“Alright, this year is our year, right?” Detroit Lions fans say this to themselves every preseason, regular season, and offseason in optimistic desperation. A fan base that is so starved for success that they resort the lowest level of spectating (look at any Detroit Lion’s Rooting Interest articles). Drafting Matthew Stafford number one overall in 2009 has teased this franchise with hope ever since. Before we get too deep I’ll admit that I am a Stafford and Detroit Lions fan.
What is truly the problem? That’s a question we haven’t been able to solve since 1957.
Here are Matt Stafford’s career stats so far.
What do NFL experts think?
Quarterbacks that he’s definitely better than
These are quarterbacks that Stafford is without a doubt better than right now.
- Josh Rosen – this isn’t his fault… he’s just new here. Rosen should end up being a quality starter on a team that wouldn’t draft Kyler Murray. Miami is a good reset opportunity for him, and potentially a chance to learn from a vet like Ryan Fitzpatrick. He’ll enjoy Miami either way.
- Lamar Jackson – a young talented running back that can kind of throw. Jackson is faster than Stafford and that’s it. Baltimore’s success will be a strong run game and stingy defense, not Jackson’s throwing ability. If he can improve his accuracy and decision-making Baltimore will be insane.
- Josh Allen – Allen will always be remembered for hurdling Anthony Barr, something that Stafford might never do. Even though he beat Stafford in 2018 I wouldn’t count on future success due to the division he is in and how inconsistent and inaccurate he is.
- Case Keenum – he went from the Minneapolis Miracle to the Denver Dud. Although he’s considered a middle-of-the-road game manager, he does have more playoffs wins than Matt Stafford. Keenum now has the opportunity to be a 3rd string quarterback again in Washington.
- Blake Bortles – no longer a starter, but it needs to be said that Stafford on the Jaguars would produce a much better result than anything Bortles could ever dream of. Bortles should enjoy his cake backup position in LA behind Jared Goff. Learn something from Alex Moran.
- Ryan Tannehill – the former wide receiver couldn’t stay healthy in Miami, leading to his end with the Dolphins this offseason. Stafford is better in every category besides route-running.
- Eli Manning – I don’t want to disrespect a two-time Super Bowl champ and two-time Super Bowl MVP, but right now Stafford is better than Manning. It doesn’t say much, but it’s still true. The Giants feeling confident enough to select Daniel Jones at number 6 in the draft says it all.
- Sam Darnold – beating the Lions doesn’t prove that Darnold is better than the Stafford, it just proves that the Lions are a bad team. Sam could easily be better one day, just not yet after his rookie year. Darnold will heavily benefit from the offseason upgrades to his team though. Remember his first pass in the NFL.
- Marcus Mariota – Tennessee is a team that gets the ugliest victories in the least convincing fashion… Mariota is the reason for some good running plays and that’s all. If you think Mariota is really better than Stafford then you must be from Tennessee.
- Kyler Murray/Dwayne Haskins/other rookies – both are unbelievable talents with higher ceilings than Stafford at this point in his career. However, being a rookie has an extreme unknown associated with your gameplan and career. Until we see consistent yearly production or numbers that Matt has put up at times in his career, these two will still be under him.
These are quarterbacks that you could argue either way Stafford is better than or not.
- Jameis Winston – talk about wildly inconsistent. When Winston is good he is really good, but when he’s bad… well, you know. Even though Stafford hasn’t been the best QB by any means in his career, he has at least been more reliable than Jameis. Winston does have more street cred though.
- Dak Prescott – imagine Matthew Stafford having Ezekiel Elliot as a running back. Prescott has benefitted from an amazing offensive line and running back the second he joined the league. There’s no doubt that Stafford has a better arm, but Dak does have playmaking abilities with his legs. Both lack decision-making over a 16 game season.
- Joe Flacco – ever since his Super Bowl victory, Flacco has been quite average. Maybe he’s another Ravens quarterback that’s a product of a dominant defense. Again, give Stafford his defense that Super Bowl year and the Lions are easily 11-5/12-4. Quarterback abilities are similar though, each has rocket arms but seem to lack a complete understanding of the game at times.
- Andy Dalton – the Bengals went to the playoffs 5 straight times (2011-2015) with Dalton under center. He has also played in less seasons than Stafford while going to the playoffs more. But how they play in the postseason are two different stories. Out of 4 playoff games (he was hurt one postseason) Dalton threw for less than 200 yards twice, and only had one touchdown pass. Stafford has more yards and touchdowns in one less game. Neither have a playoff win.
- Nick Foles – I know what you’re saying, “but Foles has won a Super Bowl.” Comparing quarterback abilities, Stafford is more physically talented no doubt. Quarterbacks are measured by their success though too, which is why you can make a case that Foles is better. Stafford has been a starter for much longer and we will see if Foles can keep his amazing run of on-field success going.
- Mitchell Trubisky – the Bears have a much better defense and run game than Detroit, but last season Trubisky did show the ability to extend plays with his legs. He misses a lot of throws that Stafford makes regularly. Trubisky has had a short and successful career so far and at this point, if I’m starting a roster it’s a toss-up between him and Stafford.
- Derek Carr – besides Carr’s 12-4 season in 2016, he has been average at best. It could be because of his offensive line play, it could be because of his defense, or it could be because of the tough AFC West division. No matter the issue though, Stafford has been more consistent arguably. Derek has more potential/juice left in the tank which is why it’s 50/50 to me.
- Jimmy Garoppolo – I know what you’re thinking, there’s no way that Matthew Stafford is close to Jimmy G. But let’s take a look at their body of work. Jimmy G is simply a hype machine with the talent to back it, but little production or meaningful gameplay thus far in his career due to injury and lack of opportunity backing up Brady while in New England. Garoppolo can be legit one day but right now I’m not sure he’s completely a better option than Stafford.
- Kirk Cousins – Cousins has the same issues that Stafford has. Both are competent quarterbacks that can put up good numbers of the course of a season, but there is little team success. Last year is a great example, Kirk threw for over 4,000 yards, 30 touchdowns, and over 70% completion percentage. The Vikings were average though. Stafford has had many years like that where he did great but the team did not. Other quarterbacks on this list though are winners when it matters.
Quarterbacks that are better than Stafford
These are quarterbacks that Stafford is not better than.
- Matt Ryan – during his time in Atlanta, Ryan has been simply amazing. His production and consistency are higher than Stafford by far. Even though the team had a complete meltdown during the Superbowl against the Patriots, Stafford has yet to win a single playoff game. There’s no doubt that Ryan is a better quarterback than Stafford.
- Aaron Rodgers – “He’s a baaaaaaaad man.” Number 12 for Green Bay is almost the perfect quarterback (aside from his health). Rodgers has won a Superbowl, been league MVP twice, is a 2-time All-Pro, 7-time Pro-Bowler, and has a significantly better winning percentage than Stafford. Aaron has kept a horrible Packers roster competitive for years, something that Matt hasn’t been able to do for the Lions. I’m confident that if they switched teams that Detroit would make the playoffs at least every other season.
- Cam Newton – any given Sunday, Newton can win or lose the game for his team. Some days, he throws for 300+ yards, makes huge plays with his feet, and can’t miss a throw. Other days Newton is completely useless for Carolina. Stafford has made many plays with his feet throughout his career, but to think Cam doesn’t do it better is just not true. However, Cam is better than Stafford simply because of his winning percentage and ability to impact the game in more ways.
- Russell Wilson – one of my favorite quarterbacks to watch in any era. Wilsons ability to take over a game with his command of the offense, scrambling ability, and throwing on the run is a thing of beauty. His contract of $140 million is well deserved (even though I don’t agree with paying quarterbacks a lot of money). Russell is head and shoulders better than Stafford in every category except maybe arm strength.
- Patrick Mahomes – another guy that just makes spectacular plays every drive throughout a game. Mahomes made the no-look pass popular outside of the NBA last season. When the Chiefs got rid of Alex Smith a lot of people were questioning if the young kid out of Texas Tech would be ready to step up to the plate, certainly, he was. Andy Reid has one of the best talents in the NFL at quarterback on a high-powered offense. Expect the Chiefs to compete for a Superbowl each season that Pat is on the roster.
- Jared Goff – there was plenty of doubt about Goff after his rookie season. Since then, he has done nothing but hush the haters and exceed expectations. So what he lost the Super Bowl to New England 13-3? Stafford hasn’t won a playoff game. Jared Goff has put up video game numbers his last two seasons. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t continue to be successful.
- Deshaun Watson – during just his first year in the NFL, Watson had teams shook when he stepped on the field. Even though he lost his duel with Tom Brady, they gave us one of the most epic games of the season. Instantly, there was hype and excitment brewing in Houston. Fast forward to 2018 and Deshaun continues to show us the star that he is. His offensive line barely did anything all season and he still took them to the playoffs with an 11-5 record, throwing for 4,000+ yards, 26 touchdowns, rushing for 500+ yards, and ran for 5 touchdowns. His ceiling is as high as anyone in the NFL.
- Baker Mayfield – woah, a rookie better than the almighty Stafford? That’s right. Baker helped change a culture in Cleveland that has been similar to Detroit for decades all in one season. The city has hope, and the team is dangerous. No one in 2019 is looking forward to playing the Browns, meanwhile, if Detroit is on your schedule it’s looking like at least a 50/50 game, if not a win. One season doesn’t mean a lot, but Stafford took over a team in an almost identical situation as Mayfield and had severely less successful results. Baker is a beast.
- Carson Wentz – this guy right here is the king of getting replaced by a backup that takes them through a deep playoff run. Before he gets hurt, however, Wentz is better than Stafford as a quarterback. He has command of the offense that shows weekly to be explosive. Often times, Detroit’s offense looks allergic to scoring touchdowns, picking up first downs, or even gaining 3 yards. Carson was 11-2 and looking like the league MVP before getting hurt in 2017. Stafford has not yet looked like a league MVP for more than a 3 game stretch.
- Ben Roethlisberger – Big Ben, the man that cannot be sacked. Coming into the 2019 season, number 7 has still shown the ability to make big plays and keep his team in the playoff hunt. With Cleveland and Baltimore ascending with younger quarterbacks, Roethlisberger will still succeed. He quietly puts up huge numbers most games, while if Stafford puts up big numbers it’s during garbage time against bad teams (typically).
- Andrew Luck – look at all of the people that thought Luck was done before this season. He came back stronger than ever and now has the Colts looking like division favorites. Number 12 reads defenses better, goes through his progressions better, spins the ball as good as Stafford, but wins more consistently. In a throwing contest, I’ll take Matt, but in a game, I will always take Andrew.
- Philip Rivers – this savvy vet has kept the Chargers relevant ever since Drew Brees left town. Rivers has been close to being the leagues best QB multiple seasons, barely falling short to other studs on this list like Brady, Brees, Rodgers, and Wilson. Even though the Chargers have had unfortunate luck, their luck happens during AFC Championship games and other late postseason runs. Again, Stafford has yet to win a playoff game in Detroit.
- Drew Brees – Brees might go down as the most accurate passer of all-time. Watching him play in New Orleans gives the fans a feeling of hope each week. Stafford has only done this once in his career, during 2016 when he led the league in comebacks with 8. Drew has done everything you could ever want from a QB and this isn’t even close. Stafford could win 4 Superbowls and I think that Brees would still be better. He’s one of the greatest to ever do it.
- Tom Brady – He’s the GOAT and no one is better than him on this list. The only two people in NFL History that you can make a case for might be Joe Montana and Dan Marino. Stafford doesn’t come near Brady in any category, period.
This is how I am seeing Matt Stafford stack up against the league. I didn’t include every quarterback on an NFL roster, just mostly the ones that will be competing for starting jobs or are guaranteed starters.
Stafford is a good quarterback, but there seems to be something wrong every game and season for the Lions. Quarterbacks always too much credit and too much blame for things that happen on the field. I wonder frequently though what the Lions would look like with another player under center.
I’m confident that Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees would have Detroit in the playoffs every year. Rodgers is used to playing with bad teams already. I seriously believe the Lions have a better roster than Green Bay (minus the quarterback), so if Rodgers was a Lion he would have zero issues beating the Packers. Tom Brady is the GOAT and has shown his streak of winning with revolving team personnel. And Brees is too accurate and too smart to not beat the teams in the NFC North. Even with how electric Baker Mayfield and Patrick Mahomes were last season I think Detroit would have gone to the playoffs.
But what would it look like if you put Matt on other teams? I think he instantly makes these teams better: Jets, Bills, Bucs, Jaguars (before Foles trade), Broncos, Titans, Giants, Ravens, Cardinals (before drafting Kyler Murray), Redskins, and Dolphins. Other than these teams it’s either 50/50 or the teams get worse because of better players.
What has been the issue?
Historically, the Lions have not been a great team or organization since the
Before it completely sounds like I’m whining, other quarterbacks legitimately have had great teams and coaches surrounding them. This translates to fewer errors on the field each week making wins within reach more frequently. A lot of games have ended in heartbreak for Detroit. With just a small amount of things going our way before the end of the game, we could have won many more games. I’m not talking about anything crazy either. Just maybe one or two fewer dropped passes per game, maybe just one less 3 and out on offense, maybe just one less defensive breakdown, maybe just one less bad call from the officials.
Last season, it was clear Stafford was off most games. I think his personal life with his family has been affecting his game, I think injuries have obviously played into his ability to win, and lately, his will to win has seemed to have gone away. After missing an easy throw on third down he now goes back to the bench showing no emotion. That alone can be taken many ways, but I see it as hopelessness + frustration = disappointment.
Early in his career and especially during the 2016 season, it seemed that Stafford could turn any game into a win. He would make remarkable comebacks when there seemed to be no hope. Now when Detroit falls behind, I don’t have that feeling that the Lions used to have. It immediately starts to feel like I need to change the channel.
I still think that Stafford can be successful in the NFL. Give him a decent team with coaching consistency and he will win games. His arm talent is unquestionable and his toughness is ridiculous (played with a broken back in 2018, as well as continuing with many injuries in the past). However, he has yet to achieve major success.
Winning a playoff game is up next for him. If this happens, he will start to put out the doubt that so many people have
So do I think that Stafford is the problem with Detroit? Absolutely not. He is a good starter in this league. However, there are times where I wish he was more reliable and consistent. He does run the offense and has the ability to change the play-calling at the line of scrimmage, so the fact that we can look like the leagues worst team most Sundays does sort of fall on him. 2019 will be a great year to evaluate him because I think the run game will be better than 2018, I think the defense will be better, and if Stafford is healthy he will be better.
How good do you think Stafford is? Let me know below.
Featured Image – Matthew Stafford (9) Detroit Lions quarterback. Photo Credit Detroit Free Press.