As Christopher Columbus once said, “Where the hell are we?”
Or, what’s the deal with the Lions and their quarterbacks?
The talk shows are buzzing. People are making choices. You’d think the Lions had a chance to win something this season, besides first pick in the draft.
Erik or Rodney or Andre or . . . Chuck?
Well, being curious, I went to the Silverdome to study The Quarterback Controversy. Trust me. I would recognize a quarterback controversy if I saw one. One quarterback walks in, looks at the other, and spits. Meanwhile, the coach is screaming, “I’m starting (fill in name) this week — and you media guys better not turn this into a controversy, because it’s not a controversy. Just because (fill in name) accidentally dropped rat poison into (fill in name)’s Gatorade cup, that is no reason to blow this out of proportion, blah, blah, blah, irresponsible journalists, blah, blah, screw you and your note pads, too!”
I did not see this at the Silverdome.
I did not see anything like it.
Mostly I saw four quarterbacks, all fairly healthy, sort of minding their business.
That is because — and here is my report — we do not have a quarterback controversy in this town.
We have a quarterback carousel.
We arrive where we started
You remember the carousel from your childhood days? Bunch of horses on poles, one goes up, the other goes down — mostly, they go round and round without getting anywhere?
That sums up the Lions’ quarterbacks.
Rodney Peete started the year as everyone’s first choice, even though Erik Kramer led the team to last year’s playoffs. Rodney played well, but the Lions kept losing. So Wayne Fontes made a change, going to Kramer a few weeks ago. Kramer played pretty well, but the team kept losing — mostly because of bad blocking and bad defense — and now people are saying, hey, why not play Andre Ware, see what he can do? And Fontes seems to be leaning that way.
Of course, you never know with Wayne. ME: Do you want to try Andre? FONTES: I could. I might. ME: So you will? FONTES: If I do, then we’ll go that way. And it’ll be positive. But I might not.
Hmmm. While the translators try to figure that out, let’s take a look at our personnel: Rodney, Andre, Erik and Chuck. That’s Chuck Long. Yes, he’s still in the league.
Imagine explaining this cast to an outsider:
“Hi. We have a first-round draft pick and Heisman trophy winner.”
He’s your starter?
“No. He holds the clipboard. We have another first-round draft pick and a Heisman runner-up.”
Oh. He’s your starter.
“No. He’s inactive. We do have a sixth-round draft pick who played in several Rose Bowls.”
So he’s your starter.
‘No. We have a guy who played two years in Canada, and had to phone the Lions for a tryout.”
“He’s our starter.” Lots of contradictions
Wait. Here are more crazy things about the Lions situation: 1) Ware, who never plays, makes the most money of the active quarterbacks. 2) Kramer, who starts, makes the least. 3) Peete, who is finally healthy, is benched. 4) Long, once the golden boy, now signals plays from the sidelines.
Also, all four are in their 20’s.
No wonder they’re confused. Quarterbacks are supposed to be sore, achy, bruised, limping. These guys are like cars in a garage, under a dust cover.
“You’re well-preserved,” I said to Ware.
“I haven’t been this untouched since high school.”
“How do you feel, Rodney?”
“Fine. I’m ready to play . . . “
“Hey, Chuck, do you remember the last time you started an NFL game?”
“Yeah. Ronald Reagan was president.”
Ha! That Chuck. What a kidder! What a . . .
He wasn’t kidding?
You see the problem. Too many quarterbacks, no one grabbing the wheel, everyone on edge.
“I am hoping one of them will take the giant step forward and make our choice for us,” Fontes admitted. But how will that happen with limited snaps and a limited training camp?
It won’t. Fontes must make the choice himself — before next season. Pick a No. 1 guy, a reliable backup, and get rid of the rest, hopefully by trading for much-needed personnel. The Lions are not rich enough to go four deep at quarterback. Not when they’re zero deep at offensive line.
“Pick me!” each quarterback is silently asking.
And Fontes should do it. For one of them. Or else we keep riding this carousel, a bunch of painted horses going round, round, round.
Mitch Albom will sign his new book “Live Albom III” tonight at 7 p.m., Walden Books, Eastland Mall, and Saturday, 1 p.m., Borders, Novi, and 4 p.m., Book People, West Bloomfield.