Well Lions fans, we've reached the part of the offseason that I like to refer to as the dead zone. That part of the offseason that's in between OTAs and training camp where nothing is going on, and you are more desperate than ever for football. The time of year where you look at the CFL or LFL and think, "I could get into that." So while we wait, there's no reason we can't have a little fun. With that in mind, I've decided to open up the Detroit Lions Court of Fan Opinions.
On today's docket, Matthew Stafford. Quite possibly the most polarizing athlete in Detroit sports history. It's as if Moses himself came to Detroit and split Lions fans like the Red Sea. On one side, the fans that want nothing more than the Lions to move on from Stafford. On the other are the fans that believe Stafford's as good as it gets for the Lions. I know which side I'm on. But I've always wondered what goes through the head of both sets of fans. Why do they feel the way they do about No. 9 in Honolulu Blue?
Today we get to the bottom of that. I scoured Twitter looking for four fans. Two on either side of the fence. What I found was these four eager and willing participants. Lets first meet the firm of Stafford haters. First there's Emmanuel (@MannyPapadogian). He'll be teamed up with Matt (@Zoro728) in their quest to disavow Stafford. On the other side is the firm of Stafford lovers. Our pal Fredi (@FrediThePizzamn) will join forces with Mike (@Lionsfan1960) to prove their thoughts that Stafford is the man for the job.
I asked both sides four questions each. Let's see how they answered them. First to the dark side of the force.
POD: What is it about Stafford's play that you don't like?
Emmanuel: "The main issue i have with Stafford's play is that its just woefully inconsistent. He goes from having games where he throws 300 yards, completes 65+% of his passes with three touchdowns, to a game where he throws 250 yards one touchdown and three interceptions. For a QB that is considered "elite," that isn't elite numbers. And statistically if you look at Stafford, he terribly under performs when facing teams that qualified for the playoffs (2-11 the last two years). Consistency is key, something Stafford doesn't have."
Matt: "It Stafford’s ability or lack thereof when reading defenses that kill me. He locks in on one receiver and he doesn’t take the easy throw when it’s available. I have seen him miss wide open receivers and if he wants to be great, he just can’t do that. I know he has made incredible throws as well, but he just isn’t consistent enough for me. What I dislike about him the most is how he sets up his receivers to be drilled and he is the reason Calvin was too banged up, and had to retire. His stats are inflated by the team being down so much and if he didn’t have one of the best receivers to ever play, who knows if he would still be playing."
POD: Do you think Stafford can improve?
Emmanuel: "No. Or not very much at least. In five full years of play, Stafford had one elite number producing year (2011), an above average/good year (2015) and three straight up mediocre years (2012, 2013, 2014). Based on past years averages and losing arguably the best receiver of the last decade in Calvin Johnson, you'll probably see a year from Stafford where he'll throw 25 touchdowns and 18 interceptions and we'll probably miss the playoffs based on our schedule difficulty."
Matt: "He can definitely improve, he has the arm and is one of the toughest quarterbacks in the league but he lacks it mentally during games. They say he’s smart in practice but it's equivalent to them saying Andre Drummond shoots 70% free throws in practice. It doesn’t matter if you can’t do it during game! He is only 28 so he has time to improve but he didn’t take the next step having Calvin, so there is no reason to believe he will do it now. The only hope for Stafford is Jim Bob Cooter, and if he keeps throwing interceptions and holding on to the ball, then there will be no hope."
POD: Have you always hated Stafford?
Emmanuel: "When we first drafted him I never really felt the hype about him. Even in college his stats weren't that eyeballing where you go "wow this guy can be the next big thing". After he sustained his injury his sophomore year I honestly thought that he'd definitely end up being a bust pick but he came back with a tremendous rebounding season and gave you a sort of optimism saying "hmm he could possibly be something" and just like that his progress just seemed to stop. Like he's been the same QB for the last five years no adjustments. And of course frustration starts to set in and you start saying "you know what this, guy had a fluke year, he's just another average overrated QB." So far he's failed to prove anything except that he knows how to average 4500 passing yards a season."
Matt: "No, as a lion fan, when you see Stafford especially after the Cleveland browns comeback win with his injury, you had to love him. It’s been heartbreaks since; he can’t beat good teams on the road and rarely shows up during prime time. I know the O-line and run game didn’t help but he’s the QB, he’s the leader, and it’s on him to play better. It’s always a tale of two halves with this guy. We never know what we’re going to get with him. Is it the guy who lead us to a 6-2 start in 2011 or the one who lead us to a 1-7 start in 2015? The first game of last season vs the Chargers sums up Stafford. One half he was great, the next half he was a bum. I don’t see it changing."
POD: In your mind, what steps can the Lions take to improve their quarterback position?
Emmanuel: " At this point in time I don't think there's much that can be done. There were rumors floating around that Houston was QB hunting and Stafford was their target. I would have accepted that trade, gotten some picks, tank the season and end up with Goff, Wentz, or Lynch. Looking at teams right now that need quarterbacks are the NY Jets. Look as a Lions fan I hate to see them go year after year without a playoff win or a playoff berth in general. But the Stafford project just isn't working. The guy has had five seasons to do his work and hasn't produced. You can never say that he hasn't gotten help. He had Calvin Johnson his entire career. And watching the NFL Draft for years we spend first rounders on offensive players to "give more weapons and help Stafford". OK he has his help, where is the product? Yeah we have Golden and we just signed Marvin Jones to nice new contract. But at this point, Stafford isn't the answer to Detroit's curse. Start fresh, tank the year, trade Stafford ESPECIALLY before his contract year, get some decent picks for him and start clean. Let Bob Quinn do his diligence and pick his own QB. At this point if Detroit wishes to see a playoff win in this lifetime, this is the path."
Matt: "The lions will probably give Stafford an extension because with his arm he is the best available. They need to draft a QB and hope he can give Stafford some competition. He has never had to worry about being benched or someone stepping up behind him. Stafford is a middle of the pack QB. In my mind, I hope they don’t re-sign him and move on. Find a free agent or draft a QB. We will never win it all with Stafford, but we have been disappointed for so long, competing for a playoff spot is like a Super Bowl appearance in this city. The best thing the Lions could of done was trade him this past offseason for some draft picks, but since they didn’t, we are stuck with him and stuck being mediocre at best."
Seems fair enough. Looks to be some strong opinions on the hate side of things. Let's see what the guys who are fans of Stafford have to say.
POD: What do you like about Stafford's play?
Fredi: "What I like about Matt Stafford's play, is he gives his all every play, every series. He's very passionate, by calling players out on the field, not through the media. He is mentally tough with what has been given to him, or lack of it. Because Mayhew and Lewand thought only WRs and TEs were weapons, proof that it took to 2012, 3 years after MS was drafted that they went LT in the first rd, 2013-15 to address the interior line. By then, Stafford was bruised and beaten onto his 3rd OC. He optimizes what he said in his speech when winning an espy. "Detroit is a tough city." So is Matt Stafford. "
Mike: "The thing I first liked about Stafford was his courage to throw past the sticks on third down. Our past QBs would rather have the dump-down completion stat and make way for the punter. I like Staff’s leadership in the fourth quarter of games. I especially like his decisiveness and accuracy in the red zone. That is why we led the NFL by a WIDE margin last year in red-zone touchdown efficiency. He had the physical tools to take full advantage of Calvin Johnson, and he puts the ball where our receivers won’t get blown up. Contrary to some outside perceptions, Calvin didn’t account for all of Stafford’s 5,038 passing yards in 2011; He has always spread the ball around. For those who say his NFL RECORD passing yards stats (to begin a career) are a result of the pass-happy era of football, I ask; Why aren’t there 3 or 4, or even 10 other QBs also breaking these marks? Finally, the guy is TOUGH. I remember Stafford running down and tackling a DB who had intercepted him and then Matt was flagged for unnecessary roughness! Juxtapose this with Cam Newton backing away from a fumble in the Super Bowl. I know which QB I want leading MY team!"
POD: Has Stafford reached his full potential? Or is he only going to get better?
Fredi: "As for reaching his potential, not even close. Yes he has thrown for the mega yards. Calvin Johnson, Brandon Pettigrew, Golden Tate and Nate Burleson had career years in catches and yards with Stafford at QB running for his life and picking up his flattened body off the turf. Under Linehan he flourished, because his offense called for quicker passes and made a below average offensive line look good. But the overall team was poorly built. Under Lombardi, he and the offense took five steps back, his offense called to hold the ball longer, and pass deeper. There's where the OLine got exposed. They took Eric Ebron and passed on Taylor Lewan knowing the OLine had to block longer, but once again Mayhew believed weapons were only skill guys. Under Bob Quinn building inside out and another year of Jim Bob Cooter, Matt Stafford still has not scratched the surface and now actually may have a legit RT for once in 7 years, Riley Reiff, only took four years off wrongfully playing LT. "
Mike: " I think that Stafford was neutered quite a bit by Caldwell and Lombardi. I admit that I like Stafford as a Farve-like gunslinger, but as he came to thrive under Jim Bob Cooter, I think that the Matthew Stafford we have moving forward is even better than the one who put up incredible numbers in Scott Linehan’s offense. Give him a line, and he will pick defenses apart like jackals on a carcass. As any skeptical fan would say, we need to see it for a full season. I think that we are going to be pleased with this year’s result. And the guy is just beginning to enter his prime. There are maybe three other QBs with his youth and bright future (Cam, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson) and I would take Matthew over them every day and twice on Sunday!"
POD: Have you always liked Stafford?
Fredi: "I've always liked Stafford, from his Georgia days to being a Detroit Lion. He inherited an 0-16 team and a GM who was the right hand man of the worst GM in sports. I always use this example when I speak of Matt Stafford. In 1970 a young QB was taken No. 1 overall in the NFL draft by a horrible team and franchise at the time, that was New England and the QB was Jim Plunkett. They never built around him and he went elsewhere, Oakland to be exact and went on to quarterback two Super Bowl winners. I was a huge Plunkett fan as a young boy, and now a huge fan of Matt Stafford."
Mike: "Full disclosure, I liked Aaron Curry (aka the sure thing) entering the 2009 draft. After seeing Stafford on talk shows and then in the preseason, I knew he was different. Like most Stafford supporters, I fell in permanent love during the 2009 Cleveland game. This was the guy the franchise hadn’t had since before I was born. As my kids will tell you, I like Stafford enough that I won’t get his jersey, keeping him free from my "jersey curse". He is, to me, OUR Brett Favre. Since the Cleveland game, early injuries aside, Matthew Stafford has done nothing but add to my high opinion of him. There is no better player to be "mic’d up" by NFL Films. He is the "bro" quarterback that Dan Patrick and the Danettes would most like to hang with. His commercial spots are great (especially the Pepsi Can Cave spot), and he does a mean Ray Lewis imitation! We are lucky to have him!"
POD: Is Stafford the best long term option for the Lions?
Fredi: "Matt Stafford is easily the best and only long term answer for Detroit. He has the arm, the work ethic, the drive and the will to win if given the right weapons around him. Those weapons are a LT, RT, C, and running game that can control clock, keep him off his back and win big games on the road to start. Then divisions, playoffs and ultimately a Super Bowl, here, not for another team. Trust in Matt Stafford, trust in Bob Quinn getting this kid the right team around him. Yes Calvin was great, he brought us nothing. We move on and lay our hopes in our franchise QB. I bet the house on him."
Mike: "Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! He’s young, confident, in a system he likes and in a town he wants to carry to a title. If I hear detractors trot out the "record against teams on the road who finished the season with winning records" stat again I will vomit! It is the ONLY stat they can come up with and it is a ridiculous metric with which to judge a QB. Stafford passes the eye test, he passes the heart test. He brings his teams from behind, and with solid, or even competent O-line play, we should be playing from ahead most games. Look at the QB mess most NFL teams are facing. There are 24 teams in the league who would swap with us in a heartbeat. This is the best QB the Lions have had in my lifetime, hands down! In an era where solid QB play is the only way to win a championship, we finally have that piece secured. Now it’s up to Bob Quinn and the staff to build the rest of a championship squad."
So there seems to be some interesting arguments on both sides. What I want to know is what you think? Did you change your mind today? Will you ever? Be sure to let me know your side of the story in the comments section or come yell at me on Twitter @POD_Payton. Lastly I want to give a special thank you to Emmanuel, Matt, Mike and Fredi for participating this weekend. Also you have to love the bravery these guys showed for allowing their Twitter handles to be included in this piece. Go easy on them guys.