to find a new team by staying away from the Chicago Bears’ voluntary offseason program, consider it mission accomplished."

Bears running back Michael Bush would like to see quarterback JaMarcus Russell get another shot in the NFL.

Detroit Lions

Justin Rogers of MLive.com: "Just watching [Ndamukong] Suh interact with his teammates during recent practices, specifically first-round draft pick Ezekiel Ansah, it's clear the veteran is attempting to step up and be a mentor to some of the younger players on the roster."

Former Detroit Lions wide receiver Titus Young has posted bond and has been released from an Orange County jail.

Green Bay Packers

The Packers are looking to help cornerback Tramon Williams get back to his playmaking form that was on display during the 2010 season.

Johnny Jolly is relieved to be back practicing with the Packers.

Minnesota Vikings

Count Patrick Reusse of 1500ESPN.com among those who doesn't think parting ways with wide receiver Percy Harvin and cornerback Antoine Winfield was a good move for the Vikings.

Quarterback Christian Ponder's progress will be one story to monitor as the Vikings begin their final OTA session on Monday.

Bears unlikely to sign QB JaMarcus Russell

June, 7, 2013
6/07/13
9:18
PM ET

Quarterback JaMarcus Russell, the top pick in the 2007 draft who's been out of the league for three years, showed up at the expected weight and displayed a "big arm" and "good, positive demeanor" during a Friday workout for the Chicago Bears, sources told ESPNChicago.com, but the team is unlikely to offer him a contract.

Russell looked a bit rusty but was solid overall, the source said, but with three quarterbacks already on the roster -- Jay Cutler, Josh McCown and Matt Blanchard -- it appears Chicago won't be moving on Russell or the other two signal-callers who participated in the session at team headquarters -- Jordan Palmer and Trent Edwards -- anytime soon.

For Michael C. Wright's full report, click here.

BBAO: No chat after all

June, 6, 2013
6/06/13
8:55
AM ET
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Good morning from back at NFC North blog headquarters, where I arrived safely Wednesday night after two days at Green Bay Packers minicamp.

I'm planning to empty my notebook of a round of tidbits picked up over the two practices and access periods, saving a few topics for analysis later this summer. And I'm sorry to report that we in fact will not have a SportsNation chat today as originally indicated.

I wasn't available at the time they wanted me and they didn't have a slot for the time I needed to chat. Sometimes, everyone needs to go back to their corner to regroup. We'll do just that.

For now, our morning tour around the division:

JaMarcus Russell: Waking up

June, 5, 2013
6/05/13
10:15
AM ET
My thoughts haven't changed on the Chicago Bears' decision to work out quarterback JaMarcus Russell. There is no harm in a workout, but I'm not at all convinced the sideshow Russell would bring to training camp is the best thing for a team transitioning to a new head coach for the first time in a decade.

Regardless, I wanted to bring your attention to Tom Rinaldi's well-done piece on Russell's comeback attempt. You'll see he is working with former NFL quarterback Jeff Garcia and can judge for yourself the sincerity of his interest in playing football again.
StaffordRon Chenoy/US PresswireThe Lions are hoping a year of experience and a better supporting cast will help Matthew Stafford decrease his number of interceptions.
Time was running out on the Detroit Lions' first-team offense Saturday night. One minute, 20 seconds remained before halftime at Invesco Field, after which coaches planned to start substituting backup players for the remainder of this preseason contest.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford had led the Lions to a touchdown on one drive, but two others stalled in the red zone. Who wouldn't want to end the night with a touchdown?

Stafford seemed to have that opportunity on first down from the Denver Broncos' 11-yard line. Receiver Nate Burleson was running a fade route into the end zone, and anyone who has seen Burleson play knows he can leap for a back-corner score as well as anyone. I'm sure Stafford was tempted, if ever so briefly.

But here's what happened: The Broncos had Burleson in bracket coverage -- one man short and one man deep. It would have required an extraordinary two-way effort to dial up a touchdown. What did Stafford do? He threw it away.

I'm going to be careful about reading too much into one preseason pass. But watching it brought to mind a conversation with Stafford during this year's training camp tour. When I broached the 20 interceptions he threw in 10 games last season, Stafford said: "A lot of times, they were just me trying to make a play when it wasn't there."

Learning to give up on a play is one of the most difficult lessons for a young quarterback, particularly those like Stafford with big arms and huge ambition. But because he lived to play another down, as coaches like to say, Stafford kept the Lions in position to put three points on the board. (They actually should have had a touchdown on the next play, but tight end Tony Scheffler dropped a perfect pass.)

As we discussed earlier this month, the Lions are counting on a substantial jump from Stafford in his second season as their starter. In order to meet that expectation, he must dramatically lower his interception rate -- one that was actually higher on a per-game average than the NFL leader (Jay Cutler with 26). Stafford, in fact, was one of two quarterbacks in the past 10 years to throw 20 interceptions in less than 400 attempts. If you view the world in a 16-game spectrum, consider that Stafford was on a 32-interception pace if he had played the entire season.

There are two ways to view that performance. The Lions, as you'll see in a bit, believe Stafford was the victim of being on a bad team with inferior talent that was behind too often. Others, most notably our friends at Football Outsiders, cast serious doubts about his long-term viability based on the interception rate and 53.3 completion percentage.

[+] EnlargeJahvid Best
Jason Bridge/US PresswireMatthew Stafford hopes to better utilize his running backs -- like rookie Jahvid Best -- as a checkdown option in the passing game.
Football Outsiders (FO) rates quarterbacks in a system that compares them to the NFL average. On that scale, Stafford ranked No. 40 among quarterbacks last season. Former Oakland Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell was the only quarterback ranked behind him. In its 2010 Football Almanac, FO notes that only one established quarterback -- the Washington Redskins' Donovan McNabb -- had a worse rookie season based on that ratings system.

I'm willing to give Stafford a one-year pass on his completion percentage, even though we discussed this issue before the 2009 draft. I know what my own eyes told me about the Lions' slick-handed receiving corps last season. But he and the Lions must take an active role in lowering his interception rate, and during my visit to Detroit, here is the way I understood their strategy.

Stafford studied each interception during the offseason. His conclusion: The biggest problem was impatience on third-and-long. Indeed, if you look at the chart accompanying this post, you see nearly half of his interceptions came on third-and-5 or longer.

"I've got to be better at trusting our backs," he said. "You just throw a checkdown and let them run and try to go get the first down, knowing that the best teams in the league convert 35 percent on third-and-long. Not everybody's making it every time. The goal this year is to stay out of that as much as possible."

That approach makes a lot of sense, and Stafford's analytic approach is one of the reasons coach Jim Schwartz is so enamored with him. When you talk to Schwartz about Stafford, you find a deep loyalty and a bit of sensitivity to criticism of a rookie's performance on a 2-14 team.

Ask Schwartz how Stafford could throw fewer interceptions, and this is what you get: "It's putting more talented players around him. It's playing better defense and being a better team."

Schwartz spoke for some five minutes about Stafford. Read some excerpts below and tell me if it doesn't sound like a coach who considers Stafford his best asset rather than a potential liability.

"Generally, the quarterbacks that throw a lot of interceptions are on losing teams," Schwartz said. "I don't know what came first, the chicken or the egg. But I'll tell you a good recipe for throwing an interception: Be down by 17 points with four minutes to go in the game and so you need three scores and you don't have a whole lot of guys that you can go to and get open.

"And as a result, the defense knows you have to throw it. You can't be smart and make good decisions because that's going to cause you to lose the game. You need three scores in four minutes. You've got to get a chunk. You can't say, 'The route we wanted wasn't there, so let's take the checkdown, keep the chains moving and let's go.' You're going to run out of time. A lot of that happened last year.

"Also, we had a lot of situations that was third-and-extra long. Penalties, sacks, lost yardage plays, whatever it was. ... That's a good recipe for throwing interceptions.

"And Matt had a lot of those when he tried to make something happen and he didn't. And in all honesty, we weren't good enough as a team. There are some teams that are good enough. They get to third-and-20 and they run a draw. And they'll say, 'Maybe it pops through, but we're not going to make a mistake and we'll punt if we have to.' We weren't in that place as a team.

"... Matt knew where we were as a team. Part of this is his awareness, part of this is putting better players around him, giving him answers, guys he can go to with the ball. And then feel confident and all those people stay healthy. If you do that, I think you'll see his interception numbers drastically decrease. He's an accurate passer. He's smart. Generally, interceptions that are the fault of the quarterback are from an inaccurate throw or poor decisions. The other ones, they are put in a bad spot."

Whew. Well, the chart shows us that 14 of Stafford's 20 interceptions came when the Lions were trailing; seven were during desperation mode in the fourth quarter. Are these reasonable explanations for the highest per-game interception rate in the NFL last season? Or is it excuse making from a team that has invested $41.7 million? We'll soon find out. The second-year jump is an essential part of any elite quarterback's growth.

Buried in an ESPNNewYork.com report about the Jets' interest in quarterback JaMarcus Russell was this sentence: "Sources say the Arizona Cardinals or the Minnesota Vikings are the most likely landing spot for Russell, but the Jets have inquired by phone and received positive reports."

Russell
Russell
Would the Vikings actually consider bringing in Russell? Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune reports that "the odds of Russell landing with the Vikings are not high," and I've heard nothing to suggest otherwise. I believe that Russell's interest in joining the Vikings is legitimate, considering the skill position players he would be surrounded by and the unique circumstances of their current quarterback situation. While Brett Favre figures as the starter next year, an opportunity exists to step in and replace him as early as the 2011 season.

The Vikings released rookie quarterback R.J. Archer on Tuesday, leaving them with the four quarterbacks they will probably take to training camp: Favre, Tarvaris Jackson, Sage Rosenfels and rookie Joe Webb. The fact that we're even discussing the possibility of Russell illustrates how difficult it has been, and will continue to be, for the Vikings to find a long-term answer at the position.

Russell would be a risk-free long-shot, but as of now the Vikings don't appear compelled on either count.
We had a blast during Tuesday afternoon's SportsNation chat -- talking up our post-LOST television habits, remembering there are Bears in California as well as Chicago and wondering if free-agent quarterback JaMarcus Russell could end up in the NFC North.

(On the latter point: I regard the Russell question the same way as I did Tim Tebow earlier this spring. Russell could do a lot worse than end up with one of the elite quarterback teachers we have in this division, from Kevin Rogers in Minnesota to Mike McCarthy/Tom Clements in Green Bay to Scott Linehan in Detroit.)

Andy of Green Bay offered up a question that might provide some grist to chew on. Here was the exchange:
Andy (GB)

which non-first round NFCN draft picks do you think have the best chance of either starting or making some immediate impact?

Kevin Seifert (2:38 PM)

Morgan Burnett in Green Bay. Toby Gerhart in Minnesota. Amari Spievey in Detroit. Major Wright in Chicago.

As always in our chats, those answers represented my fast-twitch gut answers. Stranger things have happened, but by the end of the season, I could see Burnett, Spievey and Wright in full-time starting roles. We've discussed Burnett's looming competition with incumbent Atari Bigby. Spievey will get consideration by process of elimination on the Lions' thin depth chart, and the Bears are so eager to elevate at safety that it will take an absolute flop for Wright not to get on the field.

That 2007 first round

May, 7, 2010
5/07/10
12:30
PM ET
While hashing through the demise of Oakland quarterback JaMarcus Russell, AFC West colleague Bill Williamson revisited the first round of the 2007 draft. Perhaps this is always the case three years later, but I was struck at the disparate impact that draft had on the NFC North.

Two teams drafted the player now considered the best on their roster. Another team totally whiffed. And a fourth has put its first-rounder into a transition phase of his career.

Take a look at the chart below. Detroit drafted receiver Calvin Johnson and Minnesota gobbled up tailback Adrian Peterson. Green Bay, meanwhile, has gotten 13 games, 28 tackles and no sacks from oft-injured defensive lineman Justin Harrell. Chicago had tight end Greg Olsen on an ascending ladder until shifting to an offense this year that will require more blocking than he is used to.

Wow. I think I just decided that the draft is a crapshoot. Take that to the house.

Clausen/McCoyUS PresswireQuarterbacks Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy are two options the Vikings could consider to be the long-term replacement for Brett Favre.
I posed the question before FavreWatch II started. We started discussing it prior to the Donovan McNabb trade saga, one that Minnesota ultimately sat out. And now we're approaching, one way or another, the exciting conclusion.

The Vikings have staked their 2010 season on the hope that a 40-year-old quarterback (and new grandfather) will give them one more year at the position. But no matter what Brett Favre decides, the Vikings will still have the same long-term hole at the most important position in sports. Now seems a perfect time to identify their quarterback of the future, give him at least one year's cushion on the bench, and close a 20-year gap in their team-building process.

But when you cross-reference the Vikings' draft position with the list of elite prospects, you have to wonder if a realistic pairing exists. Only two quarterbacks are considered sure-fire first-round material, and both Sam Bradford (Oklahoma) and Jimmy Clausen (Notre Dame) should be off the board by the time Minnesota picks at No. 30 overall. That leaves the Vikings to determine whether they should trade up for Clausen or if Colt McCoy (Texas) is worthy of their top pick.

Among media analysts, at least, there is significant debate on the latter issue. ESPN's Mel Kiper ranks McCoy as the No. 21 overall prospect in the draft, while Scouts Inc. gave him a third-round grade. Vikings vice president Rick Spielman attended Texas' pro day, but to my knowledge coach Brad Childress did not. If there were substantive interest there, you would think an offensive-minded head coach who prefers the West Coast scheme would be heavily involved.

To me, it appears the Vikings are caught in no-man's land for this year's quarterback class. They would have to expend dramatic firepower to grab Clausen and McCoy might not be worthy of a No. 1 pick. Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench said McCoy could make sense with the Vikings' second-round pick, the No. 62 overall. But in today's quarterback-obsessed climate, a late-second round pick is hardly considered a likely long-term starter.

Meanwhile, the list behind McCoy -- Dan LeFevour (Central Michigan), Tony Pike (Cincinnati) and Tim Tebow (Florida) -- all have their deficiencies as well.

"It's a bad quarterback class this year as far as the top guys go," Muench said. "Keeping that in mind, they might be better served waiting. ... We think McCoy is great in terms of leadership and presence, but I have my concerns about him ever developing into a starting quarterback on an NFL level. He does not have a very strong arm and he's 6-foot-1. That's an issue when you're talking about pro-style offenses."

Speaking earlier this offseason, Childress said he would prefer long-term certainty at the position. "No question," he said. But Childress also made clear he didn't want to force a decision based on potential future need.

"You don't want a round peg in a square hole," he said, noting the unpredictability of availability at the No. 30 spot.

Spielman didn't sound much more optimistic while speaking to reporters at the scouting combine. Referring to the quarterback class in general, he said: "I don't know if it's as heavy at the top as it has been, but there may be some value as you go down through the rounds."

(Read full post)

We have been tracking guaranteed money on this blog ever since Detroit committed quarterback Matthew Stafford to an NFL-record $41.7 million on the eve of the 2009 draft. Finally, it's time for Stafford's deal to take a back seat.

But as it turns out, the record remains in the NFC North family. (Would you have expected anything else?) Chicago guaranteed defensive end Julius Peppers $42 million on Friday, putting Peppers at the top of our list:

Chicago defensive end Julius Peppers: $42 million
Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford: $41.7 million
Washington defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth: $41 million
San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers: $38 million
Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick: $37 million*
Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger: $36 million
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning: $35 million
Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan: $34.8 million
Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning: $34.5 million
Oakland quarterback JaMarcus Russell: $31.5 million
Dallas quarterback Tony Romo: $30 million
*Vick's deal has since been terminated.

It will be interesting to see how long Peppers' record stands. If a quarterback is drafted No. 1 overall next month, you would think his guaranteed money would overtake Stafford. With only a $300,000 difference between Stafford and Peppers, there is a chance the record could soon fall. Other candidates include Manning and New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, both of whom are expected to receive contract extensions this offseason.

Weekend mailbag

September, 12, 2009
9/12/09
11:45
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert


Your communication flew in from all angles this week -- be it from our fast-moving Facebook page, our ever-growing Twitter feed or just the old-fashioned mailbag. I’ll do my best to answer a representative sample of questions every weekend during the season, beginning … right now.

On with it:

Shawn of Sylvania, Ohio writes: For a perspective on your post about the effectiveness of NFL blackouts: After experiencing multiple blackouts of the Lions last year and expecting more this year. I saved up near the end of summer and got season tickets. While I don't think the blackout rule is going sell out stadiums, if it sells a couple hundred more seats to any given game, then it’s hard to argue with the league for sticking by their policies. They are a business trying to make money in hard times just as anyone else.

Kevin Seifert: On the other hand, Shawn, how many fans might the NFL/Lions lose if the games are consistently unavailable on television? That would affect television ratings, assuming the games eventually were put on air. It would take time for blackouts to have that kind of permanent impact, but it’s definitely a question to consider. Is the revenue uptick of a sellout worth the potential for a smaller – or, at least, less engaged -- fan base?

In either event, your question prompted me to seek out the 2009 Team Marketing Report, which is an excellent resource for most questions about NFL ticket prices. Team Marketing Report takes average ticket prices, along with other gameday fees, to come up with a Fan Cost Index for a day at the stadium. The FCI includes the price of four average tickets, two small beers, four small soft drinks, four hot dogs, parking for one car, two game programs and two caps. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but the numbers in this economy are astounding.

First, here are the average ticket prices in the NFC North;
  1. Chicago Bears: $88.33 (NFL Rank: 4)
  2. Minnesota Vikings: $73.23 (NFL Rank: 13)
  3. Detroit Lions: $65.72 (NFL Rank: 20)
  4. Green Bay Packers: $63.39 (NFL Rank: 24)

Now, here is the Fan Cost Index at each team’s home stadium:
  1. Chicago Bears: $501.33 (NFL rank: 3)
  2. Minnesota Vikings: $386.92 (NFL rank: 16)
  3. Detroit Lions: $380.88 (NFL rank: 20)
  4. Green Bay Packers: $376.95 (NFL rank: 22)

Based on this report, it’s not hard for me to understand why the Lions, and to a lesser extent the Vikings, are having trouble selling tickets. (As for the Bears, all I can say is good for them.) For many people, it’s not even a choice between paying $300 for four tickets or sitting at home to watch the game on television. Even those who consider it a priority might not be able to swing it.


Mike of Louisville writes: How come I can't comment on your Vikings vs. Packers WR article?

Kevin Seifert: Plenty of people were able to, Mike, but don’t feel singled out. A number of people have encountered difficulty while trying to post comments. I’ve inquired with the ESPN tech wizards and they are looking into the issue. Please bear with us in the time being. One working theory is that some older versions of internet browsers can’t link up to the server. (Or something close to that.) So if it’s really important to you, consider upgrading to a newer version of your browser.


Keith of Greensboro writes: What will the Bears do at backup running back? Now that Kevin Jones is out of the picture, are they going to use Adrian Peterson, go get a free agent to fill that void and/or will they give Matt Forte more touches as a result?

Kevin Seifert: Keith, that’s a good topic that we didn’t get a chance to delve into enough during the week. One of the Bears’ offseason goals was to lighten the load a bit on Forte, who accounted for a higher percentage of his team's total offensive yards (34.99) last season than any other player in football.

Jones was supposed to be Forte’s primary complement, but his injury has left the Bears -- for now -- with Peterson and Garrett Wolfe for depth. It wasn’t surprising that the Bears didn’t immediately jump out and sign a veteran free agent such as Dominic Rhodes; doing so would have forced them to guarantee his contract for the entire season. If they sign Rhodes or another player as early as Monday, they can pay him on a per-game basis according to NFL rules.

And based on this interview with general manager Jerry Angelo, it sounds like the Bears are hoping that Wolfe can fill the role they envisioned for Jones.
Angelo: “…I see more of an expanded role for Garrett, at least for the time being. He got a lot of work during our OTAs, in training camp and the preseason games as well, so I foresee that. Then we’ll go from there and see how our backs slot themselves.”

So consider Sunday night’s game at Lambeau Field to be a one-game tryout for Wolfe as a No. 2 back. I’ve always thought he would be ideal as a third-down back, but Forte’s receiving prowess pretty much negates the need for that. So if Wolfe is finally going to become a consistent contributor to the Bears’ offense, it’s going to have to be as a traditional runner.


Jamie of Manistique, Mich., writes: How about Jeff Garcia to the Packers? Does this make sense to anyone but me?

Kevin Seifert: Well, er, uh, I mean … yes, I can see where you’re coming from. The Packers are entering what could be a special year with a young backup in Matt Flynn. No. 3 quarterback Brian Brohm is on the practice squad. So let’s just say there is a significant dropoff from starter Aaron Rodgers. Garcia is well-versed in the West Coast offense and would probably pick up the Packers offense quickly.

And while he might not have accepted a backup role behind JaMarcus Russell in Oakland, I imagine Garcia would agree to No. 2 status in Green Bay. With all that said, however, the Packers have never expressed public concern about their quarterback depth. And despite plenty of rumors and much speculation, they’ve never actively pursued a veteran backup to my knowledge.

It’s always possible that could change next week, when they wouldn’t be forced to guarantee the contract of a vested veteran like Garcia. He would be a better insurance policy than Flynn, but at this point any acquisition would be a surprise.


Jason of Bloomington. Minn., wants to know why the Vikings cut receiver Bobby Wade and signed free agent Greg Lewis: It can’t be money, and it can’t be injury (unless there is a season ending injury that has not been reported), and it can’t be numbers. So there has to be a back story to this. You should dig some on this and let the fans know what is going on.

Kevin Seifert: We might never get the full explanation. And let’s face it: Wade was the Vikings’ No. 4 receiver. You can’t get too worked up about his departure. But I understand your point. The timing, especially, didn’t make much sense.

What I believe happened is that Wade was very much on the fringe of the roster in the first place. He was a slot receiver on a team with two younger slot receivers in Percy Harvin and Darius Reynaud. Recognizing that dynamic, Wade accepted a 50 percent pay cut last week.

But somewhat unexpectedly, a player that coach Brad Childress knows and likes became available this week. Lewis is a bit more suited to playing on the outside, and thus on paper provides a bit more flexibility and balance to the Vikings’ depth.

It’s not often that a team cuts a veteran who has already agreed to a pay cut and made the final 53-man roster. But it doesn’t appear that Wade had much leeway left with Childress, who I understand was livid this summer when Wade told reporters that he believed Tarvaris Jackson would win the team’s quarterback competition.

It was a harsh move, but it’s clear that Childress didn’t have enough affection for Wade to reconsider.

Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert


Detroit has the oldest team in the NFC North and the fifth-oldest in the NFL, according to this analysis from NFC West maven Mike Sando. But at the most important position in the game, they’ve got the league’s youngest starter.
Rookie seasons of last 5 QBs drafted No. 1 overall
Quarterback Year Drafted W-L as starter TD-INT
Matthew Stafford 2009 ??? ???
JaMarcus Russell 2007 0-1 2-4
Alex Smith 2005 2-5 1-11
Eli Manning 2004 1-6 6-9
David Carr 2002 4-12 9-15
Matthew Stafford left the University of Georgia a year early, turned 21 in February and on Monday was named Detroit’s starting quarterback. Speaking to reporters at the Lions’ practice facility, coach Jim Schwartz said the decision was not impacted by Daunte Culpepper’s toe injury and said Stafford is the Lions’ permanent starter.

So now is a good time to make a few things clear. First: It’s almost a given that this will be ugly, at least in the beginning. Stafford played like a classic young gunslinger during the preseason, completing seven passes of at least 20 yards while throwing four interceptions in 55 attempts. (In a 500-pass season, that ratio would bring 3,536 yards and 36 interceptions.) And as you can see from the chart above, recent NFL history is littered with the early struggles of highly-drafted quarterbacks.
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
Detroit rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford.

To me, the near-constant references to Atlanta’s Matt Ryan and Baltimore’s Joe Flacco need to end. Both took their teams to the playoffs as rookies last season, but I don’t think anyone would doubt they had the benefit of landing on a better team than the Lions. For every Ryan, there is a David Carr, JaMarcus Russell and Alex Smith. For every Flacco, there is a Peyton Manning. Yes, even Manning struggled as a rookie, throwing 28 interceptions as Indianapolis finished 3-13 in 1998.

This is not to suggest that the Lions have doomed Stafford’s career by naming him their starter right away. It just means the negative moments are going to outweigh the positive moments this season unless Stafford is different than nearly every other young quarterback who has taken over a sub-par team in recent years.

I actually like the way Stafford aggressively pursued the job this summer, especially compared to the way Culpepper appeared to be playing it safe. In the Lions preseason action that I saw, Stafford was throwing downfield routinely while Culpepper was far more conservative.

I suppose that could have been a function of playing calling, but ultimately the disparate approaches were reflected in the numbers: Stafford averaged 7.1 yards per attempt, while Culpepper averaged 5.7. Culpepper, on the other hand, threw no interceptions and finished with a solid passer rating of 89.6.
Rookie seasons of Lions QBs drafted in 1st round*
Quarterback Year drafted W-L as starter TD-INT
Matthew Stafford 2009 ??? ???
Joey Harrington 2002 3-9 12-16
Andre Ware 1990 0-1 1-2
Chuck Long 1986 0-2 2-2
Greg Landry 0-2 2-7 9-15
*Common draft era (since 1967)

The end result is that neither quarterback separated himself. In other words, the competition was a draw. So if they were even, I have no problem with choosing the more aggressive player -- and the one who eventually would be taking over the job anyway.

I just think it’s better to be realistic about the short term from the outset, rather than start tossing out platitudes about Stafford’s presumed attributes before he takes his first NFL snap.

Update: It's only fair to publish Schwartz's thoughts on tempering expectations. Suffice it to say, he's not in favor of it. Here's what Schwartz said Monday:

“I don’t expect to get beat up and beaten down this year. I expect a lot out of this football team and I’m not going to concede anything to expectations outside this building, outside this locker room. I know what we have here, and we expect to compete this year. So, let’s sort of throw that out right now.”

Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert


Just to make sure you saw the news, Detroit has named rookie Matthew Stafford its starting quarterback. I’ll be back later with more thorough analysis, but for now I’ll leave you with a few quick facts from Scott Beamon of ESPN Stats & Information:
  • Houston’s David Carr was the last NFL quarterback taken No. 1 overall to start all 16 games of his rookie season. As the Lions’ Week 1 starter, Stafford obviously has a chance to do that. Incidentally, the Texans’ record in Carr’s first season (2002) was 4-12.
  • The last four quarterbacks taken No. 1 overall -- Cincinnati’s Carson Palmer, the New York Giants’ Eli Manning, San Francisco’s Alex Smith and Oakland’s JaMarcus Russell -- all started their rookie years on the bench. Palmer sat all season. The other three combined to start 15 games, going 3-12. Collectively, they threw nine touchdown passes and 24 interceptions.
I’ll be back with more after we hear from Lions coach Jim Schwartz. I’m especially interested to know what impact Daunte Culpepper’s late-summer toe injury had on the decision.

video
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Kansas City's contract agreement Tuesday with quarterback Matt Cassel brought to mind this offseason post on the crazy money Detroit's Matthew Stafford received as the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

 Stafford
 Cassel

Cassel, who threw for nearly 3,700 yards last season in leading New England to an 11-5 record, received $28 million in guaranteed money over a six-year deal from the Chiefs. That's about a third less than the $41.7 million the Lions guaranteed Stafford.

I don't necessarily fault Detroit for the deal; it was more or less the cost of doing business in this year's draft. But we've had two significant quarterback deals since April -- Cassel and Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb ($23 million guaranteed) -- and our ranking of contracts with the highest total of guarantees remains the same. Here it is, for those who want a refresher:

  1. Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford: $41.7 million
  2. Washington defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth: $41 million
  3. Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick: $37 million
  4. Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger: $36 million
  5. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan: $34.8 million
  6. Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning: $34.5 million
  7. Oakland quarterback JaMarcus Russell: $31.5 million
  8. Dallas quarterback Tony Romo: $30 million

What player will break the $30 million threshold? And how long will Stafford remain atop the list? My colleague Matt Mosley suggested earlier this month that New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning will approach $50 million in guaranteed money. I'll continue revisiting this topic until that day arrives.

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
  Stafford agrees to terms with Lions
  NFL.com Video
  Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions agreed on a contract Friday night.

DETROIT -- The Black and Blue blog has arrived in the Eastern time zone, and I'll be heading out to the Lions' facility shortly to be in place for the formal announcement of Matthew Stafford as the No. 1 overall pick. Hopefully I won't get stuck behind any of the Brinks trucks bringing Stafford's first paycheck to the building.

If you're inclined to have ESPNEWS running in the background, keep in mind we'll be starting the NFC North portion of the "On the Clock" series at 3 p.m. ET. I'll be jumping on to update the latest and greatest news from each division team.

Meanwhile, Don Banks of SI.com had a good early reaction to the Stafford contract: Despite the record-setting moolah, the Lions must be patient and let Stafford develop on the bench at least for one season.

Consider this list of the last five quarterbacks drafted No. 1 overall, as compiled by ESPN Stats & Information. The collective performances were hardly impressive and not necessarily a productive building block for future success:

Oakland's JaMarcus Russell (2007): 2 touchdowns, 4 interceptions
San Francisco's Alex Smith (2005): 1 touchdown, 11 interceptions
New York Giants' Eli Manning (2004): 6 touchdowns, 9 interceptions
Cincinnati's Carson Palmer (2003): Didn't play
Houston's David Carr (2002): 9 touchdowns, 15 interceptions

And finally, here is a trivia question to consider while you're waiting for this thing finally to get underway:

Name the last Georgia quarterback to appear in the Pro Bowl. (Hint: Think with your feet.)

SPONSORED HEADLINES