Neat discussion this week in our latest "Have at It" post, which asked you to identify a "faulty assumption" about an NFC North team or player entering the 2010 season. You managed to keep on topic for nearly two days, and only a few of you revealed the American education system to be lacking in its attempts to impart the definitions of "faulty" and "assumption." We should now all be caught up. Anyhoo....
I thought j.rizik014 caught our drift immediately with an appropriate expression of concern about Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford:
There seems to be a general assumption that Matthew Stafford has proven himself as a capable starting quarterback, if not a future star. I don't completely disagree, but the fact is that he won two games last year, took some big hits, and missed multiple games due to injury. He'd rocket some throws for completions, only to turn around and throw three interceptions in a quarter.
The game people bring up is the infamous Cleveland game, in which he took the huge hit, only to crawl back in and win as time expired. However, people forget that he nearly took the Lions out of the game in the first quarter, and it bears repeating: it was CLEVELAND. He is a rookie, and you somewhat expect the inconsistencies, but I think it's fair to say he hasn't proven himself yet. Is there a lot of promise? Heck yes. But he has a long way to go.
And, if this assumption of stardom falls flat, can you imagine how much wind it takes out of the franchise's sail, especially after all the recent positive attention?
That is exactly the kind of assumption I was hoping this discussion would lead to. We all saw plenty to like about Stafford last year. But did we see enough quantitative evidence to cement the notion he will be the Lions' starter for the next 10 years? Isn't it reasonable to hold out some skepticism before signing over the mortgage? Shouldn't we at least balance expectations with facts? Stafford, after all, threw 20 interceptions in 10 games and completed only 53.3 percent of his passes last season.
I'm neither knocking Stafford nor leveling criticism at the Lions. Chances are that Stafford will make an upward leap between year one and year two. But to consider it inevitable is ignoring the full picture of what we saw last season.
Your 300-plus comment discussion was filled with other potentially faulty assumptions. Nostradumbdumb wrote that "the most dangerous assumption is that the Vikes are clearly the most talented roster in the division." Warning signs include age and/or to key defensive players, including nose tackle Pat Williams, linebacker E.J. Henderson and cornerbacks Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin.
Tmonson78 wonders if it will take the Bears offense more time than expected to learn offensive coordinator Mike Martz's complicated offense. Dgunderson26, meanwhile, thinks Bears fans should be cautious about assuming middle linebacker Brian Urlacher will return as good as ever after missing 15 games last season: "I don't see things getting better for him after aging one more year in the NFL."
Across state lines, Herbitz thinks Green Bay and its fans are overlooking quarterback depth. Backup quarterbacks are expected to be flawed, but that cliff is particularly steep for the Packers:
Is there any doubt that the most dangerous assumption heading into the season is that Aaron Rodgers will not get injured? True, the guy took 50+ sacks last year and did not miss a snap because of injury, but does anyone think he is the next coming of Favre in terms of injuries? ...
They have done NOTHING to shore up the backup QB position. At the moment Matt Flynn is the second stringer, and though I trust him to run out the clock in blowouts, I do not trust him to win the Packers any games. Bottom line is that ALL of the Packers' eggs are in one basket and this is the most dangerous assumption in the entire division.
My take? I'm sticking with the assumption I threw out in the original post. There's been plenty of discussion about whether Vikings quarterback Brett Favre will play in 2010, but there's been almost no talk (at least on this blog) about the feasibility of producing the same performance as he did last year.
Let's be realistic for a moment. Last season was one of Favre's best seasons ever. It was also one of the most efficient seasons for any quarterback in modern NFL history. He set career-best marks in passer rating (107.2), completion percentage (68.4.) and interceptions (seven), while also becoming only the second quarterback in league history to throw for at least 33 touchdowns and no more than seven interceptions.
We can't rule out a repeat performance for the simple fact that Favre has proved he can do it. But isn't it also reasonable to question whether he'll slip back to his career averages? (Which, by the way, are Hall-of-Fame worthy in themselves.) And if the Vikings finished one game ahead of Green Bay in the NFC North last season, what would a relatively less productive season from Favre mean for them in 2010?
This discussion isn't meant to alarm anyone or forebode disappointment anywhere in the division. But at this time of year, everyone is full of optimism -- and in some cases blinded by it. At all times, and especially now, I think it's important to deliver healthy skepticism to assumptions that might not develop into facts.