Detroit Lions: Two’s company, three’s a crowd

The Lions had their third quarterback stolen from then going into Week 1 of the season, leaving them with just two. What should the Lions do about this going forward?

The perfect storm

In 2008, when the Lions had their infamous 0-16 season, they saw five quarterbacks take their place under center. QB Jon Kitna started four games, Dan Orlovsky seven, and Daunte Culpepper five. Then Drew Stanton saw action in three games and Drew Henson in two. The ultimate embarrassment was when Dan Orlovsky inadvertently stepped out of bounds in the end zone for a safety. So the prospect of having qualified personnel at the quarterback position is imperative.

Fast forward to 2017 and the regular season has already started. Not for the fans, that starts on Sunday, but the players are practicing for real right now. With the final cuts made and the roster set, Lions’ GM Bob Quinn has his work cut out for him. Unexpectedly, the Carolina Panthers nicked their third string QB Brad Kaaya. Bob Quinn and his head coach Jim Caldwell must come to a meeting of the minds as what to do because as of right now they only have two QBs on their roster.

Stand pat

This isn’t poker but you better put your game face on because the Lions’ QB situation is not desperate but it is troubling. With the loss of Kaaya, Detroit will probably go into their first game with only two QBs on the roster. Since that was the company line to go into the season nothing has really changed on that front. From a practice scenario, where Caldwell and Cooter expected their backup, Jake Rudock, to stand in the huddle and watch Stafford from behind so he could see what he sees, that much is over.

They can’t waste time. The normal format is to run the starting offense on one end of the field against the backup defense, and on the other end of the field, have the starting defense working against the backup offense. Without three QBs, Jake Rudock cannot be at both ends of the field at the same time, meaning he will be forced to run the scout team at one end while Stafford works at the other. Not the best situation but for now it will have to do.

Sign a QB to the practice squad

This is a very real possibility. There are certainly QBs who have been cut over the weekend who qualify to be on the practice squad, but exactly who do you bring in? This is where Bob Quinn, who said he keeps a player profile of every player on every team in the NFL, needs to give his revamped scouting department time to evaluate their list of prospects and settle on one name.

They won’t find a talent like Brad Kaaya, who was projected to be a first round pick before his senior season, but whoever they land will likely have an upside that Caldwell and Cooter can develop into at least some draft capital. 

Whoever they sign is not going to be a long term solution, but remember, Jim Caldwell has a reputation around the NFL of developing QBs. Even last week there were rumblings whether or not Quinn would trade Jake Rudock. 

Two years ago the Lions cut Kellen Moore and the Dallas Cowboys didn’t hesitate and signed him straight away. One of the perks of having Jim Caldwell as your head coach is the rest of the NFL values his stable of QBs. Get the right QB and develop him, and from time to time, Bob Quinn will have draft capital.

Kellen Moore

The Dallas Cowboys have cut Kellen Moore this year and decided to go with rookie Cooper Rush from Central Michigan. However, if Detroit has any inclination of signing Moore they better hurry because the word around Dallas is they intend to re-sign him to the active roster. 

Moore’s in an awkward, but enviable position, because two playoff teams are probably vying for his services as I write this. The downside for Moore is he’ll be third string no matter where he goes. The advantage is he’s had some experience in Jim Bob Cooter’s offense so it wouldn’t take as much to bring him up to speed in an emergency. The downside for Detroit is because he’s a vested veteran they’d have to sign him to the active roster meaning they’d have to cut a rotational player.

Shaun Hill

Shaun Hill is another option. He was with Detroit in 2014 when Martha cleaned house and fired everybody. Everybody except head coach Jim Caldwell and then newly appointed offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. Granted Hill only saw a half season with Cooter but it’s better than the alternative. He’s another active roster player and it’s probably too early to spend that much on Hill.

Emergency QB

Should the Lions need a third QB this season, they could do nothing until the need arises and then sign a free agent to finish out the season. That is the most expensive way to go, but if the Lions find themselves in a playoff chase toward the end of the season they would very likely make a move like this. The Lions could also trade for a QB but that would prove too costly for the short term.

Roll with it

I suspect Quinn and Caldwell will go with what they’ve got. Their intention was to have two QBs on the active roster and they’ve got that. If something happens along the way, they’ll cross that bridge when they get to it. Losing Kaaya wasn’t expected. Quinn will be prepared from here on out.

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Chris Decker