Lions' Jim Schwartz, Scott Linehan must make the call on drafting QB Matthew Stafford
by Tom Kowalski
Tuesday April 07, 2009, 8:02 AM
If the Detroit Lions draft Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford with the first overall pick, it will be Lions general manager Martin Mayhew who is ultimately judged on the success or failure of that decision.
However, if the Lions want to avoid repeating one of their biggest mistakes in decades, Mayhew's decision will rest almost solely on the opinions of head coach Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.
Look, Mayhew might think in his heart of hearts that Stafford is going to be the next Tom Brady, but if that view is not shared by Schwartz and Linehan, the drafting of Stafford is doomed to be a failure. It would be Joey Harrington all over again.
Harrington was drafted by then-president Matt Millen and then turned over to a head coach - Marty Mornhinweg - who didn't want him. Harrington was finished before he ever got started. Now, Harrington didn't help himself with the way he acted sometimes, but everyone in the organization knew that he didn't have the support of the head coach (who was also, for all intents and purposes, the offensive coordinator as well). The other coaches knew that and the players knew it, too.
This isn't like a left tackle or middle linebacker. The quarterback has to be the leader of the team and if that gets compromised in any way, there's no chance he can be successful. Mornhinweg didn't want Harrington and, a year later when Steve Mariucci was hired, Mooch didn't want him either.
If Schwartz and Linehan aren't totally sold on Stafford - regardless of what Mayhew thinks - then Mayhew can't draft him. It's going to be Schwartz and Linehan who will be coaching the kid every day and bringing him along, making the decision of when he's ready to start - and putting the trust of the team (and a lot of jobs) on the line.
If Schwartz and Linehan aren't totally sold on Stafford, from the day the kid is drafted, those two will be trying to replace him - just as Mornhinweg and Mooch did with Harrington.
I'll never forget the day that the Lions took Harrington with the third overall pick in 2002. Just minutes after they made the selection, I got a tip from someone who was in the Lions' war room that Mornhinweg was furious with the decision. After quickly getting it confirmed, I wrote about it and went on the radio with the information.
Within minutes of that happening, the Lions' public relations department set up a quick meeting with me and Mornhinweg - this is while the draft was still in its early stages. (I had never experienced anything like that before or since.) Mornhinweg spent 30 minutes trying to convince me that my sources were wrong and that he actually was on board with the pick. I knew it was total nonsense and Mornhinweg admitted years later that he never wanted Harrington - he wanted to trade the pick and, if that didn't work, he wanted cornerback Quentin Jammer.
Mornhinweg wanted to try to groom Mike McMahon for the quarterback position and, although Mornhinweg was wrong about McMahon's potential, it didn't matter. Harrington was unwanted and everybody knew it - including Harrington.
If the Lions are going to draft Stafford, they have to make a total and team-wide commitment to him. This can't be a nodding-head agreement with Schwartz and Linehan, it has to be a full-blown excitement about bringing this kid on board. If Mayhew has to "sell'' Stafford to Schwartz or Linehan, Stafford's career as a future scapegoat will already be triggered.
The good part for the Lions is that everybody is fresh in their jobs and if they all agree on Stafford, he's going to get every opportunity to succeed. It's very unlikely there will be any significant coaching or front office changes in the next two or three years so there will be continuity in the decision.
If, in a couple of years, the Lions realize that Stafford isn't the guy, then it's fine for them to bail on him and go in a different direction. But for the next two seasons - if they draft him - everybody has to be totally committed to making Stafford a success. There's no question that Mayhew has the authority to make the decision by himself, but if he's going to be a clever leader then he'll know when he has to acquiesce to his coaching staff. This is one of those times.http://www.mlive.com/lions/index.ssf/20 ... lineh.html