Matthew Stafford has always been a bit of an enigma. Though he does weekly press conferences during the season, he never really seems to say much and prefers it that way. He’s completely off social media, and when his wife, Kelly, posts images or video of him on her Instagram account, he always seems to be sheepishly hiding his face, which is usually focused on an iPad screen that is almost certainly glowing with game film.
But Stafford opened up a bit for this excellent piece from Sports Illustrated’s MMQB publication. Michael Rosenberg got the Lions franchise quarterback to open up about seeing a quarterback guru, his life as a new father and just how much his mentality has changed since he entered the league way back in 2009.
“Early in my career, it was first-and-10 on the first play of the game and I thought I needed [a first down],” Stafford told Rosenberg.
But his football outlooked changed drastically after two major events: when Calvin Johnson retired abruptly and when Jim Bob Cooter was promoted to offensive coordinator. Rosenberg explains:
Cooter provided a structure that works for Stafford, but the freedom to change plays within it. All those years, the arm had played a trick on everybody: It hid his brain. Stafford is a lot more like Peyton Manning than people realize. He loves having control. Giving him less to do had been a mistake. He thrives with more.
Johnson, Rosenberg argues, left Stafford in a box. He was pressured to get the ball to Megatron and, as Rosenberg put it, “wow people.” But Stafford has not only welcomed the challenge of an offense without a weapon like Megatron, but fully embraced it. “We don’t have a guy who runs a 4.3 and is 6'5" and you throw it way down the field a bunch. The way we get those explosive plays now is different than we did back then. I’ve just tried to embrace that,” Stafford told MMQB.
The entire piece is well worth your time. Rosenberg tackles Stafford’s incredible work ethic, his relationship with his twin daughters and wife and his “normal” life outside of football. Lions fans have rarely been given such an in-depth look into the leader of their team, but now they finally have a glimpse at the man behind the snap.