It’s Time to Give Matthew Stafford His Respect
Three playoff appearances, and zero wins. When the football world digs into the now 11-year long history of Matthew Stafford’s career those are often the findings they come out with. Not the ultra-talented arm that can make jaw dropping throws seem routine; not the iron man who up until last season hadn’t missed a game since 2009, despite after 2014 annually being listed amongst the leagues’ most sacked quarterbacks. Not the man who we must not forget, still had to throw Calvin Johnson the ball for the both of them to be successful; and he’s surely not acknowledged for outside of Megatron, being the only consistent piece to the puzzle that has been the Detroit Lions franchise.
92.4, 4,465 yards, 27 touchdowns, 13 interceptions. Those are the averages per season from Matthew Stafford since 2011 if you discount last year’s prematurely ended MVP caliber start to the year (After 8 games he was on pace for 4,998 yards and 38 touchdowns to only 10 interceptions). Now for any other quarterback, a slightly better than two to one interception touchdown ratio with a few hundred over 4,000 yards would be seen as efficient and, in many cases, elite statistics. In Matthew Stafford’s case he’s seen as a stat padder who often puts up big numbers in losing efforts that are nobody else’s fault but his own. It’s time to debunk the myths and discontinue the angry mob out to make Matthew Stafford seem illegitimate.
In those same clusters of statistics if you look deeper into the Lions’ history since drafting Stafford, you’ll see a glaring issue: The man has had zero consistent help. The cries of how good the 2014 team and defense were, only to lose to the Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs have far been outdone. As have those same arguments for the 2016 team which was ousted by the Seahawks in the Wild Card round. No other quarterback in the history of the NFL was ever expected to have a good supporting cast and immediately win a super bowl before it gets disbanded. Even in today’s “win now” culture, it’s still vital to allow teams to mesh and grow and build into a legitimate super bowl contender. Matthew Stafford has had one running back since he’s entered the league eclipse 900 yards, and it was Reggie Bush in 2013 with 1,006. Matthew Stafford has had a defense finish in the top 20 for points allowed just three times since 2011 (2018, 2016, 2014), and in two out of those three seasons the Lions went to the playoffs. Meanwhile the Lions have finished inside the top 20 in offensive scoring 6 times out of 8 seasons and would’ve been 7 for 9 had Stafford finished 2018 healthy. While I know top 20 in offense should be expected for a successful team anyways, this is coming from an offense that hasn’t eclipsed 1,800 rushing yards since Barry Sanders. So, with that being said, we’ve had an average defense for 2 years and one year with a dominant one, out of Stafford’s healthy prime years. Add on to that arguably the weakest rushing attack of the 2000s, and the first thing we think to do is blame the quarterback?
There has never been a system for any quarterback expected to work with no real structure and a million moving parts, unless your names are Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. I’m not saying Matthew Stafford is at no fault for the Lions’ shortcomings, but I am saying when dealing out the blame make sure he’s among the last pieces of Detroit Lions history you consider when trying to find out why they haven’t been winning. Just 3 years of average to above average defense and Calvin Johnson, is not enough to win championships or playoff games while having Jim Schwartz and Matt Patricia as your coaches while prematurely in my opinion firing Jim Caldwell. Pair those with a half century of poor management, drafting and ownership as well as a decade of arguably the worst running game in the league and I think you’ll find yourself with more to point the finger at than a rough season or two and one bad playoff performance from Matthew Stafford.
Matthew Stafford deserves to be among the elite caliber of quarterbacks we often praise, who have twice the help and competent ownership than he does. Not just because of the freak arm talent and not just because of the gaudy passing numbers; but because besides the rare few Aaron Rodgers’, and the Brees’ and Mahomes’, just about every quarterback in the Lion’s system and situation for a decade would’ve more likely than not crumbled or departed. Let alone win and compete for championships which he’s looked down upon for not consistently doing. It’s time to give Matthew Stafford his respect.