Who’s ready for the overreacting period of the Lions season? It came a little earlier than usual this year ,with the Lions hitting 4-7 after a bad loss to the Bears on Thanksgiving. But even though the overreactions came in early, the topic is still the exact same one it’s been for years. It’s all rooted in this weird fetish that Detroit sports fans have about sending their best athletes out of town.
Finally, there’s some meat on the bone here, though. Lions fans actually have something to point to when they say the Lions should trade Matthew Stafford. Usually it’s the classic “but he hasn’t won anything” comment that makes me roll my eyes so hard that they damn near fall out, because, as I mention nearly every day, quarterback wins are not a real stat. Teams shouldn't be basing their quarterback personnel decisions off of them.
But that meat on the bone I was talking about is that Stafford and the offense are in a real funk right now. There’s a lot to point to when you’re trying to explain it, such as the lack of solid receiving threats. The ones Stafford does have can’t create separation. His offensive coordinator is about to get fired for being so bad, and the Lions offensive line went from top five to bottom five seemingly overnight. But, to be fair, Matthew Stafford has been making some very poor decisions this season.
I don’t know if Matthew isn’t making good decisions because he’s trying to force something or if he’s just regressing. I’ve been thinking about that for weeks. It’s really odd because after the Miami game, Stafford looked like the elite quarterback we all knew he was at the time. Statistically speaking, only Drew Brees and Matt Ryan had put up better overall numbers then.
Everything changed against Seattle. The once completely reliable in the clutch Matthew Stafford started making mistakes in the clutch—a fumble in the fourth quarter on a drive to bring the game to within a touchdown followed by an ugly interception on the 1-yard line the next drive.
Then against Minnesota, in a game the Lions weren't out of, Matthew decided to pitch to Kerryon Johnson while running and we all know what happened next. In Chicago, Stafford threw two picks, but it was his odd choice to try and pass to Marvin Jones on a second down when he needed to run 5-yards in an open field for a first down to keep the drive going. He got sacked on the next play.
When I asked him about it after the game, he said that he was “trying to make a big one.” I’ll touch on that in a moment.
Then on Thanksgiving it came to a head again. It’s the fourth quarter and the Lions are down by a touchdown. It used to be okay, because you knew Stafford was going to lead the team down the field, but then he threw a pick six.
I’ve talked to death about that pick six all weekend. When your offensive coordinator draws up the most conservative offense of all time with passes to the flat on nearly every play, someone is going to jump that route eventually. There was nothing Stafford could have done there.
Jackson: “We knew when (Roberts is) in that position, he usually releases to the flat.” https://t.co/6aLy465QJ2— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurkeNFL) November 22, 2018
But on the second interception, I have to place some of it on Stafford. Yes, there was a push off. Yes, Roberts was nowhere close to where he was supposed to be as well. But why throw it? In that moment, I can’t begin to comprehend what Stafford is going through in a barrage of movement happening around you. It’s hard to think. But from my couch I can say, “Why go to Roberts there?” It was clear Michael was having a really bad day. He had only caught one ball for 9 yards on three targets. Even if he’s where he needs to be, what are the chances he beats the corner? Especially when said corner is Kyle Fuller, one of the best in the league.
It’s things like Stafford’s play the past few weeks that make you wonder if regression is really what’s happening here? Did we see Matthew’s peak already? Is he really this bad? Should the Lions actually trade him this time?
That was a question that Bleacher Report’s Brad Gagnon asked on Friday in his column. Should the Lions give up on Stafford? ‘
Despite Brad’s use of quarterback wins, he makes some good points in this piece. The Lions would save $28.5 million a season if they decided to ship Stafford off somewhere. As Gagnon mentions, the Lions certainly could spend that on their defense.
But that figure is pretty misleading. $28 million is really nice, but what’s not nice is paying Stafford $49 million to play somewhere else. That’s the dead money the Lions would owe Stafford if they decide to cut him. Trading him isn’t all that better, as Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press explains here:
In Stafford’s case, if the Lions wanted to trade their quarterback and undergo a total rebuild in the spring, they would face an immediate $30 million hit to their cap.
Stafford right now counts $29.5 million against the Lions’ 2019 cap, so by keeping him, the team would devote less cap space to him than if he was playing for another team.
So trading or cutting Stafford in the upcoming offseason would actually cost them more than keeping him.
It doesn’t get much better from there. If the Lions decide to move on in 2020, they would still have to pay Stafford $20 million in dead cap. They would end up saving $11.5 million in cap space overall, but that’s nowhere near the $28 million/year Gagnon implies in his misleading column.
The next part is that I wouldn’t say Matt Patricia is bringing a conservative approach. That’s all on offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. It’s also all on the Lions having guys like Andy Jones and Bruce Ellington out there. Cooter is trying to mask the Lions’ inefficiencies with Joe Lombardi-like dinking and dunking. If it worked the way he’s drawing up, we’d say he was a genius, but it’s not working and he’s not.
I hate to say that Stafford needs a third offensive coordinator in his life, but he does. If only there were a combination of Scott Linehan and Jim Bob Cooter out there somewhere. Paging Scott Bob. Scott Bob, please come to the film room.
Lastly, I’ll finish with this: Where are all these great quarterbacks that washing up to shore to replace Stafford? I ask this to Lions fans as much as I can. Name a quarterback that’s better than Matthew Stafford that the Lions can have right now.
Because I’m not seeing the guy. I’m not seeing any guys that have come out recently outside of Jared Goff, Carson Wentz and Patrick Mahomes that can replace Stafford and play better than him. I mean look at the names.
- Blake Bortles is, well, he’s Blake Bortles
- Teddy Bridgewater is a backup quarterback now
- Derek Carr is a shell of himself
- I told y’all Jimmy Garoppolo wasn’t good
- Jameis Winston is sitting behind Ryan Fitzpatrick
- Marcus Mariota is meh
- Christian Hackenberg is a god, but the Lions can’t afford him
- Mitchell Trubisky is meh. Don’t tell Bears fans that, though.
- Deshaun Watson is good, but he’s not what we thought he was last year.
- Does anyone know where DeShone Kizer is right now?
- Baker Mayfield is entertaining, but he’s not better than Stafford
- Sam Darnold is clearly not what Week 1 suggested he wa.s
- Josh Allen is Josh Allen
- Josh Rosen might be okay
- I like Lamar Jackson
Where are all these quarterbacks coming from? Maybe they can get one in free agency. Let’s see who’ll be on the market. Oh, here we go. The Lions can sign Josh McCown. Problem solved.
In the end, trading Stafford is not the answer. No matter how badly some Lions fans want it to be. Your best bet right now is to hope the Lions can find a good offensive coordinator and Stafford can snap out of this funk. Because at the end of the day, that’s really all this is. And remember, we’re all just overreacting to it.