The good news for the Detroit Lions (besides their season being over) is they will retain their head coach and their offensive and defensive coordinators for the 2010 season. This is the first time they have retained all three positions in 13 years (no, seriously). That is truly amazing and explains a lot of what went wrong for them in the last decade.
Take a look at the top 12 quarterbacks for the 2009 NFL season and it becomes clear what the time line will be for any Lion success. Because they will need their quarterback Matthew Stafford to be in the top third of NFL quarterbacks to be in playoff contention. Nine of the quarterbacks in the top 12 led their teams to the playoffs. The three other playoff quarterbacks were Joe Flacco at #13 and Carson Palmer at #16 and Mark Sanchez who amazingly led his team to the playoffs ranked #28.
Continuity will also be important for the development of Matthew Stafford. Not that what I'm saying here is anything profound but none other than Former Lions Head Coach Steve Mariucci backs me up, "...(Stafford)'s got to have some continuity in his preparation, his scheme, his off-seasons, his training camps, his practice routine. It can't be changing coaches over there. ... It can't happen, or he's going to make progress and fall back, make progress and fall back."
Each of the top 12 quarterbacks in 2009 have been in the league at least 5 seasons. Aaron Rodgers is the most junior of the top dozen and of course his development was a bit different than Stafford. He didn't start a game until last year, his 4th season in the NFL, but is already in the top 5. The Packers handled that situation well although they did let Brett Farve leave and he ended up the #2 quarterback in 2009.
Also, all the top 12 quarterbacks with the exception of Brett Farve, have worked with their Head Coach and/or Offensive Coordinator for at least three seasons. So let's all hope and pray that Lions OC Scott Linehan sticks around in addition to Lions Head Coach Jim Schwartz.
The statistics also make clear that the Lions are at least 2 seasons away from seriously thinking playoffs. And to become one of the top teams, they will most likely have to wait for Stafford's 6th season.
Of course this is the Lions. So expect the unexpected (and the worst.)
Top 12 quarterbacks (includes draft position, NFL tenure and time with coaches)
1. Drew Brees NO (13-3) ; (2001, #32 Round 2) (9th season)
4th season with New Orleans and Head Coach Sean Payton
2. Brett Farve MIN (12-4) ; (1991; #33 Round 2) (19th season - 1 Superbowl)
1st season with Minnesota and Head Coach Brad Childress
3. Phillip Rivers SD (13-3) ; (2004; #4) (6th season)
6th Season with San Diego; 3rd with Norv Turner and before that 3 seasons with Marty Schottenheimer.
4. Aaron Rodgers GB (11-5) ; (2005; #24) (5th season)
5th Season with Green Bay and 4th with Head Coach Mike McCarthy. The Packer have had the same offensive coordinator Joe Philbin for the past 3 seasons (and been with the Packers for 7 seasons.)
5. Ben Roethlisberger PIT (9-7); (2005, #11) (6th season - 2 Superbowls)
6th Season; 3rd with Mike Tomlin and before that 3 Seasons with Bill Cower. His offensive coordinator with the team for six years the first three as wide receivers coach.
6. Peyton Manning IND (14-2); (1998, #1) (12th season - 1 Superbowl)
12th Season all with Tom Moore as his Offensive Coordinator.
7. Matt Schaub HOU (9-7) ; (2004; #90 Round 3) (6th season)
3rd Season with Houston Texans and 3rd Season with Gary Kubiak. 2009 was his offensive coordinator Rick Dennison's first season with the Texans.
8. Tony Romo DAL (11-5) ; (2003 Undrafted) (6th NFL season)
6th Season and 3rd Season with Wade Phillips and before that 3 seasons with Bill Parcells
9. Tom Brady NE (10-6) ; (2000; #166 Round 6) (10th season - 3 Superbowls)
10th Season with NE Patriots and Head Coach Bill Belichick
10. Kurt Warner ARI (10-6) ; (1994 Undrafted) (12th season - 1 Superbowl)
5th Season with Arizona and 3rd Season with Ken Whisenhunt
11. Eli Manning NYG (8-8) ; (2004; #1) (6th season - 1 Superbowl)
6th Season with NY Giants and Head Coach Tom Coughlin
12. Donovan McNabb PHI (11-5) ; (1999, #2) (11th season)
11th Season with Philadelphia Eagles and Head Coach Andy Reid
Rookie and First Year Quarterbacks
13. Joe Flacco BAL (9-7) ; (2008; #18) (2nd season)
2nd Season with Baltimore Ravens and Head Coach John Harbaugh
20. Matt Ryan ATL (9-7) ; (2008; #3) (2nd season)
2nd Season with Atlanta and Head Coach
22. Chad Henne MIA (7-9) ; (2008; #57 Round 2)(2nd season)
2nd Season with Miami Dolphins and Head Coach
28. Mark Sanchez NYJ (9-7) ; (2009; #5) (Rookie)
1st Season with Jets and Head Coach Rex Ryan
29. Matthew Stafford DET (2-14) ; (2009; #1) (Rookie)
1st Season with Lions and Head Coach Jim Schwartz and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan
30. Josh Freeman TB (3-13) ; (2009; #17) (Rookie)
1st Season with Buccaneers and Head Coach Raheem Morris
p.s. Let's hand it to the Lions for drafting Stafford. The quarterback class this year looks pretty thin and there may not be a prospect of Stafford's caliber for a few years. And when that times comes, you may not be able to get him. A lot of fans wanted Aaron Curry who may not turn out to be that much better of a player than our 3rd round pick Deandre Levy.