Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford fails to get the recognition he deserves

July 18th, 2020 in Lions By Bob Heyrman

Maybe Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford isn’t an elite tier-one QB, but he’s undoubtedly in the group of tier-two players at his position.

It seems foolish to get caught up in the EA Sports Madden 21 player ratings, but the game developers didn’t rank Matthew Stafford as a top-ten quarterback.  They did, however, acknowledge his elite arm strength ranking him third behind the Buffalo Bills second-year man Josh Allen and, of course, the celebrated Patrick Mahomes.

Whether you like Mahomes, Brady, Wilson, Jackson, and even Aaron Rodgers or not, they’re all still elite talents and headline the position.  It’s that second group of quarterbacks where many fans and analysts across the country regularly forget Stafford.

That tier two group usually consists of Deshaun Watson, Matt Ryan, Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott, Jimmy Garoppolo, and now Jarred Goff.  When you check out many quarterback rankings, Stafford somehow generally comes in behind Kyler Murray and Kirk Cousins.  There is no way to sugar coat this, that is such a crime, and extremely disrespectful to Stafford.

Understanding that Ryan has a league MVP on his mantel at home, I’d take Stafford over Ryan today.  In that group of tier two quarterbacks I just mentioned, I’d slide Stafford in behind Watson.

In a sports town like Detroit, the hardest positions to play are goaltender for the Detroit Red Wings, and quarterback for the Detroit Lions.  Even among Lions fans, there isn’t a day that goes by we are not bickering about Stafford and debating how good he actually is.  The same could be said about former Red Wings netminder Chris Osgood.

Last week on his nationally syndicated radio/television show called ‘The Herd’ host Colin Cowherd started rambling on listing eleven quarterbacks who can win a Super Bowl, just with talent alone; Stafford wasn’t mentioned.  Many of the players I’ve listed were with the exception of Cousins and Murray.

When you consider Stafford’s success or lack thereof as a whole, we need to consider the organization hasn’t provided him with any type of rushing threat out of the backfield.  Stafford’s endured a revolving door of coordinators over the course of his career.

When the Lions decided to settle with a coordinator, they did so by retaining Jim Bob Cooter, who once claimed he didn’t know much about a run game.  Yes, he did say that.  In the past, he’d mentioned that while he was cutting his teeth as an assistant coach, he was much more involved as a passing coordinator/assistant quarterbacks coach.

Throughout his career, he’s also had Scott Linehan and Joe Lombardi call plays, but now he’s seemed to settle in with what may prove to be the best coordinator he’s had in his eleven-year career, Darrell Bevell.

In his first season under the guidance of Bevell, Stafford was on pace to throw for 5,000 yards and nearly 40 touchdowns (both would have led the league) and only ten interceptions over an eight-game span before being shut down due to a lingering back injury.  The Lions organization focused on improving the offense in the 2020 draft by drafting running back D’Andre Swift and a pair of offensive linemen in the first four rounds.

Expect Stafford to not only produce like a top-ten quarterback in 2020, I expect him to settle in somewhere ranked between six and eight statistically, and that will, without a doubt, keep the Lions in every single ball game.  The Lions’ overall record won’t be due to Stafford’s play; if Detroit struggles, I’d expect it to be on the defensive side of the football once again.

Over his 11 year career, Stafford has amassed 41,025 passing yards, 256 touchdowns, 134 interceptions to go with an unimpressive 69-79-1 record.  He’s yet to win a playoff game; a huge blemish to go with that sub-par career record.