Believe it or not, there was a time when being a highly sought after NFL free agent meant demanding just a shade more than $10 million over three years (chump change, right?)[pullquote]I just know my performance was better than I got credit for, and the expectations were probably a little bit unrealistic.[/pullquote]
Now, with free agent Ndamukong Suh demanding what is sure to be over $100 million, former Lions quarterback Scott Mitchell (he of the three-year, $11 million deal signed in 1994) sat down with Sports Illustrated’s Jenny Vrentas to share some wisdom on being the top prize of the free agent market — just as he was following a 1993 season in which he more-than-adequatley filled in for an injured Dan Marino in Miami.
So, what’s it like to be the new guy in town, holding money bags in each hand?
Well, you pretty much have to poop gold nuggets. You have to walk on water. I went to Detroit, and they had been to the playoffs, and it was one of those things where it was like, we really feel like we are just a quarterback away from winning it all. You go in with that expectation, but it’s really an unreasonable expectation, because it takes more than just a quarterback. I stepped into a very tough situation. It was Detroit, and they are brutally ruthless on quarterbacks there. It is not a quarterback-friendly place for the most part, and that’s fine.
All told, Mitchell spent five years in Detroit, three of which resulted in playoff appearances while he was at the helm as the team’s primary starter. Though, in the interest of full disclosure, 1994’s playoff run was completed by backup Dave Krieg after the infamous Lomas Brown incident.
Still, in hindsight, Mitchell feels he deserves more credit for what he was bringing to the table each week at the Silverdome:
If you look at what I did in Detroit, when I was playing and I was healthy, I was very productive. I was a very good player. But there is the tendency to kind of minimize what I actually did there. I don’t really know where it comes from, if it’s just that expectation, or if people were jealous, [thinking] that guy got money and maybe he didn’t deserve it, or he didn’t play long enough to prove that he was that valuable. I really don’t know. But I just know my performance was better than I got credit for, and the expectations were probably a little bit unrealistic.
And so it goes. With multi-million dollar contracts comes great expectations. Who would have thought?