Let’s get one thing straight before proceeding. Matthew Stafford is currently the starting quarterback of the Detroit Lions. When the season begins next year, Matt Stafford will still (most likely) be the team’s starting quarterback. Stafford isn’t (or at least shouldn’t be, if the Lions are wise) playing for any other NFL franchise any time soon.
In recent weeks the Detroit Lions organization has undergone massive changes to their front office and coaching staff. After an extremely underwhelming and disappointing 1-7 record to start the season, Lions fans (and players) knew changes were on the horizon. But many thought those changes would be made and addressed in the offseason.
Instead, Martha Firestone Ford took the bull by the horns (or the Lions by the tail), firing offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi on October 26th, before parting ways with general manager Martin Mayhew and president Tom Lewand on November 9th. With such sweeping changes, Lions fans and media have been speculating on the immediate and long-term futures of Lions of current Lions players.
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Not surprisingly, much of the attention has centered around Stafford. NFL media insider Ian Rapoport reported that Stafford’s future in Detroit was uncertain . Stafford’s subpar season, thus far, has given his critics plenty of ammunition, in doubting his future with the team. He is on pace to have one of the worst seasons of his career.
The Lions are currently fighting for the number one draft pick, when many (before the season) expected them to be fighting for playoff seeding. With a new GM, and quite possibly a new head coach, coming on board, Stafford’s future with the Lions is (supposedly) mirky.
But if the Lions (and their new GM) are smart, they will think twice (even three times) before moving on from Stafford.
Let’s look at what the Lions have in Stafford.
Below are this season’s current stat-lines for 4 starting quaterbacks.
QB COMP ATT PCT YDS YDS/A TD INT SACK RATE
A.) 188 302 62.3 2,145 7.10 9 13 13 75.6
B.) 132 246 53.7 1,820 7.40 14 9 13 81.3
C.) 128 220 58.2 1,478 6.72 7 5 12 79.3
D.) 193 299 64.5 2,083 6.97 13 11 22 84.1
One stat-line belongs to a Super Bowl winning, future hall of famer, currently under center for a first-place team. Another stat-line belongs to a player being hailed as a possible MVP candidate, starting for one of the NFL’s undefeated teams. Another stat-line is that of a former pro bowler currently under center for a second place, and up-and-coming team. The last stat-line belongs to a former pro bowl quarterback whose team is currently in last place in his division.
Can you guess which statline belongs to which quarterback?
My point is many fold, but let’s start with two simple ideas. Good quarterbacks sometimes have bad seasons. And teams can win even without their quarterback having an extremely high quarterback rating. While Stafford is having a rough season, and has seemingly regressed, he is not the reason the Lions are not a winning football team.
The entire Lions team (with very few exceptions) has seemingly regressed this year. It doesn’t help Stafford’s cause that he has been sacked 22 times this season, and hit 60 times (both amongst the worst in the league), and the Lions have the worst rushing attack in the league. With a subpar offensive line, a terrible rushing attack, and the fact that the Lions are often behind in games, defenses are able to key in on Stafford (and the passing attack), and very few individuals have been up to the task for the Lions this season.
While Stafford is not having a good year, and the Lions are having a horrible season, what, and who, are the quarterback alternatives? Trading Stafford seems like bad timing, seeing as he’s having such a down year. The Lions would be selling low, if they chose to trade him during the offseason.
If the Lions simply release Stafford (in the offseason), where do they turn next. The crop of possible free agent quarterbacks (assuming they’re not re-signed or franchised by their current teams) is thin. Sam Bradford? Ryan Fitzpatrick? Kirk Cousins? These players seem more like stop-gap solutions. What are the chances a new GM would be enthusiastic about wanting to move forward with any of those options, over Stafford?
Assuming the Lions finish with a top 5 draft pick this year, what do this years crop of quarterback prospects offer? Paxton Lynch, Jared Goff, Connor Cook, and Christian Hackenberg are the current top prospects of this years quarterbacks, but are any of them surefire franchise quarterbacks?
With so many holes to fill, the Lions would better served to build their offensive (or defensive) line. Tackles Laremy Tunsil and Ronnie Stanley are projected to make immediate impacts as starting left tackles in the NFL. Improving the offensive line would also help whoever is behind center for the Lions next season.
I shutter to think of the train-wreck the Lions offense would become (even worse than it is now), with a rookie quarterback under center, behind such a porous offensive line as the Lions currently have. Improve the offensive line, and you probably get yourself a much upgraded Stafford. And upgraded Stafford is perfectly capable of leading the Lions back to the playoffs.
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What do you think? If you became the Lions GM, who would you want (of the viable options available) as your starting quarterback, moving forward?