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Detroit Lions in Review - QB - Matthew Stafford

The 2nd in a series reviewing the Detroit Lions

I make no qualms about saying that I was not a fan of drafting Matthew Stafford as the 1st pick overall in the 2009 NFL draft. Now it is time to put that opinion aside and judge him for what I saw and what he did.

Stats = 201 of 377 (53.3%), 2,267 yards, 13 TD, 20 IT, 24 sacks. He also ran the ball 20 times for 108 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Throughout the season most of the fans who liked Stafford kept comparing his numbers to those of Peyton Manning in his rookie season. In taking a close look at this I will admit there are a lot of similarities. If Matthew Stafford's numbers were to be projected to playing a full 16 games as Manning did, they were almost identical in Yards, Completion % and Attempts per game.

Here are a few places where these two quarterbacks do not compare. Stafford would have thrown five less TDs and four more interceptions and he would have taken 16 more sacks. Stafford's QB rating also was a full 10 points lower. Now those stats may not seem like much but that is a TD/IT differential of nine! Another glaring thing Stafford supporters are not considering is this. Manning is only ONE player. There have been many star quarterbacks in the NFL. There have probably been a whole passel of rookie quarterbacks who had similar numbers to Manning's rookie season and never turned out to be anything. To find one star QB whose numbers are similar and say, "See? He is in line to become a great player" is ridiculous. Another simple fact is that it is almost useless to look at statistics alone to judge a rookie quarterback.

There are too many factors to look at in order to judge a quarterback. If a quarterback has a great running game, he will find more open receivers to throw to. What kind of protection does he get from his offensive line? What kind of plays does the coach call for him? How good are his receivers? Are receivers getting open? Is he hitting his open receivers consistently? Is he reading defenses well? How tough is he? How durable is he? So many things to look at. To look at the statistics of one other QB and say he is in line to be a great QB just doesn't cut it.

Here are some other stats he has in common with another QB. This QB was closer to Stafford than Manning was in Completion % and QB Rating, he took 29 less sacks in a 16 game projection and his TD/IT ratio was better than Stafford's by more than six! The rookie QB I am comparing him to? Joey Harrington! Before you scoff at this, also consider one other fact. Look at the team support Stafford has compared to Harrington had. Which receivers would you rather throw to? Calvin Johnson, Bryant Johnson and Dennis Northcutt, or Roy Williams, Mike Williams and Charles Rodgers? Who had the better running game to support them? Who had more time in the pocket to find open receivers? Who would you rather have calling plays? Scott Linehan or Steve Marriucci? At least in my opinion Stafford has a much better supporting cast than Harrington had by a large margin, yet his numbers were not a lot better than Joeys across the board. That shows how little one can compare numbers of two rookie quarterbacks.

Matthew Stafford has a big problem with accuracy. I know many fans of his will look at some of his big plays where he put the ball right on target and call him a very accurate QB. I cannot help but to look at the far more numerous times when he had a receiver running wide open across the field and not having any pressure in the pocket and still throwing over the receivers head or behind him. A couple of great throws in a game does not make one an accurate passer if he misses the wide open short routes twice as often.

Matthew Stafford's big TD pass to save the game against Cleveland won over a lot of fans. The fact that he dislocated his non-throwing shoulder and still came back out to throw a touchdown was great to see. I will give him kudos on the fact he is a tough quarterback. What worries me is that as tough as he is, he still missed games due to a dislocated knee as well as a dislocated shoulder. He ended the season on the IR and had surgery on his knee. He may be tough but his durability looks to have issues.

Another area of concern for Stafford is his struggles to put any touch on his passes. Many of his picks came from throwing the ball on a rope to his receivers when he needed to put a little air underneath them. If you are throwing a short route, you can throw a lot of zip on the pass. When throwing a deeper route, he needs to put more air under them so the linebackers cannot simply reach up and snatch the ball out of the air. Over and over again Stafford threw deeper routes on a rope where any defender between him and his target could grab the ball.

I would even question his decision making just a little. Too often he had Calvin Johnson in a one-on-one match up and was not willing to put the ball up for Megatron to make a play. Yet often enough he threw the ball to Bryant Johnson when he was in double coverage.

Aside from the bad, there were some flashes of brilliance from the rookie quarterback. There were some great deeper passes and there were times he did very well running through his reads before throwing the ball. There were some good times but in my opinion, just not enough of them to believe he is going to be a good quarterback much less a star.

In ten games as the Lions QB, Stafford had two or three where he played decent. The rest he looked pretty bad. I expect some growing pains but from the number one pick overall in the draft, I expect better. If he was not expected to play better, then he should not have been named starter to begin the season. Remember, Schwartz named him starter because he felt he was ready to play. If that was ready, then that was a failing grade.

GRADE = D ... Though I will say that would be a "D" with an expectation it will be much better next year.

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