Thursday, October 20, 2011

Not a question whether the Detroit Lions Matthew Stafford is good, but whether he is great

The Lions are a good, developing football team. They not only have a shot to reach the playoffs this season, but do damage once there.
They are not, however, a perfect football team. They have some issues. The 5-0 start was misleading in some respects.
Quarterback play, however, isn't one of their problems. It's a strength, not a weaknesses. The Lions will play their seventh game of the season vs. Atlanta Sunday at Ford Field. In the first six, they had the edge each time at quarterback, in my opinion, with Matthew Stafford.
Yes. Stafford over Josh Freeman, Matt Cassel, Donovan McNabb, Tony Romo, Jay Cutler, Alex Smith.
Not sure about this week. The Falcons' Matt Ryan led his team to a 13-3 record last season. Ryan, however, has Michael Turner, and the perfect complimentary back for him, super fleet Jacquizz Rodgers. He also has a good receiving corps in Roddy White and tight end Tony Gonzalez, the latter still playing at high level.
Stafford has played excellent football this season. He is fourth ranked passer in the NFL. He has thrown 15 touchdown passes and only four interceptions. The only number I don't like from Stafford is his yards per pass attempt. It's 18th in the league, and is a key stat when it comes to gauging success.
He has also done well under pressure situations and bounced back from moments that didn't go well. The exception was the two-minute offense in the loss to the 49ers. It was awful.
What it is not evident yet is how well Stafford is going to hold up to the Lions increasing inability to run the football. Ronnie Brown is not becoming a Lion. Jahvid Best is fighting ailments again and his strength is not running the ball inside, especially in the scoring zone. Veteran Maurice Morris is a good alternative, but limited. All the Lions weapons lie at receiver and with the ball in Stafford's hands. That makes the Lions offense decidedly one-dimensional.
Now is this fair to Stafford? No. Is it life in the NFL for an elite-level quarterback? Yes. The truly best quarterbacks - Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger - all adjust to such circumstances well and win any way.
Question is whether Stafford falls in that elite group. Or is it the next tier with the Joe Flaccos, Tony Romos and Matt Schaubs of the NFL.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll make life easy for everyone - the Lions go 3-7 rest of the year. They win Atlanta, Carolina and Denver - lose the rest and finish 8-8. Now, please take front office to task for drafting Best in first round. All those cautionary voices - including yours I believe - came to fruition.

2:37 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is Stafford's 3rd year and he hasn't been healthy. It is waaayyyy too early in his development to judge him harshly. Remember Aaron Rodgers SAT on the bench for 3 years. Give the kid a little time. He will get progressively better with experience, year 5 is the time for really serious judgement. The Lions are not that far removed from 0-16. The fact that he has them even thinking playoffs is a miracle.


4:36 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No question that Stafford shows signs of being a top tier QB. Don't forget, he is still a new rookie, he has only played what, like 10 NFL games?

Only problem might be another injury.

6:26 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The yards per attempt isn't a particularly good metric of QB success. If a QB is throwing the ball away to avoid a sack (and the lost yardage that comes with it), then the ypa is naturally going to be lower. Stafford did that frequently against both Dallas and Chicago (and not enough against SF).

6:29 AM 

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