Following the 0-16 season, the Detroit Lions selected Matthew Stafford 1st overall, in the 2009 NFL Draft. He tended to be a little bit more injury prone in the early stages of his career. However, he has gotten past that for the most part and has really shown the organization that he can be the franchise quarterback that this team has always looked for.
He is now the highest paid player in the NFL, at 5 years / $135 million, passing Andrew Luck and Derek Carr. Will he live up to the deal? The Lions have committed to Stafford and are eager for a playoff win. Stafford has taken the Lions to the playoffs in 3 of his seasons with the team. Against the Saints in the 2011 season, it was losing in QB duel against Drew Brees. Then with the controversial Dallas-Detroit playoff game of the 2014 season, it was blowing a lead and losing a game that simply should have been won. However, the most recent playoff game against the Seahawks was a bit different, since Stafford was playing through an injury to his middle finger on the hand of his throwing arm.
The question for Stafford has always been, can he get over the hump? Well, he has arguably become a better QB following the departure of Calvin Johnson. He has been forced to spread the ball out a bit more and this has essentially led to him becoming a much better leader and has found himself more in control of the offense. After leading 8 4th quarter comebacks last season, breaking Peyton Manning’s record, words are not needed. The clutch ability is definitely there, and there aren’t many other quarterbacks who you would want with the ball when the game is on the line in the 4th quarter.
After Jim Bob Cooter became the Lions’ offensive coordinator, Stafford has flourished, improving his touchdown-interception ratio. He’s done so well since the change at OC, which is what opened up the door for this mega deal. Ndamukong Suh departed for Miami; Calvin Johnson retired, and Stafford remains.
So, is Stafford really worth the deal? Well, he’s broken Peyton Manning’s comeback record. He’s grown as a quarterback since the departure of Calvin Johnson. It has forced him to spread the ball more and become more of a leader on the offense. His TD-INT ratio of 24-10 last season is just another example of how much more efficient of a quarterback he is becoming.
Now, I could tell you all about how Stafford’s 4,000+ yard seasons showcase an aspect of his consistency, but let’s get down to it.
This man leads a depleted roster to the playoffs last season. The linebackers were abysmal at many times, the defensive line struggled to generate pressure, and last but not least, Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick were both out for the season! The Lions were 9-4 before Stafford had to start playing through an injury on his finger last season. If that injury did not occur, we might have a different story here. The team did not even finish in the top 30th in rushing. Matt Stafford did his part last season and proved that he is the legitimate franchise QB for this team, performing well without a consistent run game, and a lack of sufficient offensive line play.
It is becoming very difficult to find a legitimate franchise QB as a cornerstone of consistency these days. 5 years for $135 million, but you do what it takes to lock up your franchise quarterback. They don’t always come around too often.