Matthew Stafford Tied for 12th in ESPN Quarterback Rankings


Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford tied for 12th in Mike Sando’s 2nd annual quarterback rankings.

Mike Sando over at ESPN has been conducting quarterback rankings over the last two years based on tiers. The rankings are polled from 35 league insiders (26 in last year’s rankings).

In case your unfamiliar with how each player is classified here’s the premise of the tiers:

"• Tier 1 quarterbacks can carry their teams week after week and contend for championships without as much help.• Tier 2 QBs are less consistent and need more help, but good enough to figure prominently into a championship equation.• Tier 3 are quarterbacks who are good enough to start but need lots of support, making it tougher to contend at the highest level.• Tier 4 is typically reserved for unproven starters or those who might not be expected to last in the lineup all season. Voters used the fifth tier sparingly."

Stafford was given a low-end tier 2 ranking coming in tied for 12th overall with Eli Manning.

Here’s what the insiders had to say about Stafford:

"Stafford was the lowest-rated player to command a top-tier vote, but there were also eight third-tier grades from voters frustrated by the lingering gap between Stafford’s physical gifts and his on-field performance. The two voters to give Stafford a 1 ranked first and seventh among easiest graders overall.“No doubt, he is a 2 and I love him, but something is missing,” a different offensive coach said. “Stafford could be like Aaron Rodgers if he had the burning passion and if he had Mike McCarthy from Day 1, because he is talented like that and quick with the ball. But you look at the look on Stafford’s face before the game and then look at Rodgers’ face or Big Ben’s face or Luck’s or especially Drew Brees’ face or Philip Rivers’ face. Holy s—, you look at Matthew Stafford’s eyes and it’s like gym class. It’s like, ‘I hope we win, I think we are pretty good’ as opposed to, ‘I am going to rip your throat out.’ It is always the want-to and passion and desire that separates guys. Stafford should be there with Big Ben. Rivers is OK physically, but does it all by heart and leadership.”"

If you’re going to question Stafford for his decision-making or his inability to remain accurate from game-to-game, fine. But questioning his desire for the game is a blatant example of someone who hasn’t watched much of Stafford or someone that simply has something against him.

I guess this coach missed Stafford’s performance against the Browns his rookie season, or more recently, his game winning drive against the Cowboys in 2013He’s also willing to do the little things in the offseason to get better as quarterback and build chemistry with his teammates.

An anonymous general manager had similar remarks on Stafford:

"“Stafford is ahead of Andy Dalton and Alex Smith because he is more gifted, but there is an element where he is either about to become a 2 or he can fall into the Cutler category, not because of intangibles necessarily but because there is something missing. Even at Georgia, [in 2008] they had Stafford, they had Knowshon Moreno and A.J. Green. They were ranked No. 1 in the nation, and they finished with three losses. To me, that just defines things. You are in college football, you are a franchise QB, you have a really good college running back, an up-and-coming receiver and for whatever reason you could not lead your team to be ahead at the end of the big games.”"

This is another puzzling comment from someone who carries some weight in the NFL. This general manager mentions that Stafford played with Moreno and Green, and as a result, he should have won a national championship in college.

Those three–at least in college– is a good place to start, but what about offensive line play, special teams, and defense? You can’t simply omit crucial aspects of the game to give your argument strength. The Tennessee Volunteers had Peyton Manning, one of the top-five quarterbacks of all-time and they didn’t win a national title. By this general manager’s standards, shouldn’t a top-five quarterback of all-time be good enough to win a measly championship in college football?

Finally we have comments from a personnel director who said he’d rather have Flacco or Ryan:

"“Stafford has a little of what Cutler has got,” this director said. “He has mechanical things. He will throw it up for grabs. He is a 2. I don’t know if he has internally what Flacco and Ryan have in terms of the will to be special. I see those guys working on their mechanics, which is huge for guys like Peyton and Brady. Stafford’s mechanics have not changed.”"

Again with the desire aspect of Stafford’s game. In this instant this person changes the terminology to “will to be special”. What goes into wanting to be special exactly? Intangibles, work ethic, intelligence? Stafford has those elements according to Jim Caldwell , in “abundance”. Sure Caldwell has some incentive to say something nice about Stafford since he’s his coach, but Caldwell isn’t the type to blow smoke.

This ranking has it’s flaws, particularly the logic behind why Stafford ranks where he does. I’d rank Stafford ahead of Tony Romo and Matt Ryan, but understand why he’s ranked below guys like Russell Wilson and Joe Flacco–they’ve got rings and that carries a ton of weight in the NFL.

But I think Stafford’s tier ranking is right on according to their standards. Stafford can’t carry his team and contend for championship with little help.

Winning tends to cure negative perceptions in the NFL. If the Lions can do more of that next season, opinions should begin to change about Stafford.

Next: Detroit Lions 2015 Schedule Preview: Minnesota Vikings

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