Hooray!! That’s right, I said hooray. Lions training camp is officially rolling as of last week. We’re starting to get back to football, and I couldn’t be happier about it. But another thing that makes me happy is the Summer Stafford Series. Today, we’re back with another installment.
If you’ve been following the series, there’s been a lot to talk about. We talked about Stafford’s comebacks, we opened the book about where Stafford’s yards come from back up, we looked at how Stafford ranks among quarterbacks with the 32nd ranked run game, we looked at what the world would be like if the Lions took Mark Sanchez instead of Stafford and dove into the split stats to see how Stafford plays with the lead.
Today we’re going all in on Matthew Stafford. Because a certain former Lions backup also went all in on No. 9.
This was met with the exact reaction you thought it would be met with—the obvious “but he hasn’t won anything,” or “he has a bad record against winning teams,” or that thing where they don’t say anything but post the crying face emoji and the classic Orlovsky running out of the end zone GIF. I guess the last one is supposed to mean the guy with over 10 years of professional football experience doesn’t know as much as the fan that works an everyday, normal job.
My reaction to this won’t shock you. I’m not sure anything I do shocks you guys anymore. My reaction was “Yeah, that makes perfect sense to me.” Now I wonder why it doesn’t make sense to you? Today I want to really delve into this. Let’s see how possible this is. Let’s start with the obvious, the stats.
For starters, Matthew Stafford just turned 30 years old in February. He’s been in the league for going on 10 years now. In that time, he’s broken every single Lions passing record on the books with the exception of interceptions thrown. That’s the only Bobby Layne record left.
Outside of the Lions records, Stafford is the one of five quarterbacks in history to throw for 5,000 yards in a season, (see article about where yards come from before you do the old “he only gets those yards in garbage time” routine). He’s the first quarterback to complete 60 percent of his passes in every single game of the season, he has the most consecutive 350-yard passing games, he’s the fastest to 15,000, 20,000, 25,000, and 30,000 yards and fastest to 3,000 completions.
That’s not all. Matthew Stafford is currently 32nd in NFL history in touchdown passes and 29th in passing yards. Let me again remind you that he just turned 30.
I remind you again because you need to look at who is ahead of him. Stafford sits behind Aaron Rodgers (34), Tom Brady (40), Joe Flacco (33), Ben Roethlisberger (36), Matt Ryan (33), Philip Rivers (36), Drew Brees (39) Eli Manning (37) when it comes to career passing yards.
The one thing all those guys have in common is that they’re old and they’re all likely to retire within the next few years. Enter Matthew Stafford. Suddenly you’ll see Matthew become the old bull of the NFL. Look around. Who else are you going to call the old bull in four years? Can you think of young quarterback that you can without a doubt say will still be on the same team in four years? I’m not sure I can right now. Russell Wilson isn’t young by the way. In case you were going that route.
The point I’m trying to get to here is that when it’s all said and done, Matthew Stafford could very well hold the record for most passing yards in a career. There’s no quarterback that can outlast him. The closest active starter to him currently is Alex Smith, who is 34 years old. He ranks at 42 all time. The next closest and youngest is Andy Dalton. He ranks 69th (nice).
As of right now, I can’t tell you what the new record will be. Drew Brees is going to set the new record this coming season. He’s only 1,495 yards away. That’s a drop in the bucket for Drew Brees.
What I can do is show you how it could work out for Matthew to beat the current record. Stafford is currently 37,191 yards away from the Peyton Manning’s record of 71,940 yards. Over the course of Stafford’s nine year career, he’s thrown for 34,749 yards. That’s an average of 3,861 yards a year. This, of course, includes is first two injured years. If you average the last seven years, he’s thrown for 4,563 yards per year.
To get the record, Stafford would have to play for at least nine more years and throw 4,132 yards a year. That would put him at age 39. If he goes to 40, he’s pretty much guaranteed to do it if he stays healthy and continues to play at a high level.
How would that not be enough to make someone a Hall of Famer?
It’s not all about yards, though. Stafford scores. As I mentioned earlier, Stafford is 32nd all time in passing touchdowns. Ahead of him are all the same faces I showed above. This is a record that Matthew probably won't break. He’s down by 323 touchdowns. He would have to throw 35 touchdowns a year over nine seasons just to tie the record. Stafford has only thrown for more than 30 twice in his career.
But what Stafford can do is make it to the top five, and that’s a pretty good place to be. If the stats stay the way as they are now (which is unlikely), Stafford is on pace for fourth place in touchdown passes by age 39. He would really have to become some other kind of monster to beat Manning’s record, but, then again, Manning also became some other kind of monster around this time in his career, too.
Outside of pass attempts and touchdowns, Matthew Stafford is efficient. He currently has the 18th-best passer rating of all time. This is something that will fluctuate over time and make him higher or a little lower, but he will likely never have the best ever. Aaron Rodgers’ 103.8 mark is pretty damn impressive.
One thing Stafford can definitely improve upon is his completion percentage. Currently Stafford’s career 62 percent completion rate ranks 24 all time, but Stafford has only gotten more accurate over the past few years. He has completed at least 65 percent of his passes in each of his past three seasons. If he keeps that up, his average will rise and he could maybe find himself in the top ten somewhere. He’d have to bump up to 65% or more a year to do that, but, still, 24th all time isn’t bad at all.
We as Lions fans don’t think about it, but the Matthew Stafford has a lot going for him outside of Detroit. Yes, much is made of his Quarterback Wins narrative, but outside of that, what do people know Stafford for? Let’s try this one right here.
The NFL still hasn’t stopped talking about this. Just last year they ranked their top mic’d up players in history and this and Matthew screaming”Riley” before sneaking into the end zone against the Cowboys was ranked No. 1.
Matthew is just Matthew to us, but to the rest of the world and the NFL, he’s the comeback king of the league. I don’t believe in quarterback wins, but many football fans do, and Matthew Stafford has the potential to finish his career with more of them than any quarterback in history. He’s currently ranked 11th all time with only the aforementioned active veterans in front of him. That’s the kind of thing that people remember forever.
You also can’t forget the memories he’s made with Calvin Johnson either. When Calvin gets his bust, he’s getting it in conjunction with of Matthew Stafford. He’s on the other side of all those highlights making unbelievable throws. This part is undeniable.
Not every hall of famer is a big time Super Bowl winner.
There are currently 26 modern era quarterbacks in the NFL Hall of Fame. Of those 26, only 12 of them won a Super Bowl. Guys like Fran Tarkenton have a 124-109 record and a 6-5 playoff record. It’s not all about wins and losses clearly. Why? Because team record is not an indvidual stat. Fran didn’t win all the time, but Fran played his butt off for nearly 20 years and he got in.
There will be others before Stafford. The obvious guys like Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are clearly going in. But I’m sure guys like Matt Ryan and, what the heck, even Joe Flacco will find their way in, too.
What’s going to hold Stafford back?
I think Stafford has a strong chance if he holds major passing records. I also think he has a strong chance if the Lions win a championship or at least make it to the big game. I believe that makes him a shoo-in on perception alone. The idea that a quarterback could lead the most downtrodden team in football history to the top of mountain is the kind of thing they make movies about.
But let’s face it, Stafford, with all of his current passing records and and the possible ones he may hold someday, he does not have all the accolades to show it. As of now, Matthew is just a one-time Pro Bowler. Even though it was cool and he was the game’s MVP, he wasn’t even supposed to be there. He made the game as an alternate. His only other accolade is the 2011 NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award.
That’s not good for his bid. As good as Stafford is, he’s playing in the age of Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees, three of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. He is incredibly overshadowed at all times and his award shelf shows it.
He also plays during a very reactionary time in football history. Just look at Jimmy Garoppolo. He and the 49ers closed the season out with five wins against four bad teams, and suddenly Jimmy is a legend. The 49ers made him the highest-paid player of all time based on five starts.
This is something that can both help Matthew’s chances or really hurt them. At the end of the day, he has to convince human beings, who are reactionary creatures, that he is better than whatever the new hot thing is.
Matthew Stafford needs to win an award. I’m talking a big award. I brought up Fran Tarkenton earlier. Yeah, his record’s not that great, but he’s a former NFL MVP. Stafford has to get himself one of those—and he totally can—but it’s going to require that he and the Lions go all out for one year. Remember who he has to beat out.
The odds are already in Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady’s favor just because they’re Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. Stafford has to outshine them, even if it’s just once. While Brady won the award last year, he hadn’t won it since 2010 prior to that. Aaron Rodgers was last MVP in 2014. It’s not like these guys win it every year despite being thrust into the conversation before a kickoff has even happened.
If that doesn’t happen, if Matthew never wins another award or never makes the Pro Bowl again, there’s a very large case against him at that point. You could say he’s either the most underrated player of time or you could say he was a guy that just threw the ball a lot.
Matthew has a long road ahead of him. If he decides to be one of the guys that retires early, I’d say he’s pretty much screwed without a Super Bowl win or some playoff success. If he sticks it out till he’s 40, he has a chance to make it it somewhere down the road. Possibly very far down the road.
Matthew Stafford will never be a first ballot Hall of Famer. It just won’t happen. He will likely be the guy that goes in later with one Super Bowl win. If that means I’m here saying that the Lions will win the Super Bowl in the next ten years, then so be it. It’s a lot more likely than most think it is.
If Matthew never gets the success and/or the accolades, you’d have to think he’d at least get in based on the statistical records, but he won’t headline the class. It’ll just be like, “Oh and we’re indicting Matthew Stafford, too. Remember him?”
Regardless of how it happens, I believe it happens. I think it’s definitely safe to say that Matthew Stafford will someday have a poorly done bust of himself enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.