The Lions Haven’t Had A Quarterback Like This For A Long Time
Something I mentioned at the beginning of this series was that the Lions had something that other teams with a similar record did not – a roster with young talent that made a lot of impact this year. And while this young talent is no doubt invaluable, perhaps more important is our experienced franchise quarterback who still has plenty of room to grow—something other teams who finished in the bottom half of the standings are absolutely desperate for.
If you haven’t bought in on Matthew Stafford as a franchise quarterback yet, I don’t know what to tell you. Well, I can tell you that you’re wrong. I was in San Diego last season for the game in Week One, and on top of watching the game plan immediately shift into an ultra-conservative approach after only being up by two scores, the protection problems were already starting to surface. I watched three linemen think they were all assigned to a single defensive tackle while an unblocked Melvin Ingram had a free shot at Stafford resulting in him finishing the game with no feeling in his fingers.
It only got worse as the weeks went on. Stafford was taped up for his post-game interview for the week two Vikings game after taking eight vicious hits throughout the day. By week three, he was seeing ghosts, ducking away from pass rushers that weren’t even there. In a constant panic, it’s easy to bounce a ball off a defender and have it end up in the hands of the opposing team.
However, despite horrible pass protection, predicable play calling and no threat of a run game, Stafford was able to complete at least 60% of his passes in every game this season. That, by the way, is the first time in the league’s history that anyone has ever done that . While that didn’t equal wins in the first half of the season, we can at least point to Stafford not being the problem with the offense. Unless, of course, your name is Jim Caldwell and you wind up doing something ridiculous like benching him in favor of “Safety” Dan Orlovsky.
We know Stafford’s arm talent is almost unmatched, but he’s made an effort these past few years to improve an area of his game most don’t even know that he possessed. That’s right, Matt Stafford is a semi-mobile quarterback. One of my favorite plays this year was the draw play against the Raiders when he ran it in for the score. No one expected him to take off with the football in that game. There were numerous times that he used his legs to get out of bad situations or find enough green for a first down. It’s not a big part of the way he plays, but it’s a great tool to have at your disposal – especially when the line in front of you is as suspect as ours was last year.
Lose the Honolulu Blue & Show the Silver Linings
Once Jim Bob Cooter took over, we got to see the real Mathew Stafford get back to work and quietly have his best season since 2011. After the Week 9 Bye, he threw only two interceptions compared to nineteen touchdowns and averaged a 70% completion percentage. Those are some elite numbers any way you look at it. Yes, the biggest knock against Stafford is still consistency. However, an eight week stretch is a damn good showing considering he only looked better week after week.
So, here’s the bottom line: Matthew Stafford is hands-down the second best quarterback in the NFC North. If Jim Bob Cooter can continue to lead him down the path that they skipped on down the stretch, don’t be surprised if he’s the best quarterback in the NFC North and suddenly back in the conversation as an “elite” QB.