Marshall Faulk (@marshallfaulk) September 4, 2014
When the Detroit Lions began their search for a new head coach at the start of 2014, one of the main things they looked for was someone who can help Matthew Stafford grow as a quarterback. We've seen flashes of greatness from Stafford, especially in 2011, but he hasn't been able to consistently play at a high level in recent years.
With the Lions hiring Jim Caldwell, they made it clear that elevating Stafford's game is a top priority. It's not like Stafford's mechanics needed a complete makeover or anything like that, but his footwork and decision-making skills definitely were in need of some fine-tuning. That's why the Lions hired Caldwell, and that's why they brought in offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and quarterbacks coach Jim Bob Cooter.
When it comes to the strategy behind this decision, there's no question that it was the right one. The Lions are only going to go as far as Stafford takes them, as evidenced by what happened in the second half of the 2013 season. His play will ultimately be the difference between making the playoffs and having another disappointing year. Just look at the numbers from his first three full seasons:
2011: 63.5 comp. %, 5,038 yards, 41 TD, 16 INT
2012: 59.8 comp. %, 4,967 yards, 20 TD, 17 INT
2013: 58.5 comp. %, 4,650 yards, 29 TD, 19 INT
The Lions, of course, went to the playoffs in 2011 with a 10-6 record, and they went 4-12 and 7-9 in 2012 and 2013. Obviously there's more to winning than the play of a team's quarterback, but the Lions aren't really built to win consistently without their quarterback playing well.
Obviously Stafford isn't going to automatically improve just because he has new coaches around him. However, with an emphasis on improving his footwork and added weapons in the passing game, another 5,000-yard, 41-touchdown season at least seems possible this year. What do you think is a realistic expectation for him in 2014 from a statistical standpoint?