Drew Stanton led the Lions to a comeback win in Saturday’s exhibition opener. The team’s No. 3 quarterback looked good, looked confident, and showed what he can do with his nimble feet when the situation calls for it.

Now let’s hope he never sees the light of day on the football field—as a Lion— from now until death do we part.

Stanton, the kid from Michigan State who’s been treated oh-so-poorly since becoming a Lion in 2007, can only hope to be the Gary Kubiak of our time—an apprentice and clipboard holder for one of the best quarterbacks in the league.

Of course, the latter is still up to Matthew Stafford, but as long as Stafford is in Detroit and healthy, Stanton will be nothing more than a career No. 2 man.

Kubiak played that role for the Denver Broncos, taking care of garbage time behind John Elway. But Kubiak clearly was paying attention, as he eventually became a well-respected offensive coordinator and then parlayed that into a head coaching gig with the Houston Texans.

As it is, Stanton is No. 3, with Daunte Culpepper and Stafford crowding him out.

It would mean disaster for the Lions if Stanton lines up behind center and starts a regular season NFL game.

Frankly, I wish the Lions would trade him.

Stanton is probably comfortable in Detroit, having played at MSU and going into his third season as a Lion. But he’s not going to play, and that’s what every professional athlete wants to do—play.

In the NBA, playing time is still the one weapon that coaches can wave in their players’ faces. The threat of not getting as much still can quell some bad behavior. It’s also the reason a lot of players leave as free agents. They want to play. Simple as that. Many of them would just as soon leave a winner—and have on many occasions—to join a losing team, if there’s a chance to see serious playing time.

Stanton can’t possibly be any different. He didn’t sign a pro contract to wear baseball caps and earphones.

The Lions should deal him, and quickly. It’s the least they can do for the kid.

Two years ago, with the Lions’ offense still under the thumb of Mad Mike Martz, the rookie Stanton hurt himself early in training camp, just as Martz was monkeying around with the young man’s mechanics.

That was bad enough, but then the Lions made the curious decision to place Stanton on the Injured Reserved list, thus ending his season before it began. His rookie season, no less.

So Stanton did the best he could to learn, even though he was basically persona non grata.

2007 was a wasted season.

Martz was then fired, and a new coordinator came in—Jim Colletto.

But the Lions still had Jon Kitna, and Dan Orlovsky as Kitna’s backup. Stanton was, for all intents and purposes, a rookie all over again. He wasn’t on IR, but he was given no bigger role, really. Never really given a chance to see what he could do.

Even after Kitna went down with an injury, the Lions looked elsewhere for QB help, bringing the pudgy and out of shape Culpepper out of retirement, and thrusting him into the lineup despite Daunte looking like a nose tackle instead of a quarterback.

The Lions even brought Drew Henson in, for goodness sakes.

Rod Marinelli and Colletto were among the casualties of the 0-16, 2008 season.

This meant a new head coach and yet another o-coordinator for Stanton to work with.

Then the Lions went and drafted themselves a “franchise quarterback” last April—Stafford.

Culpepper got himself into shape, dropped weight, and looks and feels like the Daunte of old.

The new o-coordinator, Scott Linehan, has history with Culpepper. And Stafford is clearly the QB of the future. GM Martin Mayhew, as camp opened, hinted the Lions would seek yet another veteran QB, to combine with Culpepper to sandwich around the rookie Stafford.

So where does this leave poor Drew Stanton, perhaps the most shabbily-treated second round-drafted quarterback in history?

For his sake, I hope it leaves him with another NFL team. The Lions don’t deserve him after what they’ve done to him.

They pick him early in the second round in ’07, amidst some genuine excitement from the locals, who remembered vividly what he did both in high school in Okemos and at MSU.

Then they sic Martz on him, who screws him up and makes him un-learn everything he ever knew about quarterbacking.

Then they put him on IR, which is tantamount to stuffing him in a closet for the year.

And that was just for starters.

Stanton needs to go somewhere else—both where he can play and show off his mobility, and to get a fresh new start on an NFL career that just might have some promise.

None of the above will happen in Detroit, with the Lions and their commitment to first Culpepper and, eventually, Stafford.

The Lions will likely get nothing more than a 3rd or 4th round pick for Stanton in a trade, but that’s OK. It would be more of a mercy transaction—more for Stanton than the Lions.

Saturday’s contest was one of those games in August that can mean so little, but it’s also all you can go on sometimes. And Stanton showed some poise in the waning moments against the Falcons, eventually using his feet to traverse the final 18 yards the Lions needed to move into Jason Hanson’s field goal range.

The Lions won, which of course means nothing, but at least Stanton knows that he led them to the victory, no matter how hollow.

“Stanton’s stock is rising”, I saw one Internet headline scream this morning.

Sell high—isn’t that what the money folks recommend?

The Lions ought to unload Stanton while he’s got some value—even if they have stripped him of most of it by their own hand.

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