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Matthew Stafford's best year: 2011 vs 2015

What was Matthew Stafford's best year? You be the judge.

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Most times ideas for article are reflections of what's going on in the now. But sometimes the best ideas come from arguments around a fire on a Saturday night. This is one of those times. As I mentioned, the setting of this argument was around a fire pit. The argument was about which season was Matthew Stafford's best.

It should seem as though it's a no brainer. 2011 is more than likely the season of choice for just about everyone. A Twitter poll I ran over the weekend shows that 2011 wins in a landslide.

So with that mind, why would I be the crazy guy to stand on the 2015 side of things?  That's what we are going to get into today. But I can't stand alone. I want to have some company over here. But I also want the 2011 crowd to keep fans on their side too. So what I'm going to do is present both sides of the story like we're all in Lions court. Then I'll let you decide which side you want to take based off that. Let's jump right in with 2011.


First things first. This was a big season for the Lions quarterback for multiple reasons. Most importantly, it was Stafford's first full season and it put him on the map in such a way that football fans everywhere began to consider Stafford as one of the guys to watch out for in the future. Let's talk about the particulars. Stafford became one of only five quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards in a season. He also threw an incredible 41 touchdowns. He had a career high passer rating of 97.2 and the Lions made the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

But it wasn't all rainbows and unicorns. Stafford also threw what was at the time the third most pass attempts in NFL history. He would set the NFL record a year later, for what it's worth. He also threw 16 interceptions and formed a bad habit of chucking the ball down the field to Calvin Johnson at any cost. Something fans loved when it worked and hated when it didn't for the next two seasons.

I think it's safe to say that the 2011 season was an anomaly for Stafford and it effectively set the bar to a height that he could not possibly reach again, which is why he's so disliked despite the zero options for his replacement. You can immediately point back to this season as being the start of every bad habit that Stafford had until the 2014 season. But of course it was really fun to watch. Which is why I can't blame anyone for picking 2011.


The 2015 season definitely doesn't have the same flash that 2011 had. I can't argue that. Nor will I even try. Just like the last portion, let's first look at the particulars. Stafford threw for 4,262 yards and 32 touchdowns. Not bad. What's great is that he set career highs in completion percentage (67.2) QBR (63.64) and became the first quarterback in NFL history to complete at least 60 percent of his passes in all 16 games. All while getting sacked 44 times. Not bad at all.

He also managed to set a career low for pass attempts with 592. Down the stretch he was masterful, throwing just two interceptions in the last eight games. He also threw 19 touchdowns and set a franchise record for single game completion percentage against the Saints. But what will be remembered the most and constantly brought up by Stafford detractors is the first half of the season.

You just can't get around it in any way. It was bad. Stafford spent most of the first season on the run or on the ground. This resulted in the Lions firing their offensive coordinator and eventually missing the playoffs. That clearly gives the 2011 season the leverage if you believe in the "quarterback wins" stat.

If that's the deal breaker for you, I can't blame you. But what I would say to you is that Stafford clearly showed maturity, leadership and decision making the likes of which Lions fans have never seen before. Because he was able to lead the team out of the basement and back into the playoff race, even if it was only for a week, you have to look past the stats and see the forest through the trees. Stafford became a different quarterback in 2015.

What do you think Lions fans? Which side of the fence are you on? 2011 or 2015? Be sure to leave your comments below or come yell at me on Twitter @POD_Payton.

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