When I first heard the rumors and saw the reports, I was shocked.
Just a few short days ago, on January 23rd, Adam Schefter came out with the bombshell breaking news that Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions “…are expected to part ways this off-season…”. I honestly didn’t believe it at first as I have always been under the assumption that Stafford would be a Lion for life. Drafted first overall in 2009, he’s been through some highs and lows, made three playoff appearances (which is nearly 17% of this moribund franchise’s total time making the postseason) and heck, has even been in Ford F-150 commercials. This dude just exuded a one franchise player.
Now, I will be the first to tell you that I was actually happy to hear the news. I think it is time for both player and franchise to have fresh starts. Stafford still has a few decent years left in the tank to try and make a playoff run while the Lions could use a fresh face under center.
But I will also be the first to tell you that he must be traded at the right price. I would rather keep Stafford for a mid-to-late round draft pick but if teams come calling with at least a first-round selection in the package, then I’m all for it.
Now for all those people out there calling me a Stafford hater, that is just not the case. He has been a good to great quarterback during his time in Detroit, but never elite. He may possess elite talents, but it never completely shined through. His 2011 season was by far the best by a Detroit QB in franchise history. He threw for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns, which was good for third in the NFL for both. He also led the team to its first playoff appearance in over a decade.
As for those folks that say he sucked during his time in the D, that is also just not true. Stafford is the franchise leader for quarterbacks in yards (45,109), passing touchdowns (282), wins (90) and just about any other statistical category you can think of. He was also the first quarterback to make a Pro Bowl for Detroit since Bobby Layne did it in 1958 when he passed for 4,257 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2014.
On a larger, NFL scale, he was also the fastest player to reach 15,000, 20,000, 25,000, 30,000 and 40,000 career passing yards.
But the real deciding factor on whether you love or hate Matthew Stafford is how you view quarterback success and relate it to team success. In 12 years under center, he led the team to zero divisional titles (which means no home playoff games) and went 0-3 in his playoff career. Besides the 2011 45-28 loss against the Saints, where he threw for 380 yards and three touchdowns (but also two interceptions), he was not good in the postseason.
In 2014 against the Dallas Cowboys, he passed for 323 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Not great but far from special. In 2016 against the Seattle Seahawks, he passed for 205 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. So for those fans at home keeping count, in his playoff career with Detroit, Matthew Stafford passed for 908 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. Not necessarily bad, but also nothing to write home about.
Again, to those that say I’m a hater and that he never played with talent or had a running game, I ask “So?”. People have done more with less and less with more, but the man played with arguably the most physically gifted receiver in NFL history in Calvin Johnson for more than half of his career. He also had a special (or at least the closest Detroit has seen to special in quite some time) defense in 2014 but failed to make big plays when it mattered against the Cowboys in the playoffs. He also had multiple chances (2014 and 2016) to win the NFC North in the last game of the season. Both of those times (against the Green Bay Packers no less), he failed.
In the 2014 game, they lost 30-20 as he completed only 48% of his passes. In 2016 (at home no less), he threw for 347 yards to go along with two touchdowns and an interception in a 31-24 loss.
Not saying you got to win both those games, but the “special” franchise quarterbacks find a way to win at least one.
But I digress.
All in all, John Matthew Stafford had a good run in Detroit that will never be viewed in the right light. He was better than half of the Motor City gave him credit for while also being worse than the other half gave him credit for. For a franchise craving success, he was never as good as they hoped he would be, but he was also better than most could’ve been in his situation.
He was also a great family man and very generous person for families across the state of Michigan and elsewhere.
Stafford will go down as an all-time great in this franchise’s history and while many will look at it poorly right now, I truly believe many will look back fondly on his time in Detroit. He always gave his all and made the team competitive for the first time since the 90’s. So, while I am glad both sides are moving on, I wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors in the NFL and outside of football.
Oh, and don’t forget to say hi to your friend Clayton Kershaw for me.
But anyway, and with the utmost sincerity, thanks for the memories, No. 9.