After the Detroit Lions’ magical and thrilling 2011 season, quarterback Matthew Stafford was the man of the hour, ending the Lions’ ten-year playoff drought. Stafford threw for over 40 touchdowns, passed for over 5,000 yards, and had a stellar 63.5 completion percentage. The Lions were destined to turn the page, having found their savior, Stafford, who filled their starving need for quarterback.
That was then. Now, after two painfully disappointing seasons where the Lions collapsed — Stafford’s play a mammoth contributor — the scene is much, much different.
Stafford is the punching bag of immense criticism. Many dark questions and worry surrounds the sixth-year quarterback. Fans and media members alike question if he’s the man behind center that can really turn this franchise’s cursed fate around.
The Lions suffered major collapses the past two seasons; Stafford’s play needed to be better and it wasn’t. In 2012, Detroit rode a horrendous eight-game losing streak. Stafford’s completion percentage was below 60 percent, he had 20 touchdowns to 17 interceptions, and his play was sloppy. The benefit of the doubt was given to Stafford, as the Lions’ receiving core was decimated with injuries. He was sure to turn it around in 2013.
And in 2013, his despicable play of 2012 carried over, this time much worse. During the second half of the season, Stafford became completely erratic. His mechanics were careless, his decision-making reckless, and his accuracy was putrid. Stafford’s stats were painted with 29 touchdowns to 19 interceptions, a 58.5 completion percentage, and 84.2 quarterback rating. Those numbers, especially for a fifth-year starter at the time, were appalling for a number one overall pick. The Lions were 6-3, and finished the rest of the season winning just one game, going 7-9. They missed a golden opportunity to host a playoff game before their passionate fans. Stafford was the main reason for that. He was negligent with the ball, turning it over at many costly points. He couldn’t lead his team to nail the kill-shot on opposing teams.
Detroit fired coach Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. Now, Stafford has the perfect staff to tailor his play and mindset. The Lions deemed Jim Caldwell head coach, who brought Joe Lombardi as offensive coordinator, and Jim Bob Cooter as quarterbacks coach. Now, Schwartz and Linehan weren’t the brightest minds, so that definitely contributed to Stafford’s discipline and overall play. With this new staff however, Stafford has absolutely no excuses.
Caldwell worked with quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Joe Flacco, both who’ve won Super Bowls with his assistance. Lombardi’s worked with Drew Brees, who’s also won a Super Bowl and praises him with credit. Cooter worked with Manning as well, and is known to be a brilliant offensive mind. Not to mention, the Lions’ offense is jam-packed with talent, having receivers like Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, running backs Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, and draft pick tight end Eric Ebron.
If Stafford’s ever going to be the quarterback his potential deems he can, this is the time. This is his calling. There’s no excuses. He’s a number one overall pick; it’s time he plays like it. He has an incredible amount of talent complimented with a huge arm; it’s either now or never. Caldwell and his staff are are implementing great workouts and routines for Stafford; he should look and play differently.
Stafford has the talent, weapons, and coaching staff around him to succeed. This 2014 season will tell the tale of Stafford. Whether it’s majestic or a failure is solely up to him.