Stanton's day as starter coming
I had a column planned for this week taking the unpopular stance (judging by my email, at least) that it's in the Lions' best interest to hold off on anointing Drew Stanton quarterback. It got interrupted by Matt Millen's firing, so I'll present my case here.
Stanton is going to get his chance this season, probably sooner than later, but his professional career right now consists of a month of training camp and two exhibition games. Can he win now in the NFL? Sure, other quarterbacks have done so with less experience. But the fairest thing to do, for him and the team, is to keep Kitna under center when the Lions return from their bye.
Kitna's off to a horrible start and doesn't look in tune with the offense. He's tied for the league lead in interceptions and he has a sprained right knee that might precipitate a move regardless. I don't expect his disposition or success to change much in October, but he still gives the Lions the best chance to win against the Bears.
Stanton hasn't taken an 11-on-11 snap in more than a month because of a sprained right thumb. He said earlier this week his hand was about 90 percent healed, but admitted "it's not quite there yet." To his credit, he spent the bye week in town working with quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler on his passing fundamentals.
Assuming he doesn't aggravate the injury in practice next week, I say elevate Stanton to the No. 2 quarterback spot ahead of Dan Orlovsky and give him a few weeks to work off the rust and maybe take a few late-game snaps as a backup. Thrusting Stanton into the starting lineup now does not give him the best chance to succeed (in the short or long term) and counteracts Marinelli's message of patience and staying the course. That's not to say Marinelli can't and shouldn't make some changes he should, especially playing Jordon Dizon and some of the young defensive linemen more but he risks losing Kitna (who he may need again) and other veterans if he demotes the only starter he's known right now.
I don't know if the Lions will get a post-Millen bounce and beat the Bears. It's entirely possible. As new general manager Martin Mayhew pointed out Thursday, "The reality is we have 13 games to play and we're two games out of first place. ... That's not scary to me."
Either way, I see Kitna starting at least three more games, against Chicago next week and road games at Minnesota and Houston after that. If the Lions are 1-5 or worse, then comes the time to play Stanton when they return home to face Washington. He'll invigorate the offense with his feet, add some excitement to an otherwise dull season and finally be ready to take over on his own merits with a real chance to succeed.