Saturday, May 10, 2008

Non-BBQ-QB: Can We Stand It? [updated]

Funniest line I have read in a long time (which the Freep didn't put into print in their "transcript" of the same press session.):

QB Jon Kitna: "When (center) Dominic Raiola is in the game, I'll be in the game. That's how I know when I'm up,'' Kitna said. "When I see No. 51 go in, that's when I go. Nobody gets to touch his butt but me - and his wife.''

Laughed out loud the first time I read that. And the second. Still chuckle. And not just at the line -- for the first time in 20 years the Lions have an honest to goodness starting quarterback. No big questions heading into camp. Orlovsky is the backup, in competition with the (essentially) rookie Stanton, one of whom the Lions would like to develop to replace Kitna as the starter in 2 years (when his contract is up, and they want to be able to re-sign him as a backup). This means both Stanton and Orlovsky will have a chance to develop in camp as the Lions try to keep Kitna healthy, and both seem to be relishing that opportunity (click names for articles about both -- they are freep articles, so ignore the inherent negativity please.)

All hating on Kitna and his flaws aside (of which I hear too much), the recent articles on him being "the man" in Detroit and not worried about competition got me thinking: Is this a good thing?

There are situations in which competition brings out the best in athletes and others. However, sometimes competition can be a distraction from the task at hand. In some instances there is actually more production when there is less immediate competition. Does Peyton Manning need competition, or is his inner drive more powerful than any competition ever could be? How about Tom Brady?

Now, I'm not saying that Jon Kitna is by any means Peyton Manning -- but they both bring similar things to the position that are essential for any winning football team: Leadership and Stability at the most important position on the offense.

Looking around the League, I decided to look at all (projected) 31 other starting QB's in comparison to Kitna, and look at where he ranks. I didn't do this based on stats, because those vary widely from system to system -- the QB is asked to do different things by different teams, but leadership and the execution of those demands is what makes a QB successful for any given team. When I looking at them, I took into account not just how they performed for their team, but is this someone who would be better than Kitna to lead the Detroit Lions right now. So this isn't who is the best QB in the league, but where does Kitna stack up in the imaginary pantheaon of "possible QB's" for Detroit.

Arizona -- Leinart or Warner? Warner might be able to run the offense the Lions have well from his St. Louis days, but he has many of the same flaws as Kitna -- and isn't the same kind of dynamic, inspirational field general that Kitna is. This young Lions team needs someone who is supportively vocal right now. Leinart ahsn't really done a lot since entering the league, and tends to be mroe whiny california party boy than leader. He hasn't even been able to hold off the aging veteran in Warner compeltely, even before his injury last season. At best, Warner is a tie, advantage incumbent.
Atlanta -- They drafted Ryan, but really their opening day starters are Chris Redman or Joey Harrington (and Ryan reminds me of the latter). Overall, in the case of the Lions I'd say no to both over Kitna.
Baltimore -- Who will the starter be? Boller, Smith or Flacco? Again, Flacco is a rook on par with Stanton so that leaves 2nd year man Smith or Boller. For comparison, I'll go with Boller winning their job early, but looking over his shoulder like he always has in Baltimore. boller ahsn't really distinguished himself as the kind of gritty leader Kitna is, and while he has a rocket arm his decision making is on par with Kitna at best, but often worse. He threw more red zone picks than Kitna -- and he was playing in a conservative run based offense. (I know I said no stats -- I lied. Did you really think I'd make it through a whole section utlizing no research? Come on...) I'm going with Kitna here for now.
Buffalo -- JP Losman or Trent Edwards? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Seriously, I don't know why they picked Edwards to replace Losman. Neither are really strong leaders consistently, neither has credibility since both are continually competing for the starting job - even midseason. Team politics aside, both lack deep accuracy on a consistent basis -- even when they have time, which is something Kitna has -- when given time. His arm isn't the "strongest", but its strong enough. Throw in veteran savvy, and so far your ass is still a 2 person piece 'o meat Raiola.
Carolina -- Jake Delhomme, pre-injury, would be a good fit for Detroit. Gritty, strong leader who can make the all the throws to his super-WR Smith. However, his elbow injury was no small thing and one has to wonder how it will affect a QB his age, who depended on accuracy to compensate for averge arm strength? I'd rather not risk it in the now.
Chicago -- Kyle or Rex? They don't know, and I don't care. Grossman has shown he is still immature, and does not set a good example of consistent preparation. Ortman didn't help lose any games in Chicago's SB season -- but he really didn't help win any either. The same can't be said for Kitna with his 4th quarter and OT heroics in Minnesota, and consistentcy of always preparing and palying his hardest. Blow on back to Chicago boys.
Cincinnati -- Carson Palmer. Sorry Jon - he beat you once, and I'm afraid on my list he does so again. Carson learned well from his mentor, and with better talent, and being younger would take the the old man.
Cleveland -- Derek Anderson? Brady Quinn? Quinn is as unknown as Stanton at this time. Anderson had one good season. Is he Scott Mitchell reinacarnated? Or maybe was it the combination spectacular line play and emerging WR and TE that he had to throw to last year that did it? He is a promising prospect, but I woudl have to put him as a prospect. He shares Kitna's penchant for miscues when put under too much pressure, and while he played well still didn't have the force of leadership to command the team, not just the huddle. Still, he is younger and more mobile. I'd have to go with even-steven on this one.
Dallas -- Tony Romo -- the Line or the Man? Well, his improvisational skills beat Kitna all to heck when the pocket breaks down (unless he is playing the New York Giants after a nice Vacation, in which case he forgets what the word "improvise" versus "sack-fumble" means.) All joking aside, he is a talented young QB that would be able to thrive behind an improved Lions line. Wow. 2 beat, and one push in the last 3. Not good Kitna. You gotta step up your game for the competition here!
Denver -- Jay Cutler may be a great QB some day. He may be the next Elway for his team some day. That day just hasn't come yet. As of the now, Kitna would be more like Elway than Cutler in Denver, or vice versa. Although Cutler is almost as used to getting sacked as Kitna is.
Detroit -- Umm...yeah, we know he's go this one. Move on, shall we?
Green Bay -- Aaron Rodgers looked pretty good, but he so far has tended to be injury prone, getting hurt in two of his three limited outings for Green Bay. Could that be why GB blew a 2nd and a 5th on QB's? I'll take Kitna's leadership and experience right now, although Rodgers does seem to have some good potential.
Houston -- I know Matt Schaub is the annointed one and cost more for Houston to get than one of Eliot Spitzers ladies of the night. Still, he too has major durability issues. I had him on my Fantasy team last year thinking him and Andre Johnson would have break-out years. Yes, bitterness is playing a part here. If you have a problem with it too bad. Him and his bad ankle/shoulder/back/head can head back behind Kitna on my depth chart.
Indianapolis -- Peyton Manning. Nuff Said. Even when his top 3 targets and 2 linemen were hurt last season, he still pulled out wins. A true talent and student of the game. Any team would be lucky to have him under center.
Jacksonville -- Gerrard? Once again, he was solidly unspectacular for Jacksonville, but I see him in more of the Ortman mold right now -- he won't lose games, but you can't count too much on him throwing the ball to win them. Kitna has more of the gunslinger in him. Kitna is also less mobile, but he'll play run-up-the score games with the long ball and win them more often than not. NFL record 4th quarter points anyone?
Kansas City -- Can you think of an NFL starting caliber QB on this team? Neither can I.
Miami -- See Above. Henne is a rookie, and Kitna = Win Now, develop talent.
Minnesota -- Another Ortman model-Qb. Seems to be a lot of those. If Jackson were as good a QB as Kitna, then the Lions would have been swept by Minnesota last year easily. Stop the run, stop the Vikings.
New England -- Brady, Tom. Model, Male. Counted an average of 6 full seconds in the pocket in Patriots games I saw last season before "pressure" was even an afterthought (with the exception of week 17 and the SB) That being said, I'd take Brady and his pouty-pissed off when he gets hit self on the Lions any day.
New Orleans -- Drew Brees made this a tough call. He's had equal parts good years and spectacular years. On the whole though, he lost nothing to his shoulder surgery a couple seasons back, and given any semblance of a run game will throw all over any D. He's also a classy player, hard worker, and team leader. Yup. I will admit I wanted the Lions to break the bank for him when they signed Kitna and McCown that year. Oh well. I'd still take him though.
New York (Giants) -- Eli Manning still has a lot of maturing to do, and while his leadership skills are emerging, he needs to continue to build his confidence in himeself -- he shoudl acutally look at Kitna, Peyton Manning, and Brady as examples of how supreme self confidence by the QB can spill onto the rest of the offense, giving it an air of invicibility. That being said, he matches Kitna in bone-headed interceptions, but wins for escapability and improvisational skills. Eli wins.
New York (Jets) -- While I'm not sure if Kellon Celmens likes his women over 18 (unlike Roger Clemens), I do know I wouldn't take marshmallow arm since my double surgery Pennington or I can't even beat out Feather Deep Pass that makes the punter jealous of my hangtime guy over Kitna.
Oakland -- Who knows?? He sat out almost into the season, couldn't get on the field until the end of the year, and seemed out of shape when he did. Not the type of leadership I'm looking for, even taking into account him being a rookie.
Philadelphia -- McNabb -- would love to have him...healthy. Which he has not been for an entire season in the last 4 years, including 2 ending on IR. Kolb is an unknown, ala Stanton.
Pittsburgh -- Ben Rothliesburger is a SB winning QB...or rather, his defense and running game won a SB for him, along with his star WR despite one of the worst games of his career to date. he manages games based on the run, but unliek others, I don't buy the deep-passing attack expert some are making him out to be. He does well off of play action, but take away the running game, get some coverage near his guys, he is more prone to interceotions than Kitna -- his arm is strongr, but not as accurate. While he's a bigger guy than Kitna, he's about as mobile. He's also not really the "leader" of the team, something Detroit needs to have form the QB position. I may get hammered for this one, but I'll pass.
San Diego -- Philip Rivers -- sorry Rivers - lovers. He beat out Drew Brees because they took him in the first round. LT makes the QB on that team, and Rivers hasn't shown me he's any kind of leader, or even half as good a player as Brees on a consistent basis. Rivers is up a creek without a RB...we know Kitna can build a sail out of his underwear and send up a request to make the wind blow and at least keep him from going over the waterfall. Rivers flows along over the edge.
San Francisco -- If JT O'Sullivan is in the race for a starting spot, then we know all we need to there...
Seattle -- Matt Hasselback is a gritty veteran who has taken his passing abilities up a notch the last couple of years. Despite some flaws, I'd take him.
St. Louis -- Marc Bulger hs been fighting multiple injuries the last couple of years, and hasn't shown he can be effective without Steven Jackson or a Marshal Faulk racking up yards in the run game.
Tampa Bay -- Too damn many to choose from. Led by Garcia. Not evne going there. Good bye.
Tennesse -- Vince Young = Jon Kitna +200% mobility -100% passing ability-experience = Kitna Wins. Young wins endorsements, Kitna wins games. At least for now.
Washington -- Jason Campbell -- coming off a major knee surgery. Of more conern is that the short-field and horrendous secondary play against the Lions was his onyl really great game last year. And he hadn't done anything more than mediocre before that. Brunell more lost the job than Campbell won it. He should do well in Zorn's WC dink-n-dunk, but Kitna is a better option for the play action, long ball O the Lions utilize.

In summary, I think Kitna gie the Lions a good, solid veteran and stability amid the changes at other positions. There are only 8-9 NFL QB's right now I would take that equal or exceed what Kitna brings to the Lions. He is on the outer edge of the top 30% of QB's overall talent level wise right now.

My thinking on this? It has been so long since the Lions had any kind of quality stability at the QB position, taht many of us have forgotten it is QB not BBQ. Lets quit roasting the guy, and realize that the Lions are in better shape than at least 2/3 of the league at the most important position in the game, and that their veteran QB has a history of teaching the young guys the team is trying to develop.

[spell check is not working right now, so please excuse the typographical errors]

Go Lions!!


Chris said...

Excellent point. I hear it all the time. "The Lions need to get rid of Kitna!" I'm thinking "For WHO?!?!"

I think the Lions next starting QB may just be starting college.

JJLions20 said...

I'm not so sure Kitna is in the top 2/3 of the QB's in the league. I'd agree to the Lions with Kitna being better off than 1/2 of the league. I will also state that I'm a Kitna Fan, but I'm also realistic. The Lions are not likely to win the Superbowl in 08, and are long odds from making the playoffs. Therefore as there is optimism about what Marenelli is doing about building a foundation to be competitive for the long term, the QB position is set for the short term. Kitna is good to manage the position though 08, but he's aging.

So there lies the concern. If Rod can assemble enough talent that fit's his offensive and defensive schemes, do you have the QB that can lead the team for the next 5-7 years?

There are only two QB's in the league that get a free pass from all their fans (Manning & Brady). There is the next group of four QB's that are consistently good, and young that there is hope for improvement to be that upper tier of QB's. They are Rothlessberger, Brees, Palmer, & Romo. But even these guys don't escape all criticism. Think about it , they all have issues to overcome and some fans will knock them for it. Rothlessberger - maturity, Brees - size and durability, Romo – maturity & leadership, Palmer - team leadership.

Then there are two close groups, and their fans are going to be split about them. The young QB that has shown flashes, but has not consistently delivered at a high level. Eli Manning (before the Giants made there late season run, there were a lot of questions about Eli, and if he was going to make it), Rivers, Anderson, Cutler, Young, Campbell.

The next group of QB's, that are: good, consistent, but not much hope of improvement. In this group you have Kitna, Hasselbeck, Warner, Delhomme (pre-injury), Gerrard, McNabb, Bulger.

So the numbers add up to:

4-Consistantly good, young, and still hope of becoming great.
5- Good at times, inconsistent, young, and hope of being great.
7- Good on a consistent basis, but aging and not much chance of improvement. As age comes, so does questions about durability start to arise.

Now here is my issue with the Lions QB situation. If you’re a good veteran playoff team, you have no problem with the veteran QB that is good, consistent, and not much chance for improvement. You'll take the consistency over the improvement. If your a young team, rebuilding, you would rather have the good, inconsistent QB, that has a lot of up-side, and the inconsistency may disappear. The Lions don't have the best combination. You could see the improvement on the horizon if you could see the possibility of improvement at the most important position on a football team.

So where Kitna is the best QB for the Lions for the 2008 season, he doesn't help the long term outlook.

But to Kitna's defense, and I think it is the way Marenelli looks at it, attitude and football character may be more important than talent, at this point in time. The draft and Free Agency was about bringing in the right football character, to change attitude of this team There is hope that Stanton will be the QB of the future, but the time is not now for this team.

DetFan1979 said...

jj - overall talent wise, I put Kitna right where you did -- the outer edge fo the top 30% -- which is around 10-12. My assertion that Kitna is better than 2/3 of the QB in the league -- but only in regardds to fit for where the Lions are developmentally, and the offense they run.

I also totally agree that while he is the best option for 2008, getting to know the two young guys on teh rsoter is essential to know if they have the QB of the future on the roster, or if they need to get him in FA or (preferrably)the draft. With Kitna's age, next year is really the last chance to draft a QB and let them develop. I say give Stanton and Orlovsky a boatlaod fo reps in the offseason this year, most of the preseason -- and then see if they are ready to compete to start next season; reprat process and hope Staton or Orlovsky is ready to start in 2010 post Kitna.

A secondary point I didn't develop well (hence the title) is that many Lions fans don't seem to be equipped to handle having stability at the QB position after so many years fo screaming for the back-up-future-savior all the time.

I am optimistic about the Lions' foundation, and what Rod is building.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with what jj said on this. There's a lot of inconsistency between where we're at with our QB and the rest of the team. We're trying to inject youth and a rebuilding mentality into the organization but when your team leader is about a year or two away from losing his starting role it's not very reassuring.

I don't say this because I'm one of the Kitna-haters, i just think it's relevant to the needs of our team. With Kitna we may make it to the playoffs in the next two years, but after that we'll be taking a big step back rather quickly if Stanton and Orlovsky haven't developed.

Personally, I don't think Orlovsky has a chance in this league. I can't see any evidence of him developing past 3rd string material but hopefully he'll prove me wrong. In my mind though, he'll be gone by the end of next season.

For now, there's not much we can do other than let Kitna play out this season. One way in which it could help us out is by giving the young guys on this team an example of a strong veteran player who really has the leadership and intangibles that Marinelli wants. In this sense, I think Marinelli has held on to him as much for his "figurehead" status as for his playing ability. If some of our weakspots such as DT,OT,MLB and DE seem better next year I think the Lions will look into drafting a QB in the first 2 rounds next offseason. That would definately be the ideal to me...even with Stanton waiting on the sideline.


Patrick said...


Thank you for writing this article. I totally agree with your points on this one. Kitna may not be the future 2 years from now, but the intangibles he brings to the game, that can be passed down are remarkable. 8000yards in two years....not bad if I say so myself. WIth more flexibiity to move change plays a good thing.
Streetworm...understand your makes me feel good that he is a couple of years away...That gives us the time we need to GROOM a good quarterback.