There has been a lot of discussion about Matthew Stafford and why he faltered in the second half of the season. I join Jim Caldwell, and many others, in agreeing that Stafford really needs to improve his footwork. That is probably the single most important factor in solving the accuracy issues that Stafford sometimes displays. The fact that Stafford can show such brilliance in flashes is part of what makes his struggles so frustrating for fans. I would like us to rewind back to the period of time when I feel that Stafford was at his very best.
It is the 2011 season and Stafford has a broken his hand. The Lions coaches decided to play Stafford against the Bears despite the injury and he was horrible. Stafford clearly needed to get used to wearing a glove on his throwing hand and he was struggling to re-learn how to throw the football. A couple of weeks later we saw a completely different Matthew Stafford than we are used to. The hand injury and glove on his throwing hand had taken away his ability to just whip the ball all over the field and Stafford was forced to set his feet in order to place the ball accurately and with velocity. Once the hand healed the quarterback that resulted was amazing because he still remembered what he learned with the glove on..
I have never seen a better version of Matthew Stafford than what he gave us down the stretch of the 2011 season. He didn't try to throw everything high and hard to the receivers like he has been doing so much lately. Instead he dropped the ball into tight windows and often hit the receiver in stride. It was magnificent. I was watching a player that I felt was capable of becoming the very best quarterback in not just the Lions history, but possibly in NFL history.
Most of Stafford's problems are from how he thinks through the game. When he has the ability to whip the ball around then he does. He depends on his arm strength to get him out of tough situations instead of his head. I know that many people think that's what Stafford is, and that's good enough. After all, the second coming of Brett Favre is not all bad. I contend that Stafford can be more. Much more. He can be the best quarterback that we have ever seen if he learns to think the game properly and stop depending on his arm so much.
If the Lions want to fix his issues they should try going back to what fixed them before. The coaches should simulate the broken fingers by splinting the same ones Stafford injured in 2011 and making him wear a glove in practice. This needs to be done out of the gate in training camp to give Stafford time to adjust. The glove should only be removed for the last practice before a game to allow Stafford to get the "feel" of the football without the glove. If this is done properly we should see Stafford return to the form that he had at the end of 2011.