By Zachary Zubrzycki
For the past couple years, Detroit Lions fans have been back and forth on whether it is time to give up on Matthew Stafford or not. He has never won a playoff game, has only had 4 winning seasons since 2009, and has never won the NFC North. With all of this said, I still believe that Stafford has been an elite quarterback through the years and Lions fans shouldn’t give up on him yet.
Let’s look at some of the positive stats that Stafford has produced over the years. He has accredited multiple 4000 yard seasons and in 2011 he had a season with over 5000 passing yards, something that only 8 quarterbacks have ever done. In that same season he had 41 touchdowns which is currently tied for tenth of all time passing touchdowns in a season. These accolades put him in a category with NFL greats such as Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Dan Marino, Peyton Manning, and most recently Patrick Maholmes. Many of them have been rumored to make it into the Hall of Fame, but not once has Stafford been talked about in that way.
So why is he not talked about in the same way all of these other stars are talked about? The answer is simple. He was never able to win. Him not being able to win is not his fault. Stafford has single handedly won the Lions games on his own accord. It is our first instinct to point fingers at a QB after a loss because he basically runs the whole operation. But when you take a look at the team around Stafford then you find the problem.
Let’s take the Lions running game for example. A great run game helps the passing game immensely, but Stafford has never had a good back to support him. When Stafford became the QB we probably had the worst rushing game a team could ever have. They went on a 70-game drought without a 100-yard rusher. That same season was the last season they have had a running back reach a thousand yards in one season. In Staffords career he has had over 10 different starting halfbacks. In 2016 the top rusher on the Lions, Theo Riddick, only had 357 yards that season and Stafford was still able to carry us to the playoffs.
With that horrible rushing game includes an awful offensive line. Stafford has been sacked 347 times in his career which is 33rd of all time, and he’s only been in the league for 10 years. He is sacked an average of 34.7 times a year. That means if Stafford played 5 more seasons he would be on pace to be the most sacked QB of all time, in less games than anyone in the top 5. Stafford is basically scrambling on every possession, which is not ideal for any quarterback.
Then if you look at the defense the Lions have had it’s incredible that Stafford has even won games. The only time their defense ranked in the top half of the NFL the Lions had one of their best years. They ranked top 3 in the NFL and went 11-5 on the year. So when Stafford had the players he was able to produce the results that everyone wanted.
For those who argue that Stafford is regressing I urge you to look at how well Stafford was producing before he got injured. Under the new OC in Bevelle, Stafford had 2,499 yards and 19 TDs in the first 8 games. He was on pace to have another legendary year, and they were the top team in the passing game. Better than Superbowl MVP Patrick Mahomes at the time. Stafford also had a 106 passer rating which was the best it has ever been.
With the right team behind him, Stafford could be the next MVP and Superbowl champion. The Lions still have time to get it done, but they need to shape up their team. If he stays healthy, I believe the Lions will go far next season. There is no doubt in my mind that Stafford is an elite quarterback in this era, the only question is when he will have his time to shine.