By now, Detroit Lions fans are well aware of the dominance Matthew Stafford had over over the opposition in the second half of 2015. But in case you aren’t aware (or just want to hear it again), here’s the proof: 6-2 record, 19 touchdowns, two interceptions, a 110.1 passer rating (fourth best over the final eight games) and a 70% completion rate. According to offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, who took over the offense after Week 7, that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated’s MMQB visited Lions camp and put out a very interesting article on the team. From that piece, Cooter spoke of the offensive turnaround and why he believes it should only get better from there. “I think the next step for him, and you probably saw a little bit of it tonight, is taking more and more and more ownership of the offense, making it his own,” Cooter said to MMQB.
With the Lions essentially changing offensive schemes on the fly in 2015, no one would expect Stafford to catch on completely midseason, especially with the rumors being thrown around that Stafford had trouble picking up complicated offensive schemes under Joe Lombardi. However, Stafford immediately clicked under Cooter, drastically decreasing his mistakes, increasing his completion percentage and most importantly, taking command of the game.
Now that Stafford has had an entire offseason to learn the system, Cooter believes his understanding of the offense to another level:
“The more we run the plays, the more he runs the same plays over and over, the better feel he gets for what he likes and what he doesn’t like. He’s increasing his ownership of the offense and I’d like to keep that going.”
And Cooter isn’t the only one saying that. At the beginning of training camp, Jim Caldwell gushed over Stafford’s quick development under Cooter’s guidance in the new offense. “He is moving extremely fast within the system and getting better all the time,” Caldwell said.
But Stafford’s understanding of the offense is just one key part of the cog. He’ll also have to learn how to call his own plays on the fly. Cooter is giving Stafford that option this year, admitting he’s typically giving Stafford a couple of play options per snap and letting him choose the one he’s most comfortable with.
That kind of responsibility is hard to emulate in camp, so Stafford will truly get his first chance to display that maturity when the Lions face the Pittsburgh Steelers on August 12.