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Cook’s Top 5: Detroit Lions Quarterbacks

Detroit marks a rough spot for Steve Cook’s Top 5 Quarterbacks of each NFL franchise. But who made the list???

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Matthew Stafford Detroit Lions NFL QB

Detroit marks a rough spot for Steve Cook’s Top 5 Quarterbacks of each NFL franchise. But who made the list???

The Detroit Lions have given me the toughest list to compile so far. There are two main reasons for this:

1. Lack of depth. Considering the Lions have been around since the 1930s, you would think there would be plenty of viable selections for a Greatest Lions Quarterback of All Time list. Unless you’ve regularly watched the Lions, then you understand the difficulty. Just not a lot of talent here. Joey Frickin Harrington is pretty high up on some of these franchise passing categories. Tells you all you need to know, right?

2. That being said, the choice between 1 & 2 is the toughest I’ve had so far. One is a legend from back in the 1950s that won multiple championships. The other has set every franchise passing record, yet has been overlooked when discussing elite passers of this century for a number of reasons, one of the main ones being the bad teams he’s been saddled with.

I’m trying to be nice to Lions fans here. That’s why we won’t mention Barry Sanders or Calvin Johnson after this sentence. Here are the top 5 Greatest Detroit Lions Quarterbacks of All Time!

5. Erik Kramer

It was a short run for Kramer as QB1 for the Detroit Lions, but he made the most of it. Taking the helm when Rodney Peete got injured, Kramer led the Lions to a 6-2 record during the 1991 season and their first (and most recent) NFC Championship Game appearance. That particular game didn’t go so well, but the divisional round game against the Dallas Cowboys saw Kramer throw for 341 yards and three touchdowns.

Kramer & the Lions went back to the playoffs in 1993, and he still holds franchise postseason records for touchdowns & completion percentage.

4. Scott Mitchell

Mitchell got on peoples’ radar in the early 1990s when he was Dan Marino’s backup with the Miami Dolphins. When Marino got injured in 1993, Mitchell got the nod and wound up starting seven games for the Dolphins. He showed enough during that stint to get signed by the Lions prior to the 1994 season, during which he struggled and people wondered if he was worth the money. 1995 was a rebound year and the best of Mitchell’s career, where he would throw for 4338 yards & 32 touchdowns, setting Lions records at the time.

Mitchell took the Lions to the playoffs in 1995 & 97, where they would lose each time in the Wild Card round. He was replaced by Charlie Batch in 1998, and ended his career with less than memorable stints in Baltimore & Cincinnati. He was last seen on national television as a contestant on The Biggest Loser, which isn’t exactly the best way to make a comeback.

3. Greg Landry

Mitchell’s quarterback coach during two of his seasons with the Lions happened to be a former QB of note for the franchise. Landry was the Lions’ first round draft pick in 1968, split time with Bill Munson the first couple of years, then became starter during the 1970 season. 1971 saw Landry make the Pro Bowl while throwing for 2237 yards & 16 touchdowns. He had another solid season in 1972, but 1973 saw him get benched after throwing 10 interceptions versus 3 touchdowns. He started a handful of games during the 1974 & 75 seasons, then returned with a vengeance in 1976.

You could say that Landry had the Spirit of ’76. He won the Comeback Player of the Year award, throwing for 2191 yards & 17 touchdowns & re-establishing himself in the league. At least until Gary Danielson was drafted.

2. Matthew Stafford

We all know life is easier for quarterbacks now than ever before. Rules have been slanted towards offense to the point where comparing numbers from the 21st century to the 20th is a rather silly thing to do. That being said, Stafford’s statistical achievements are still ridiculously impressive. He was the youngest quarterback to reach 20,000, 30,000 & 40,000 passing yards. Stafford was the first QB to in NFL history to complete 60% or more passes in each game of a season. He leads all-time Lions passing yards by nearly 30,000 yards. He’s thrown 164 more touchdowns than any other Lions quarterback. Sure, it helps that he’s played 63 more games than any other Lions quarterback, but the fact he kept that job so long certainly has to count for something.

Stafford’s weakness in any argument about successful quarterbacks: his lack of success. His Lions teams went 74-90-1. Stafford defenders have an easy response to that…take a look at the talent around him. Detroit had one running back rush for 1,000 yards during Stafford’s twelve seasons with the club. That’s not a great percentage. Detroit’s defense was worst in the NFL when Stafford came in, and other than 2014, when somehow they were top three in the league, it never got much better than mediocre. Stafford had one mega-talented teammate for most of his run with Detroit, and everybody else was kinda average. Another weakness: compared to his peers, he never broke out of the pack. Stafford’s only been to one Pro Bowl and has never led the NFL in yards or touchdowns, even though he threw over 5,000 yards in 2011! Still not enough to lead the league.

Even great quarterbacks need some talent around them. We’ll find out Stafford’s true ability to win with the LA Rams, who have some top players on both sides of the ball. I can’t hold his lack of wins with the Lions against him, but at the end of the day I have to go with his main competition in the top slot.

Honorable Mention: Dutch Clark

The Flying Dutchman was one of the first quarterbacks for the Portsmouth Spartans, the team that would move to Detroit and become known as the Lions. He was one of the most successful QBs of the era, being selected to the All-Pro team six out of the seven seasons he played. He even held the league’s scoring record at the time of his retirement. Of course, the game is so different now that it’s tough to compare him with even our number one pick, but he definitely warrants mention in a discussion of great Lions quarterbacks.

1. Bobby Layne

Matthew Stafford’s weaknesses are strong points for Bobby Layne. The Lions won three NFL Championships during the Blond Bomber’s eight seasons with the team, including his final season in 1958. Incidentally, the Lions’ most recent championship. Layne went to four Pro Bowls, was first-team All-Pro three times & was named to the 1950s All-Decade Team. He went 53-29-2 as QB1, and got some help from some pretty good talent. Had a fella named Doak Walker there for a few years.

Lions fans already knew about this, but the similarities between Layne & Stafford are interesting. Both men went to the same high school, Highland Park in Dallas. (That Walker fella went there too.) Now, both men have been traded by the Lions while in their early thirties. Layne still had one Pro Bowl season left in him. Does Stafford?

Hopefully, for Lions fans’ sake, Jared Goff can make his way onto this list sometime soon.

Next time: Green Bay! So picking a number one won’t get any less difficult…


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NFL

Chairshot NFL: 3 Man Weave Edition

Rey, PC and Chris Platt are all on board this episode to give you a week 5 preview of the NFL!

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Rey, PC and Chris Platt are all on board this episode to give you a week 5 preview of the NFL!

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Cook’s 2022 NFL Gambling Picks: Week 5

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NFL Week 5 Predictions Tom Brady

Hi, hello & welcome to Week 5! I’m Steve Cook, and I’m proud to say that I was able to get this whole thing done on time this week. I’m very impressed with myself, especially since the Reds closing their season cut into my writing time. It looks like I’ll have plenty of writing time in the immediate future, so hopefully I can use it to make my picks a bit more accurate.

As usual, there’s tons going on in the NFL, so let’s go. Lines provided by Vegas Insider Consensus on Wednesday afternoon.

Thursday, October 6

Indianapolis at Denver (-3.5)

Last week we were all hyped to fire up the Amazon Prime machine for some Dolphins/Bengals action. This week? Well, let’s see what else is going on this Thursday night…

  • MLB: Wild Card games don’t start until Friday
  • NCAAF: Games on Wednesday & Friday night, inexplicably none Thursday night
  • NHL: Preseason games, first regular season game on Friday afternoon (Go Preds!)
  • NBA: Preseason games on ESPN

There ain’t nothing on, folks. Impact Wrestling’s go-home show for Bound For Glory airs on AXS. Bound For Glory is on Friday night, by the way. I think The Chairshot is one of the few sites where a majority of the writers/podcasters might already know that. Anyway, this is going to be a slopfest, so my recommendation to you is to pick the Colts at this number. Well, honestly, my recommendation to you is to not even bother with this nonsense except taking the under at 43.5.

Sunday, October 9

NY Giants vs. Green Bay (-8)

It’s been nice to see the Giants get off to a 3-1 start, and it was even nicer to see the 80s style helmets make a comeback in Week 4. Unfortunately for the Giants, they also saw Daniel Jones & Tyrod Taylor get hurt in Week 4. It’s never great to have an uncertain situation at quarterback, but it’s pretty awful to have one while you’re traveling overseas to play football at a weird time.

The Packers have narrowly won their last two games and Aaron Rodgers hasn’t looked especially happy with his team. He should fit in well in England, in spite of being “jolly ol'” it doesn’t seem like the British are especially cheerful folks. I think Rodgers has a good day and leads the Packers to a big victory in front of their English fans.

Pittsburgh at Buffalo (-14)

This sounds like a ridiculously huge number until you take the following things into consideration:

  • The Bills defense just shuts teams down
  • The Steelers offense just gets shut down

CBS is sending the Tony Romo announce crew to Buffalo, which says more about the lack of interest in the rest of their slate than the quality of this game. The Bills have beaten better teams than the Steelers by more than 14 points, so they should be able to take care of business here. There is slight reason for worry that Kenny Pickett looks better than he did against the Jets & the Steelers find the magic horseshoe they’ve had up their ass for fifty years now, so it’s not like I’d bet the house on this game.

LA Chargers (-3) at Cleveland

I don’t know who’s going to be active in this game with the injury issues surrounding both teams. What I do know is this is going to be a high-scoring game that one can hit the over on. The Chargers’ offense should be able to execute against a Browns defense likely missing a couple of its key pieces. However, the Browns’ rushing attack should make mincemeat of a Chargers defense missing some key pieces and struggling against the rush.

I tend to steer clear of West Coast teams going to colder environments, so let’s pick the Browns to keep things close.

Houston at Jacksonville (-7)

Who would have thought that the Jaguars would be seven point favorites against anybody a month ago? Maybe a two or three point favorite against a Texans team that nobody saw anything in either, but it’s amazing how opinion can swing in a short period of time. They came up short last week in Philly, but most people aren’t really holding that against them. This is the kind of game that the Jaguars need to win easily in order to establish themselves, and I think Doug Pederson gets his guys ready to do just that.

Chicago at Minnesota (-7)

I think the Vikings have a vastly superior team to the Bears. That, combined with homefield, should make them the easy pick. Then you remember that this is a divisional game, the Vikings are returning from London, and the Bears have been reasonably competitive except against the Packers. Justin Fields hasn’t been great, but the Vikings defense made Andy Dalton look pretty good last week.

Let’s not overthink things. We roll with the better team, which I believe to be the Vikings.

Detroit at New England (-3)

Who is Bailey Zappe? Bailey played his first three seasons of college ball at Houston Baptist before moving to Western Kentucky for his senior season. He threw for 5967 yards & 62 touchdowns in the 2021 season, which got him noticed and drafted in the fourth round of the 2022 Draft by the New England Patriots. He was solidly on the third string until Mac Jones got hurt in Week 3 & Brian Hoyer got hurt during the Patriots’ Week 4 game with the Packers. Zappe at least looked the part during his first outing, keeping the Patriots competitive in what ended up being an overtime loss. Since it’s the Patriots, we have no idea who’s going to be quarterback this week, but whoever it is should have a shot against a Lions defense that has yet to stop anybody.

The Lions’ offense has been pretty good though, and should have a couple of their weapons back this week. Should be a tight one, but I’ll go with the Lions since their offense has shown more consistency so far.

Seattle at New Orleans (-5.5)

Sure, some of it has to do with the competition he’s seen. But nobody expected anything like what we’ve seen from Geno Smith the first four weeks of the season. We all gave up on Geno after his first few seasons with the Jets didn’t result in him becoming one of the best QBs in the league. With the NFL salary structure set up the way it is, quarterbacks are no longer able to slowly grow into the job. You’re either amazing right away or doomed to years of backup duty before exiting the sport. Maybe in past generations, guys like Geno, Blake Bortles, E.J. Manuel and other guys that were slow to grow into the QB1 gig would have had a chance. Not today. Too many youngsters in the pipeline, and not enough time for football teams to win before they have to pay their superstar QB too much of their payroll. Smith got lucky that the Seahawks were in a place where they didn’t have some young hotshot ready to go. If they did, he’d be sitting behind that guy.

Instead, he’s playing against a Saints team also lacking some young hotshot ready to go. Jameis Winston may or may not be ready to come back from injury. Andy Dalton looked fine in London against the Vikings. I think the Saints win, but the Seahawks keep it within the spread.

Miami (-3.5) at NY Jets

As far as backup quarterbacks go, Teddy Bridgewater is pretty much as good as it gets. Good leader, good person, won’t make too many mistakes. Veteran player, but not washed up. While Dolphins fans would rather see Tua Tagovailoa out there playing, most of them likely wish that Miami had made the right decision and put Bridgewater out there for the beginning of their Week 4 game. What’s done is done, and the Dolphins have to move forward.

Zach Wilson & the Jets didn’t look too hot after three quarters against the Steelers, but made up for that with a fourth quarter comeback where the young QB proved his resilience. I’ll take them to keep it within a field goal.

Atlanta at Tampa Bay (-8.5)

Tom Brady’s divorce proceedings will get most of the attention this week, understandably so given his position as the NFL’s North Star. Not being an expert on matters of the heart, I defer to my longtime Twitter friend’s thoughts on the issue. What could come as an even bigger surprise to people than the Brady story: The Falcons & Buccaneers are tied at 2-2 for first place in the NFC South. People thought the Bucs would be better and the Falcons would be worse, but here we are.

Even though the Bucs came up short against Kansas City, the fact is that there aren’t many offenses out there like the Chiefs’ that can make defenses look like kids. The Falcons seemed like they were rushing every play against the Browns, and Tampa should be able to fare better against that. Maybe I’m selling the Falcons short here, but I’m expecting a big bounce back effort from the Buccaneers.

Tennessee (-2.5) at Washington

Alarm bells are going off in Washington, which is only natural since they lost by two touchdowns to the Cowboys. Are they really one of the worst teams in the league? Probably, but it’s not like it’s all that shocking given the state of the organization. It’d be more shocking if they seemed like legit contenders. Carson Wentz doesn’t look like the answer, but again, that’s not exactly shocking. Sometimes things play out the way you thought they would. Not too often for me, as my record over the past couple of years in this column shows, but it happens sometimes.

The Titans should be able to get another big road win this week and work their way back up the AFC South power rankings. Somebody will win that division and get a playoff slot, it might as well be them.

San Francisco (-6.5) at Carolina

If you listened to the fanbases of these teams, you would think this game featured two bad quarterbacks. Carolina Panthers fans are probably right about their man, but San Francisco 49ers fans need to take a chill pill about the Jimmy G experience. They need to be as chill as their guy is. Does anybody doubt he’ll go to Carolina and take care of business?

Yes, San Francisco is a West Coast team going east. However, Carolina is typically a warmer environment than San Francisco, so this isn’t the same thing as the LA Chargers going to Cleveland. I feel fine rolling with the 49ers against a Panthers team that hasn’t been able to get much going offensively so far.

Philadelphia (-5) at Arizona

Looks like the city of Philadelphia will be dealing with the Cardinals all weekend. The local NFL team goes to Arizona, while the baseball team goes to St. Louis for the NL Wild Card round. Should be fun times all around! There are some pretty serious similarities between these teams, as many have made the observation that this season’s Eagles remind them of the 2021 Arizona Cardinals…during the first half of the season.

The Eagles are the NFL’s last unbeaten team, and I think they’ll stay that way after this week. Should be a high-scoring affair and a lot of fun, so it’s no wonder that Fox didn’t make it their game of the week.

Dallas at LA Rams (-4.5)

Dr. Jerry Jones updated us on Dak Prescott’s thumb on Tuesday, saying that Dak is not well enough to play just yet. Jones didn’t rule out Dak being ready by Sunday, but is there any reason to hurry Dak’s recovery process along when Cooper Rush has led the Cowboys to three straight victories? I don’t see one. What I do see is a Cowboys pass rush that should give a weak Rams offensive line fits all game long. Don’t get it twisted, I still expect Dallas to get it wrong in the end…but it’s Week 5. We’re just at the beginning of this story.

I’ve been talking about the Bengals’ Super Bowl hangover pretty regularly, but it might be time to make mention of the Rams going through a similar process. Like the Bengals, they sit at 2-2 with questions about their offensive line. Two lackluster showings in prime time hasn’t helped their cause. I think they could break Cooper Rush’s winning streak, but it should be a pretty close game. Take the Cowboys.

Cincinnati at Baltimore (-3)

Sunday was another difficult day for the AFC North. Cleveland & Pittsburgh both had leads that wilted away in the fourth quarter. Baltimore’s lead over Buffalo wilted away in the third quarter. As former Cincinnati Bengals Radio Network host Alan Cutler would have said, it was a great day to be a Bengals fan. After an 0-2 start with losses to seemingly inferior teams had Cincinnati fans on the ledge, two straight wins put the Bengals right back in an AFC North mix that seems likely to stay a mix for the rest of the season.

Do Ravens fans need to worry about their team being 2-2? Nah. The losses came to the Bills & Dolphins, two of the best performing teams in the NFL during the first month. It’s not like they were dropping games to Mitchell Trubisky & Cooper Rush. The one troubling aspect is the fact that the Ravens had sizeable leads in both games and could easily be sitting at 4-0 right now. You hope they clean it up at some point, and a divisional showdown on SUNDAY NIGHT IS FOOTBALL NIGHT would be an ideal time to do so.

Traditionally, Bengals vs. Ravens is a closely contested game. That hasn’t been the case recently, as the last five meetings between the two have been decided by 20 points or more. I don’t think the margin gets that high this time, but I do think the Ravens win at home in semi-comfortable fashion in primetime in front of a hyped crowd.

Monday, October 10

Las Vegas at Kansas City (-7)

It was kind of cute for the month or so where people tried to act like the Chiefs weren’t the preeminent favorites to win the Super Bowl. We thought that maybe the offense wouldn’t be as explosive just because Tyreek Hill wasn’t around anymore. How adorable. One whooping of Tampa Bay later, and we remember that Andy Reid knows how to coach. While the other AFC West teams haven’t lived up to their preseason billing, the Chiefs are pretty much where we thought they would be. Except for that weird Colts loss.

One of those teams yet to live up to their billing would be the Raiders. They might have gotten back on track with a good win against Denver last week, but still need to find their chemistry. Josh McDaniels will get it figured out eventually. Maybe. This thing with him being a head coach has to work at some point, right? I see the Chiefs winning by more than ten.

Week 4 Results: 6-8-2
Overall Results: 28-34-3


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