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Stafford has the pressure of Detroit on his shoulders after signing bonus

April 30, 2009

Why should an NFL player get a guaranteed $41.7 million for not playing a single down in professional football?

This is what Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 overall draft pick in this year’s NFL draft, got after signing a deal with the Detroit Lions.

Granted, he may have had a solid collegiate career at the University of Georgia, but come on. This is the NFL.

Everyone, even the biggest, strongest and fastest guys in college say the game is a lot tougher.

His bonus money is more than what Peyton Manning, arguably the best quarterback in the league, made in 2004 with a $34 million bonus.

It is also much more than Ben Roethlisberger’s $25.2 million—and he is a two-time Super Bowl champion.

It would have been a little easier to swallow if Stafford was in the Heisman Trophy mix, but he was not even invited to New York for the awards presentation.

The three finalists for the Heisman were Tim Tebow of the University of Florida, University of Texas quarterback Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford of the University of Oklahoma. Bradford won the award, but lost in the national championship game to Tebow and the Gators.

This however is not Stafford’s fault. Once again, the Lions show why they are the league’s worst when it comes to running a professional sports team.

There is no problem picking Stafford for the team, even though some, including myself, believe Matt Sanchez of the University of Southern California is better, but handing him that much money for the work he did in college and a few scheduled workouts does no justice whatsoever.

Being able to give a player that much guaranteed money shows that you have the cash, so you should spend it wisely, especially in Detroit, which is getting hit hard in the current economic climate.

If things get sour early for the Lions, management should not expect to see a filled Ford Field.

At Georgia, Stafford had the pressure of leading the preseason No. 1 ranked team to what was supposed to be an outstanding season.

In a handful of the “cupcake,” games he had last season, Stafford dominated, but when the Bulldogs had to play the University of Alabama, he could not find a way to come through, losing to the Crimson Tide 41-30.

Four games later Georgia played Florida and got dominated.

Stafford was horrible, going 18-33 with no touchdowns and three interceptions.

He did come on strong toward the end of the regular season, which included a five touchdown performance against Georgia Tech University, but it ended in a loss to the Bulldogs arch rival.

In some of the big games last year, Stafford was not at his best.

He was three-for-three in bowl games, but none of them were against quality opponents. The Bulldog defense overmatched an inferior University of Hawaii team in the 2008 Sugar Bowl and beat a weak Michigan State University team in the 2009 Citrus Bowl.

For Stafford, the whole weight of the Detroit Lions organization is on his shoulders and with all the guaranteed money he now has along with his six-year contract worth $78 million. He is on a team that does not have a lot of talent, but does have a saving grace in wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who had a superb season, despite being the only offensive threat last year.

The only good thing is that this exposed the player’s union about these ridiculous bonuses rookies get and at next year’s collective bargaining agreement changes will most likely be made to stop these travesties.

Justin Magill is a student at UW-River Falls.