Matthew Stafford was in the midst of an MVP caliber season in the first half of 2019. While the team as a whole was not winning due to poor defensive play and coaching, he was personally doing great and had the Detroit Lions offense among the league's best.
An injury cut his season short, though, ending his long ironman streak and dooming Detroit to losing eight straight games without their franchise quarterback. Stafford should be ready for 2020, but will he be fully healthy? And can he recreate his early season magic from last year, and more importantly, turn it into wins?
Expectations heading into 2019
While it seems like a distant memory now, 2018 was the worst healthy year of Stafford’s career. He finished the season short of the 4,000 passing yard in a 16-game season for the first time, and it was his offense that was mainly responsible for the teams failings for much of the year.
In 2019, we really just wanted to old Stafford back. Show that 2018 was just a blip on the radar, and not a sign that he was regressing and his career was coming to a close. Making the playoffs felt like a longshot entering 2019, so Stafford just had to perform as well as he had in years past.
Actual role in 2019
2019 stats: 8 games (8 starts), 187-of-291 (64.3%), 19 TD passes, 5 interceptions, 8.6 yards/attempt
Stafford was amazing in 2019. He was on pace to eclipse the 5,000-yard mark for the second time of his career and could have topped 40 touchdowns as well. If he had avoided injury, then his 2019 would have been as statistically great as his legendary 2011 season, but even better as he was much more efficient.
As bad as the team was overall (only won three of eight games with Stafford in the lineup), it is hard to place any blame on him. If he had played like he had in 2018 again then the team could easily have been staring down an 0-8 record (and, inevitably, a dreaded 0-16).
It is rare that a quarterbacks individual play is not at all reflected in the team's record (no matter what Mr. Payton says), but the 2019 Lions managed it.
Outlook for 2020
Contract status: Signed through 2022 (potential out in 2021)
While rumors regarding a Stafford trade have been kicking around over the past few weeks, it is almost impossible for it to happen. The team would eat $32 million in dead cap to trade away Stafford, which would be an absolutely ridiculous move. He will, without a doubt, be on the roster this season and unless he suffers some sort of injury in the offseason, he will be the Week 1 starter.
There is a chance that the rumors do have some basis, though. Detroit has the third overall pick in the draft and could easily select someone like Tua Tagovailoa or Jordan Love. The rookie quarterback could sit behind Stafford for a year and then they could move on from the veteran quarterback in 2021. It is a longshot, but Stafford’s future on the team after 2020 is not guaranteed.