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Matthew Stafford and Andrew Luck: One and the same

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Comparing Matthew Stafford to Andrew Luck.

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There's just something about Andrew Luck. Going back to the days when a young Andrew Luck was quarterback for Jim Harbaugh's Stanford Cardinal, the Colts star has had the highest of praise. Once considered to be the best quarterback prospect to enter the NFL Draft in some time, his star has never fallen despite some play that suggests it should. Today, Luck is one of the biggest stars of the NFL -- appearing countless commercials, headlining daily segments on sports channels and consistently featured in national articles.

On the other side of the coin is Matthew Stafford. He, too, was considered to be the consensus No. 1 pick, although coming out of Georgia in 2009. Despite solid play for a team that's struggled since the Super Bowl was created, Stafford is not considered to be a star and is not considered to be in the same class as Andrew Luck. Or really in the NFL's top ten quarterbacks.

As my friend Jeff Risdon, who inspired this piece, points out, the reality of it all is that despite the favorable and unfavorable reviews, these two quarterbacks are, for the most part, the same exact guy. Both can be erratic and both can be prolific. Both have some same core struggles at an individual level and both have the tools and the ability to be next level great. Don't believe it? Check it out.

The numbers

Andrew Luck has only been in the NFL for four years, 55 games to be exact. Stafford is going into his eighth year. So what we'll do is take Matthew Stafford's first 55 games and compare them with Luck's first 55 games. Here are the numbers.

Andrew Luck: first 55 games

Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Passer Rating Comp %
14,838 101 55 85 58.1

Matthew Stafford: first 55 games

Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Passer Rating Comp %
16,005 101 62 84.5 59.7

So let's start with what is similar. Okay, all of it. That was easy. What sticks out the most is the high number of yards in such a short period of time for both quarterbacks. The next thing that stands out is the high number of interceptions on both sides. Each quarterback averaged at least one interception per game over their first 55 contests.

This is one of the things that makes these two so much alike. They both have habits of being reckless gunslingers. Perhaps a telling stat is that Andrew Luck is over half of the way to meeting Stafford's career number of interceptions in just four years. It can be argued that Stafford is less erratic than Luck. Andrew's play the last two seasons definitely show that. Luck actually produced his highest interception percentage last year (4.1 percent), even higher than his rookie year (2.9 percent).

Other things like touchdowns, passer rating and completion percent show another big similarity: Both have over 100 touchdowns in the same time frame. A large portion of those touchdowns come from a big career year along the way. Both threw for 40 plus touchdowns in one year, had their passer rating shoot into the 90s that same year and had their career high in completion percentage in that year. However, Stafford set a new completion percentage high in 2015.

But what sets them apart in the minds of many?

QB wins

Let's start off by saying that there is no such thing as a stat called "quarterback wins." This is something that seems to have been invented specifically for Matthew Stafford. There have been multiple Super Bowl winning quarterbacks that have lost more games than they've won. But let's go ahead and play with that a little. Yes, Andrew Luck has a better "quarterback record." Luck is 35-20 in his NFL career. Stafford is 42-51. Luck has led the Colts to the playoffs three times in four years and Stafford has led the Lions to the playoffs twice in seven.

Now let's examine why these are different. Matthew Stafford was drafted first overall to a team that had only 12 winning seasons since 1967 and had gone 0-16 the year before. Luck was drafted by a team that had won seven of last ten AFC South championships, was three years removed from a Super Bowl appearance and two years removed from their last division championship. So yeah, there's a bit of a difference there.

With the exception of 2013, Matthew Stafford plays in a division that's had two playoff teams in it every year since 2009, one of which won a Super Bowl recently. Andrew Luck plays in a division that hasn't had two playoff teams since his rookie year and has only one team who has ever won a Super Bowl, the Colts. If the places were switched, would Stafford have the same success as Luck has had? Would Luck have the same troubles and stigmas that Stafford has had? You really can only say yes.

Lastly there's the whole "Stafford can't beat winning teams on the road" narrative. This stat that is shown nearly every week and, frankly, is reported poorly. The Lions have beat two playoff teams on the road in Stafford's time. The Packers of 2015 and the Broncos of 2011.  This is a ridiculous stat  for any quarterback. Even the great Aaron Rodgers is only 8-20 on the road against winning teams. I defy you to find any quarterback not named Tom Brady that doesn't suffer with this. Luck suffers too. He's a mere 3-10 on the road against winning teams.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, neither of these guys are great and neither of them suck, but they are strikingly similar. It's clear that there's a Man In The Iron Mask type of scenario here. One twin lives as a king, while the other lives as a prisoner in a mask that hides all of his positiveness. Only time will tell which one of these guys will rise up to be the better man. In just over two weeks, we'll see who shines when the Lions play the Colts in Week 1 of the regular season.

What do you think? Who is the better quarterback and why? Or do you think they are on the same page? Be sure to leave your comments below or come chat with me on Twitter @POD_Payton.