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Since benched in 2015, Matthew Stafford has been an elite quarterback

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Taking a look at why Matthew Stafford is now playing like an elite quarterback.

NFL: New York Jets at Detroit Lions Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

It’s funny what you can find when you’re preparing an article. Sometimes you could be making a sandwich and find out that there really is a map on the back of the Declaration of Independence. Other times you can be putting together a simple game preview and find out that Matthew Stafford has been an elite quarterback for almost two years.

Thank you to the Arizona Cardinals. This team came to Detroit in 2015 and created an ever-loving monster. You may remember that game. The Lions got a forty burger dropped on them and Matthew Stafford was benched after throwing three interceptions. It was bad. It started narratives that created tweets like this.

Thank you Ian.

There’s no doubt that game was really bad for Matthew Stafford. It was the first time he had ever been benched. It was an embarrassing day.

But the reality is that what that game did to Matthew Stafford was significant, even career changing. That game is the reason Matthew Stafford became the highest paid player in the NFL last week. That game is the game that made Matthew Stafford elite.

Why do I say that? Well it’s because Stafford became the sleeping giant that woke up. It started the next week when he threw five touchdowns in a win over the Bears, and it just kept going. In fact, over the last 27 games, there aren’t many that have played better than Stafford. Take a look at the beautiful stats.

Matthew Stafford’s last 27 games

Quarterback Completions Attempts Comp % Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Passer Rating
Quarterback Completions Attempts Comp % Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Passer Rating
Matthew Stafford 660 991 66.6 7,384 50 15 99.1

That’s pretty good, but how does that compare to the elite quarterbacks that ESPN tells you are head and shoulders better than Stafford? Let’s take a look see shall we?

Stafford vs. the world: Last 27 games

Quarterback Completions Attempts Comp % Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Passer Rating
Quarterback Completions Attempts Comp % Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Passer Rating
Matthew Stafford 660 991 66.6 7,384 50 15 99.1
Aaron Rodgers 640 1029 62.2 7013 56 13 95.8
Tom Brady 554 859 64.49 6,625 50 8 103.5
Drew Brees 786 1130 69.56 8,774 63 23 102.5
Cam Newton 479 848 56.49 6,268 46 20 88.2
Andrew Luck 594 990 60 7,241 57 31 88.7
Matt Ryan 660 963 68.54 8,079 53 19 104.3
Ben Roethlisberger 671 1,016 66.4 8,074 52 30 95
Derek Carr 604 971 62.2 6,753 52 16 93.9
Joe Flacco 724 1,121 64.59 7,420 36 27 84.2

Dang. So here’s what we’re learning right now: Not only has Matthew Stafford been downright elite for the last 27 games, he’s also statistically been a top five quarterback. There really isn’t any argument here anymore.

By the way, I added Joe Flacco because that’s what Stafford has become. The 2013 Joe Flacco. Is he elite or is he just good? We know now that Stafford has, in fact, been elite. Now we just need to see him do it some more.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Mr. Jim Bob Cooter. There’s no coincidence that Cooter would become the Lions offensive coordinator just over two weeks after Stafford was benched. As we know, since Cooter took over, Stafford has gone through this dramatic transformation. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the previous 27 games.

Stafford Previous 27 games

Quarterback Completions Attempts Comp % Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Passer Rating
Quarterback Completions Attempts Comp % Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Passer Rating
Matthew Stafford 612 1,012 60.47 6,914 36 31 80

That’s quite a change.

Now for my weekly reminder that quarterback wins is not a real stat. The fact of the matter is most will still try to swim around this shark by saying things like “he’s never won anything” or “he’s never won a championship on a 53-man roster against other teams with 53 men on their roster.” Or my favorite: "Quarterback wins is a real stat, despite all the times that I didn’t give all the credit to my quarterback when I played junior high football.”

So if you spent the last week trying to understand why the Lions paid Stafford this amount of money, here’s why: He’s one of the best quarterbacks in the league. It’s not a homer statement. It’s not a fallacy. It’s the real deal.