Free Press sports writers Dave Birkett and Carlos Monarrez break down the season with their annual holiday gifting for the Detroit Lions.
Dave Birkett and Carlos Monarrez, Detroit Free Press
Detroit Lions Tank Watch is taking a break this week. Honestly, I just don’t have the time. I’m way behind on my holiday shopping for the Lions’ tanking effort.
To help the Lions climb the NFL draft board from their current No. 7 spot, I need to step up my gift game. I plan to purchase some Crisco-coated receivers gloves, filed-down cleats, and try to get Lambeau Field to hire the person in charge of the Arizona Cardinals’ horrible field.
So this week I’m replacing my usual chant of “tank, Lions, tank!” with “sit, Stafford, sit!”
Yes, it’s time. You know it. I know it. Matthew Stafford’s chiropractor knows it.
The Lions quarterback needs to take a seat for the final two meaningless games of the season. And don’t give me any of this rah-rah, NFL, you-play-to-win-the-game, horsepucky.
The Lions are out of playoff contention, and that renders Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings’ lethal defense and the next week’s game on Lambeau Field’s frozen tundra meaningless. Meaning. Less.
Oh, I forgot about his streak of starting 126 straight games — third-longest among active QBs and sixth-longest in NFL history. Stafford’s always happy to talk about his dependability.
“It means a lot,” he said Thursday. “Well-documented first two years. Missed a bunch and I wanted to prove to my teammates, this organization, myself, everybody, that I could be out there for extended periods of time and have been lucky enough to be able to do that.
“I had a lot of help along the way, a bunch of trainers that have helped me get ready and teammates the same. So it means a lot. I just try to be there week-in and week-out and let these guys in this locker room know who’s going to be under center.”
Ugh. OK, fine. Give Stafford the start. Let him play the first drive, then give him a handshake and a seat on the bench. Matt Cassel will do a wonderful job.
Stafford is dealing with a back injury he suffered Dec. 2 against the Los Angeles Rams. He has managed to play the past two games, though he hasn’t been very mobile and hasn’t looked like his normal self in games.
He has been limited in practice this week but wouldn’t give much of a medical update on his back, other than to say “it’s OK” and “I feel good enough to go.”
Stafford doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone. Can we all just agree Stafford is a tough guy who long ago shed Zack Follett’s “china doll” nickname? With a bad back he’s about to face a bunch of bad dudes on a Vikings defense that has lots of playoff motivation.
In November, Minnesota sacked Stafford 10 times and put 17 QB hits on him. He probably still has nightmares of being chased around the field Karate Kid-style with the Vikings dressed in skeleton costumes.
If the Lions listen to me and either bench Stafford or replace him quickly, I promise I won’t call for his job, even if Cassel throws for five touchdowns and 500 yards. Pinky swear.
But if the Lions ignore my sage advice, heaven help Stafford. Just in case this scenario plays out, I asked Stafford if there was anything he could learn about how to avoid a repeat of the beating the Vikings gave him last month.
“Every game kind of unfolds in a different way,” he said. “Some of them are three-nothing games at the end of the third and yards are tough to get, and other games are shootouts. So you kind of just go play the game the way the game unfolds and try to do the best job you can at helping your team win.”
That thinking is better saved for next season because this season is over.
The Lions are out of the playoff hunt. Stafford is out of weapons. And I’m out of patience for the notion of risking further injury to a $135-million franchise quarterback for the chance of gaining a Pyrrhic victory.
Sit, Stafford, sit!
Contact Carlos Monarrez at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.