Lions new quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan working with Matthew Stafford during training camp
Matthew Stafford is coming off what could be argued as one of the worst seasons of his entire career. While most of his interceptions came during the cataclysmic week one performance against the New York Jets, he didn’t exactly perform to the level many believe he can.
Stafford, for one of the only times in his career, has something that he hasn’t often had to help him this season. While many might think the biggest addition to Stafford’s arsenal of tools might be a healthy Kerryon Johnson, the drafting of T.J. Hockenson, or an improved offensive playbook under Darrell Bevell, it might be that none of these things makes the key difference in Stafford’s play.
Sean Ryan’s Track Record Speaks For Itself
The Detroit Lions hired a new quarterbacks coach this off-season named Sean Ryan. Ryan was one of the coaches who helped work with emerging young quarterback Deshaun Watson in Houston over the last few seasons. He also spent time with the New York Giants, working with Eli Manning earlier in his career, before Manning started to show signs of aging these last couple of years. Ryan was also the quarterbacks coach for Columbia University.
Over his time in the league, Sean Ryan helped Deshaun Watson find early success, and won two super bowls while helping guide Eli Manning in New York under head coach Tom Coughlin. He also helped Manning make a Pro Bowl during his first season as their quarterbacks coach (he spent some time as receivers coach and quality control coach ahead of taking the reigns of the quarterbacks coach role).
Sean Ryan has shown that he can develop quarterbacks and get them to play to the highest of their potential. This should be good news for Matthew Stafford entering this season. With the Lions revamped offense and Sean Ryan coming in, Stafford is set up for a breakout season.
Matthew Stafford’s Recent Quarterbacks Coaches
Matthew Stafford has had plenty of quarterbacks coaches over the course of his career. The most recent of which in 2018 was George Godsey. Godsey had spent only two prior stints as a quarterbacks coach, one working with Tom Savage and Case Keenum with the Texans for one season, and another at the University of Central Florida (UCF) for three seasons. The most recent job Godsey had held before working with Stafford however was in 2017 when he assisted Teryl Austin on the opposite side of the ball, working on special projects.
Stafford’s coach prior to George Godsey was Brian Callahan. While Callahan was (and is) considered a rising star in the coaching ranks and served well for Stafford, he (at the time) was unproven as a quarterbacks coach. Callahan had only served as a coaching assistant in Denver for five seasons prior to being named the Lions quarterbacks coach. He didn’t have the experience of working with quarterbacks prior to Stafford that Sean Ryan is bringing to Detroit.
Prior to Callahan taking over, the Lions had Jim Bob Cooter serving as the quarterbacks coach. While Cooter was not a bad quarterbacks coach, and had a positive relationship with Matthew Stafford, he was also inexperienced in the position. This would show itself vividly during Cooter’s time as the team’s offensive coordinator which thankfully ended after last year’s performance. Prior to coming to Detroit, Cooter had served seven years as a coaching assistant, and no time as a quarterbacks coach.
Stafford’s Quarterbacks Coaches Before Cooter
Before Jim Bob Cooter, the Lions quarterbacks coach working with Matthew Stafford was Todd Downing. Downing was hired as an assistant quarterbacks coach in Detroit. This was his first coaching job on the offensive side of the ball. Eventually he was promoted to quarterbacks coach. Prior to working with the Lions, he had served as a defensive assistant and special teams assistant, as well as in public relations and research and development.
The coach before Downing who served as Stafford’s quarterbacks coach was Jeff Horton, who worked with Stafford for his rookie season. This would be the last time that Stafford had worked with someone experienced as a quarterbacks coach. Horton had worked as a college quarterbacks coach at Wisconsin for several seasons. Horton however, had never worked at the NFL level as a quarterbacks coach like Sean Ryan has, and hadn’t realized the same level of success Ryan has achieved.
In summary, over Stafford’s entire career to date, only one time has his quarterbacks coach worked with NFL quarterbacks prior to becoming his coach. This doesn’t include offensive coordinators who have worked with quarterbacks (namely Scott Linehan, who worked more regularly with offensive lines) or head coach Jim Caldwell, who had spent years working with Peyton Manning. Caldwell however had other important duties to take care of as the head coach at the time.
Stafford Will Find Success Under Sean Ryan
For the first time in his career, Stafford will work with a quarterbacks coach who successfully coached an NFL quarterback. Having someone with experience, and a past pedigree of developing talent, should only help Stafford going forward. Matthew Stafford is due for a breakout season this year, perhaps similar to what Matt Ryan accomplished under Kyle Shanahan.