By Chris Morgan
With the 17th pick of the 2001 NFL Draft, the Seattle Seahawks selected offensive guard Steve Hutchinson from the University of Michigan. With the next pick, the Detroit Lions took his teammate and fellow offensive lineman, Jeff Backus. Both are still playing to this day, although Hutchinson has moved on from Seattle.
Of course, we all know that Backus remains the Detroit Lions left tackle. Hutchinson has been a first team All-Pro player five times, and a Pro Bowl selection seven times. Backus has been neither of those things, but he has one notable trait: his durability. Backus stepped in as a starter from day one as a rookie, and he has yet to miss a game. He has been around for 186 games, and he’s started every one of those games. However, that could all end this week. Backus left Detroit’s loss against the Green Bay Packers with a hamstring injury, and it is now doubtful he will be able to play on Thursday against the Houston Texans in the annual Thanksgiving Day Classic.
It would seem Backus’ consecutive start streak is going to end, and that’s a shame for him. Granted, the Lions drafted Riley Reiff in the first round this year to likely serve as Backus’ eventual replacement, and he’ll get a chance to try his hand at doing just that this week. Backus is now 35, and his career is probably on the wane. At the very least, a move to guard may be in his future. However, when you look back at his career, the only interesting thing about it is how uninteresting it is.
He’s just sort of chugged along. Has he been good? Not particularly. Has he been bad? That’s probably a bit too harsh. He’s been, for the most part, decent. He’s had his ups and downs, like all players do. The Lions certainly could have tried to find a better replacement at times, but he also hasn’t been a major detriment to the team. Detroit hasn’t been trotting out a bad player week in and week out. Backus has been serviceable, and the team had other fish to fry. Like drafting wide receivers. On that note, it should probably be noted that Backus was the first, but sadly not the last, pick of the Matt Millen Era.
All Jeff Backus has done is show up to work week in and week out for over a decade which, in the NFL, is easier said than done. A person could make some reference to Backus’ unspectacular work ethic and how it fits in well for a “blue collar” city like Detroit, but that is better left for the Mitch Albom’s of the world once they get done spouting drivel about advanced statistics in baseball.
Backus probably won’t play this week against the Texans, but it probably won’t hurt the team that much at this point in time. However, one man’s 186 game starting streak, one which has spanned that one man’s career, may end, and that is a bit of a bummer. Backus is not the kind of player that is likely to be remembered years down the road, aside from Lions fans from the past decade. Eventually, Backus will not be the Detroit Lions’ starting left tackle and, even though he’s never really stood out as a player, that will still be kind of jarring.
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Chris has been a diehard Detroit Lions fan through the good (Barry Sanders) and the bad (Matt Millen) and that love has led him to take jobs writing about sports, including as a fantasy sports “expert.” His work can be found on Examiner.com.