The Detroit Lions considered every option before finally selecting quarterback Matthew Stafford with the No. 1 overall last year. Including Mark Sanchez.
“We considered everybody else in the draft,” head coach Jim Schwartz said on a conference call with local media Wednesday morning. “That’s the thing, when you’re picking number one, you don’t have to worry about somebody jumping ahead of you. We considered literally everyone. We spent a lot of time with Mark in a lot of different ways. We probably sent about eight or nine people to his workout in Los Angeles. When he worked out, we spent a lot of time with him. He had an outstanding future ahead of him. In the final determination, we were happy with the pick that we made.”
That decision propelled Sanchez into media spotlight, as the Jets selected the kid with the laidback, California cool smile with the fifth pick.
Asked what’s more pressure – coming to New York or being the overall No. pick, Stafford hesitated before saying: “I don’t know. I can’t speak on that cause I’m not in New York and he’s not in Detroit. They’re different situations. Every NFL quarterback has similarities with what they deal with and differences also with where they’re playing, so it’s kind of tough to speak on that.”
What Stafford did speak on was his personal progression and how he’s done all he could to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump.
“I’ve just been trying to put good games and good practices on top of each other and keep building,” said the 22-year-old, who injured his right shoulder in the season opener at Chicago on Sept. 12.
He returned six weeks later and threw four touchdowns to lead the Lions past the Washington Redskins, 37-25.
“That’s been my philosophy on it and I feel like it’s working so far. I’ve got to keep doing it of course and I think one of the things that benefited me coming from Year 1 to Year 2 is that the organization did a great job of putting weapons around me and going out there and getting guys like [WR] Nate Burleson, [TE Tony] Scheffler, [RB] Jahvid Best, guys that take pressure off the quarterback or you can just get them the ball and let them do their thing.”
The Lions also have the oh-so-dangerous Calvin Johnson.
“I don’t know if there’s a size and speed guy that’s comparable to him in the league,” Stafford said of the 6-5, 235-pound receiver, who was named the NFC’s Offensive Player of the Week for his 101 yards and three touchdowns (a single-game career high) on nine catches against Washington.
“He’s just a mismatch for a lot of guys in this league.”
The Jets (5-2) may have the better record, but the 2-5 Lions have lost all of their games by an average of 6.4 points.
So are the Lions underrated? To no surprise, Stafford wouldn’t bite.
“I don’t know,” he said. “We don’t pay too much attention to what other people have to say about us. We know how close we’ve been in certain games this year and we know there have been other times where we’ve had to play better to win. We know we’re playing a good team and we have to play well.”