Before I tell you why 2014 will be a career year for Matthew Stafford, I’m going to tell you why I don’t think he deserves (all) the blame he gets for the collapse that took place in the 2013 Lions season.
It feels like a lifetime ago that the Lions were sitting in 1st place in the NFC North at 7-5 after a Thanksgiving day 40-10 beat down of the rival Green Bay Packers.
The division belonged to the Lions, it was their’s to lose and unfortunately that’s what they went out and did.
The Lions dropped their last 5 games against very beatable teams finishing 7-9, missed the playoffs and had everyone thinking “Same Ol’ Lions”
When a team under achieves, especially as bad as the lions did, fans look for one player to blame, the quarterback. The quarterback does deserve some blame. He’s the one in command, it’s his team. However, how much of that blame can you really put on number 9?
I mean after experiencing previous Lions quarterbacks you would think fans would give him the keys to Detroit and even count on him to turn around the down economy in Detroit, but I digress.
The Lions led the league in dropped passes again in 2013. How many times do you see a ball go off a receivers hand and then get picked off? Joe Fauria against the Giants ring a bell? Can someone please tell me how that’s Stafford’s fault?
The Detroit Lions also had one of the worst receiving cores in the NFL last season. That’s very hard to do when you have someone named Calvin Johnson on your team.
But that’s exactly what the lions did.
Kris Durham was 2nd among Lions receivers with 490 yards and he is your number two guy? No disrespect to Kris but if he’s your number two, you aren’t a playoff caliber offense.
So now on to reasons why Matthew Stafford will have his best season yet.
New Coaching Staff
Jim Caldwell will take over for the Lions this season, he’s most known for his time spent in Indianapolis with the Colts he spent the first seven years there as the quarterback coach coaching some guy named Peyton Manning? Manning even gave Martin Mayhew a call to show his support of Jim Caldwell.
Caldwell is not only a good hire for Stafford but is a no-nonsense man who should be able to tame the undisciplined Lions we saw in the Jim Schwartz Era
Joining Caldwell will be Joe Lombardi. Last name sound familiar? The grandson of the hall of fame coach will join the Lions staff as the quarterback coach. He spent the last seven years of his career as an offensive assistant and quarterback coach with the New Orleans Saints working with Drew Brees. Just another Super Bowl winning elite quarterback.
With the change in coaching, Stafford is in really good hands with these two.
New Supporting Cast
The Lions made one of the most underrated free agent signings this off-season, bringing in former Seahawk Golden Tate. Tate, who led the Seahawks with 898 yards receiving, will make a great addition. He finally gives the Lions a real option at the number two spot. A spot that Kris Durham could not fill.
Golden Tate will benefit Stafford as much as Stafford will from him. The Seahawks were a very heavy running team. Tate didn’t get the chance to be the play-maker he is. Tate went on ESPN’s First Take and said that he hated to be tackled because he never knew when his next target was going to be. He won’t have that problem in a very pass happy Lions offense.
He’s also going to be facing a lot of single coverage and probably never face a team’s number one corner-back, which is a big benefit of having Calvin Johnson on your team.
While Megatron is Megatron, it should be noted that Golden Tate might actually have the best hands in the League. Since 2011 Tate has caught 144 out of 149 catch-able passes. That is the best ratio in the league and should help the Lions who for the 2nd year in a row led the league in dropped passes.
The Lions also went on to draft top tight end Eric Ebron. While Ebron is only going to be a rookie, there is a lot of hype around the former North Carolina Tar Heel after drawing comparisons to the Saint’s Jimmy Graham.There’s reason to be excited about the athletic pass catching tight end.
While you never know who’s going to pan out and who’s going to be a bust, if Ebron pans out the way he’s supposed to he’ll be another big tool for Matthew Stafford this season.
Matthew Stafford finally has a good supporting cast other than just Calvin Johnson. These new weapons combined with coaches that have experience of working with quarterbacks Matthew Stafford, who threw for 5,000 yards in 2011, could very easily return to that.