Stanton deserves an opportunity
First in the interest of full disclosure, we as reporters have not watched a full practice since training camp. We typically get to watch players stretch then go through 15 to 20 minutes of individual workouts, so coaches know a lot better than me how far along Drew Stanton is at quarterback.
But I talked to two veteran offensive players Thursday about Stanton and asked them what they thought of the second-year quarterback without couching my question with offensive coordinator Jim Colletto's suggestion that Stanton is not ready for an NFL game yet and might embarrass himself by playing now. Both essentially said that Stanton has looked fine in limited reps and they expect him to be a "good" player. Neither suggested Stanton would be an embarrassment if he played now.
Lions coach Rod Marinelli said Friday that Colletto's comments were a poor choice of words.
"What he's saying in my opinion, as we've talked, we're trying to develop two young quarterbacks at the same time, which is very difficult," Marinelli said. "You have eight-minute periods (in practice) right now and within an eight-minute period you get maybe nine snaps and all the different blitzes you're going to get, so it's difficult trying to get both guys ready, develop two young quarterbacks. What he's saying is we want to make sure he's got enough tools to go into a game with."
Asked if he thought Stanton would embarrass himself if he had to play this Sunday against Chicago, Marinelli said, "No."
I caught Colletto in the locker room Friday and he didn't exactly back down from his comments.
"I don't want to put him in a circumstance where he feels uncomfortable and he doesn't perform well and he gets embarrassed by it," Colletto said. "I've had that with college kids and it really affects those kids."
Asked specifically if he thought Stanton, who's a professional, would be embarrassed by his play, Colletto said "no" but reiterated that he's "not comfortable enough to put him in there and let him swing from the hip" yet.
"He's not ready yet, that's all I can tell you," Colletto said. "In my opinion he's not ready and when I think he's ready I'll put him in. It has nothing to do with if the word embarrass is not the right word to use, I don't know. You guys interpret it different than I do, but I don't want to have a kid to go in there and not at least have a chance to be successful and then they boo his (butt) off the field. That doesn't sit well with that kid, so I don't want to do that.
"Now where's the fine line to do that, that's a hard thing to measure because every kid eventually has to get in there and see whether he can sink or swim. But we're not at that point yet."
Stanton, of course, said he'd feel comfortable playing this week against Chicago and didn't embarrass himself in the handful of first-team snaps he took Thursday. He said Colletto met with him to explain his comments and he was "taken back by" what he was hearing.
"I didn't read the article but I heard what it said," Stanton said. "That's fine. He's entitled to his opinion, so if he thinks that I'll embarrass myself when I go out there then that's what he believes and ultimately he's the offensive coordinator, right now."
Stanton may never get a chance to prove himself on the field this year. The Lions are expected to sign Daunte Culpepper next week and it may take a decree from ownership to get last year's second-round draft pick on the field.
In my opinion, that's the wrong direction for a team stuck in an 0-7 rut and clearly playing with an eye towards the future. I think Dan Orlovsky deserves a few more weeks under center he hasn't been bad in his three starts, and though he's a free-agent-to-be the Lions need to give him a few more games to more clearly assess his abilities and then Stanton should start the final six or so weeks.
Colletto's point is fair that Stanton may not be ready for everything that comes with being a starting quarterback in the NFL. He did miss all of last year with a knee injury and a month this season with thumb problems, but Stanton is no different than most other high draft picks in that he has a world of ability and no one can say for certain how good or bad he'll be. The only way to judge Stanton is to get him on the field.