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Free Press columnist calls Matthew Stafford's contract a mistake; here's why he's wrong

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Deconstructing the inane backlash to Matthew Stafford’s contract.

New England Patriots v Detroit Lions Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The backlash we all expected to come when Matthew Stafford signed a record-breaking deal came in predictable fashion from predictable sources. One of the most inevitable reactions came from the Detroit Free Press’ Carlos Monarrez. Monarrez has been skeptical of throwing huge money at NFL quarterbacks—Stafford in particular—from the get-go, and even placed a friendly bet with his co-worker Dave Birkett that Stafford would not sign a deal this year; a deal he predictably lost.

Monarrez took his issues to print Monday night, and his arguments, when coherent, were completely misinformed. Let’s take a look, shall we?

“It’s a mistake and I can prove it.”

Oh, wow. This should be good. Let me have it, Carlos.

“At the next news conference (Bob) Quinn holds — or at any news conference ever — he won’t want to answer this question: Should his tenure as Detroit Lions general manager be directly tied to Stafford’s success?”

What? Do you have any idea what the word “prove” means? The only thing this proves is that Monarrez is going to ask this obnoxious, irrelevant question to Bob Quinn the first chance he gets. And Quinn will deflect that question when it comes.

While it’s true that Bob Quinn’s reputation is now reliant upon building a team with a hefty quarterback contract to maneuver around, that does nothing to prove this the wrong move.

Moving on.

“There was no reason Quinn couldn’t have waited to see how Stafford performs this season before doling out such a fortune that keeps Stafford with the Lions until 2022.”

No reason? How about the fact that waiting a year almost certainly would drive up Stafford’s contract? The NFL salary cap will go up again next year, pushing quarterback deals even higher. If you don’t like how much Detroit paid Stafford today, you’ll hate what they would have to pay tomorrow.

Quinn could have used the franchise tag this year and next with little consequence in the difference of money he would have paid.

Yes, the Lions could have franchised Stafford for the next two years and paid less than they’re paying now—but what then? The Lions would be in a situation where they would have absolutely no leverage to keep Stafford around. A third franchise tag would draw astronomical numbers, and the Lions would face a scenario where they would have to offer Stafford a deal that would somehow entice him to forego the rich waters of free agency.

In Carlos’ world, you save a little money on Stafford for two years, then you put yourself at a complete risk to lose Stafford forever. Even if the Lions manage to keep Stafford beyond those two years, they’re likely paying him much more than they are now, in an effort to keep him away from free agency. It’s short-sighted and poorly thought out. Just ask Washington and Kirk Cousins.

What else you got?

Stafford owns zero division titles, is 0-3 in the playoffs and has a 51-58 record.

Then there’s always the eternal question circling around Stafford: Is he elite? Let me put it this way, folks. If you have to ask, he’s not.

Yeah, yeah, QB Wins. Tell me, Carlos: Did you think Matt Ryan was elite before the 2016 season? You know, when he was coming off an 18-30 record in the three previous seasons? When he was only 1-4 in the postseason? How’d that work out?

There is almost no credible pundit anywhere who’s picking the Lions to win the weak NFC North this year.

Ignoring the oxymoron of “credible pundit,” there are plenty of analysts picking the Lions to win their division this year. Even if there weren’t, since when were any preseason predictions considered accurate?

Quinn didn’t sign any amazing free agents this off-season, and his first two drafts (I know it’s still early) haven’t exactly taken the NFL by storm.

Quinn signed a Pro Bowl guard and the best right tackle on the market in free agency. That is a free agent haul. Now you’re arguing that his first two draft classes—one of which has yet to even see the field for a regular season game—hasn’t taken the NFL by storm? I guess getting a franchise left tackle and a force at defensive tackle are worth nothing.

Yes, and I’m sure the Patriots thought Drew Bledsoe gave them the best chance of winning before Tom Brady was forced to take over in 2001.

Oh yes, no “Stafford sucks” column would be complete without the subtle reference to Jake Rudock becoming the next Tom Brady. Here’s a list of every quarterback between Tom Brady and Jake Rudock that was also picked in the sixth round of the NFL Draft:

  • Josh Booty
  • Josh Heupel
  • J.T. O’Sullivan
  • Brooks Bollinger
  • Kliff Kingsbury
  • Josh Harris
  • Jim Sorgi
  • Jeff Smoker
  • Andy Hall
  • Derek Anderson
  • Bruce Gradkowski
  • Jordan Palmer
  • Colt Brennan
  • Andre Woodson
  • Tom Brandstater
  • Mike Teel
  • Keith Null
  • Curtis Painter
  • Rusty Smith
  • Dan LeFevour
  • Joe Webb
  • Tony Pike
  • Tyrod Taylor
  • Ryan Lindley
  • Zach Mettenberger
  • David Fales
  • Keith Wenning
  • Tajh Boyd
  • Garrett Gilbert
  • Nate Sudfeld

Can you point to one, single quarterback who has had a career anywhere close to Matthew Stafford? That’s exactly 30 quarterbacks taken in the sixth round since 2000. None of them were Tom Brady waiting in the wings. Tom Brady is, and always will be, the extremely rare exception to the rule. Trying to replicate the Bledsoe-Brady transition is insane, and in practice would probably ruin a franchise for decades if they attempted it. Stop using him as an example.

It goes to the core of this franchise and how it has been too loyal and too forgiving under 50-plus years of Ford ownership. William Clay Ford was way too close to be objective about general managers like Russ Thomas and Matt Millen. Martha Ford literally said she loves coach Jim Caldwell.

Carlos loves to take potshots at ownership at any chance he gets. I get it. The Lions have been horrible for decades and the only constant has been Ford ownership of the team. But his point about loyalty is a completely false narrative.

From 2000-2014, the Lions changed head coaches eight times, more than other NFL team (tied with Washington, Cleveland and Oakland—great company to have). The Lions are now on their third general manager in 10 years, which is well above the league average in overturn. Of course the Lions held onto Matt Millen too long, but that’s just about the only real example you can find of their loyalty to a fault.

The Lions have literally never shown this kind of a loyalty to a quarterback. Matthew Stafford already has the most starts in Lions history. He’s lasted through a change in general manager and head coach. and he’s now on his third offensive coordinator.

Maybe Detroit’s loyalty to Stafford has nothing to do with a culture of stubbornness but actually the exact opposite. Maybe the Lions decided that the franchise could finally use a little stability for once. Maybe they think Stafford can continue to lead this team to more playoff appearances, more season finales with the division on the line and more relevancy for a franchise that was a complete afterthought before he arrived.