Most of the Matthew Stafford reaction from Lions fans on my show Friday night was negative. Most Lions fans were scarred by the likes of Joey Harrington and all the other offensive skill position busts they’ve had recently and wanted to go with a safer pick. They wanted to build up the defense because it was so terrible last year. While I understand their concerns, here’s my argument in favor of Detroit’s pick and the Jets moving up to get Mark Sanchez: if you’re looking to achieve long-term success in the NFL (division titles, playoff appearances, double-digit wins, Super Bowl contention) year-in and year-out, you need a good quarterback. That may be understating things — you need a very good to great quarterback.
If you were a fan of the Packers under Favre, the Broncos under Elway, the Colts with Peyton Manning, and the Patriots with Brady, you can/could be confident that your team will be in the playoffs and threatening for the Super Bowl almost every year. That’s not to say that defense doesn’t win championships — it does, just look at Pittsburgh this year — but defensive-minded teams have off seasons more often than ones with excellent quarterbacks. If that weren’t the case, then Brian Billick wouldn’t have been fired by Baltimore. While Matthew Stafford or Mark Sanchez might not develop into stars, there’s no question in my mind that having a good quarterback is essential to building a franchise. Why do you think Bears fans were so elated to have Jay Cutler? Stafford and Sanchez might not be the guys, but they’re worth the gamble, especially for Detroit. Lions fans should be patient and be willing to live or die with Stafford. Going QB with the first pick was the right move.