April 25, 2009 at 9:47 pm

Terry Foster: Commentary

Lions ignore their problems, go for flash

Stafford is getting $41 million in guaranteed money and you know Lions fans will demand that he plays if the season starts slowly. (Associated Press)

Wyandotte -- Last week the Lions unveiled a logo with muscle. They told us they would be meaner and tougher. It represented a change in philosophy and a change in direction.

So what do we get on the first day of the NFL draft? It looks like we got the same old Lions. They passed on two middle linebackers, although they don't really have one on the roster.

They went for glitz with the first pick in quarterback Matthew Stafford, then they found protection for the glitzy quarterback by selecting tight end Brandon Pettigrew of Oklahoma State, who can be Stafford's bailout package in the flats when Stafford gets flushed out of the pocket because of a poor offensive line.

It baffles me that they would come off an 0-16 season with one of the worst defenses in NFL history and not address their defensive flaws until the first pick of the second round, when they selected a safety.

A safety?

With USC middle linebacker Rey Maualuga staring them in the face?

It seemed as if Matt Millen still had the war room on speed dial.

"Rey, Rey, Rey," people at one area draft party chanted when it appeared as if the Trojans linebacker had fallen into the Lions' lap. But Rey is now a member of the Cincinnati Bengals.

I understand that Louis Delmas of Western Michigan is a fine player. But the Lions need help in the trenches. The logo change meant nothing. It is the same old Lions. They think they can sell tickets with a high-octane offense, but they remain weak in the trenches and terrible on defense.

The Lions managed to turn off their fan base again with a questionable draft. But now the people who booed them are trying to forgive them. The Lions can give folks what they want Sunday by going defense, defense, defense.

It might not heal all the wounds, but it will help them cope with a team that refuses to address its most pressing needs.

Let me be as direct as possible. I did not want the Lions to draft Stafford. But they don't listen to me, and what choice do we have now but to support Stafford?

This was the sentiment of many people at the draft party I attended. They sat numb and with little reaction when Stafford officially became a Lion. But about 10 minutes later reality hit. Four members of the party raised a toast to Stafford, wishing the best for him.

"It is not my guy, but I hope it works out," Scott Hanlon of Southgate said.

The fans did not get their man, but the Lions did. The people's choice, linebacker Aaron Curry, went fourth to the Seattle Seahawks.

There is some bitterness and there should be. The Lions did not address their most pressing need: shoring up a defense that gave up the second-most points in NFL history. Instead, they went for the glamour boy who will sell jerseys and perhaps spark ticket sales.

Stafford would have been a great pick if the Lions had any means of supporting him. But they were 0-16 last season with holes at every defensive position, offensive line and wide receiver.

The best thing the Lions can do now is sit Stafford and let Daunte Culpepper take the lumps for a season. But Stafford is getting $41 million in guaranteed money and you know Lions fans will demand that he play if the season starts slowly.

He is not a bad choice, just not the right choice at this time.

Stafford is smart with a strong arm. He is handsome and rugged and sort of looks like a young John Elway. But this town of grit and toughness wanted the Lions to mirror their mood by drafting someone tough.

If the pick wasn't Curry, we hoped for a bruising left tackle that could open holes for running back Kevin Smith. The Lions don't need flash. They need to follow the Pittsburgh Steelers' simple formula: running the football and stopping the run.

"It is a blue-collar town," said Gary Kapp of Southgate, a season ticket holder. "I don't want flashy. I want the team to be consistent."

The problem is we don't trust the Lions. Do you know the Lions only have one player (Alex Lewis) on the roster taken between the 2002 and 2005 drafts? Of course, those missteps were taken by former president Matt Millen, and we hope that current general manager Martin Mayhew will be different.

The Lions have been chasing a franchise quarterback ever since Bobby Layne left in the late 1950s. They've used first-round picks on Greg Landry, Chuck Long, Joey Harrington and Andre Ware. The only one to make a Pro Bowl was Landry in 1971.

The memories of "Joey Blue Skies" are still too fresh. He was trumpeted as the next savior out of the University of Oregon. On the rare occasions he got the ball into the end zone, he ran down the field as if his pants were on fire, but too often he did not accept responsibility for his failures.

He was wine, cheese and chocolate-covered strawberries, not burgers, brew and a shot.

Now we are on to the next savior. Let's hope this one works out.

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