As mentioned on Tuesday, ESPN's 2015 quarterback rankings are out. The rankings were based on the opinions of 35 "league insiders," and the Detroit Lions' Matthew Stafford tied for 12th with the New York Giants' Eli Manning this year. That put him in the second tier of quarterbacks.
One of the more interesting things about Stafford's place in the rankings is that he actually received two votes for the top tier of quarterbacks. At the same time, he also received eight votes for the third tier. This indicates that there's a lot of disagreement on where Stafford belongs, but there was a consensus in the write-up that accompanied his ranking. Specifically, an anonymous offensive coach and an anonymous general manager both agreed that "something is missing" when it comes to Stafford. Here's the coach's take on Stafford:
"No doubt, he is a 2 and I love him, but something is missing. Stafford could be like Aaron Rodgers if he had the burning passion and if he had Mike McCarthy from Day 1, because he is talented like that and quick with the ball. But you look at the look on Stafford's face before the game and then look at Rodgers' face or Big Ben's face or Luck's or especially Drew Brees' face or Philip Rivers' face. Holy s---, you look at Matthew Stafford's eyes and it's like gym class. It's like, 'I hope we win, I think we are pretty good' as opposed to, 'I am going to rip your throat out.'"
That's a long way of saying that Stafford lacks the intensity and killer instinct that the game's best quarterbacks possess. The anonymous GM had similar thoughts on Stafford, saying that "there is something missing." The GM even went back to Stafford's college days and noted that despite having Knowshon Moreno and A.J. Green and being ranked No. 1 in the nation, Georgia lost three games with Stafford leading the way at quarterback.
A third anonymous insider -- this time a personnel director -- continued this theme by comparing Stafford with the Baltimore Ravens' Joe Flacco and the Atlanta Falcons' Matt Ryan.
"I don't know if he has internally what Flacco and Ryan have in terms of the will to be special. I see those guys working on their mechanics, which is huge for guys like Peyton and Brady. Stafford's mechanics have not changed."
I suppose there are two ways to look at these comments. On the one hand, there seems to be a consensus that Stafford can be a top-tier quarterback based on his physical skills. On the flip side, though, there also seems to be a consensus that the mental aspect of Stafford's game is holding him back from getting beyond that second tier of quarterbacks. Whether that's actually true or not is tough to gauge, but clearly that's the perception of Stafford in some NFL circles.