In 2014, the Detroit Lions' plan for quarterback Matthew Stafford was pretty clear. In order to limit turnovers, the Lions seemingly put him in a position to take fewer chances. Whether that meant fewer deep shots or more conservative play calling, the Lions were really intent on limiting the amount of risks he made as a quarterback.
Although Stafford still made his fair share of mistakes over the course of 2014, he finished the regular season with a career-low 12 interceptions. He also posted his best completion percentage since 2011. At least from that perspective, the Lions' plan worked.
The problem for the Lions is that by taking a more conservative approach with Stafford, the offense as a whole suffered quite a bit. There were other factors that led to the offense's struggles, of course, but it really seemed like there were a lot of negative side effects to the Lions' conservative approach. Those negatives were only exemplified by situations where the Lions trailed late in games and had to throw caution to the wind. Suddenly the playbook would open up, Stafford would get an opportunity to take more shots down the field and the offense would start moving the ball on a more consistent basis.
In 2015, the success or failure of the offense won't strictly hinge on how conservative or aggressive the Lions are with Stafford. However, it seems clear that they do want Stafford to be a bit more aggressive than he was last season, at least that's what offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said earlier this week at the team's town hall meeting with season-ticket holders.
Lombardi said Stafford might have been too cautious at times last year trying to limit turnovers. "He'll take a few more chances this year."
— Tim Twentyman (@ttwentyman) April 1, 2015
Lombardi said he expects to take a few more shots with Stafford this year, drew a smattering of cheers from the crowd
— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) April 1, 2015
There's really a fine line between being too conservative and too aggressive. Being too conservative, as we saw last year, will limit turnovers, but it will also limit the amount of opportunities the offense has to score points. The Lions got away with this last year thanks in large part to their top-ranked defense, but they may not have that luxury in 2015.
The flip side is that if you're too aggressive, you could have a situation like the 2013 season, which saw Stafford throw 19 interceptions. His touchdown numbers were up -- 29 compared to 22 in 2014 -- but those seven extra picks likely did more harm in the grand scheme of things than those seven extra touchdowns did good considering the Lions didn't have a dominant defense to rely on.
In any case, it will be interesting to see if the Lions' approach on offense does noticeably change in 2015. I'd personally like to see more situations where the Lions go no-huddle, open up the playbook and allow Stafford to take more chances. Stafford himself needs to be more consistent in order to ensure that being more aggressive doesn't come back to bite the Lions, but philosophically speaking, I'm all for a more aggressive mindset going forward.