Heading into the 2022 Super Bowl, Joe Burrow has established himself as the consensus fan favorite around the NFL. Fans from all cities are latching onto his calm nature and confidence.
While it would certainly be entertaining to see the Bengals hoist the Lombardi Trophy after years of painful rebuilding, it shouldn’t take away from Matthew Stafford and his story. His path to the Super Bowl is just as inspiring as Burrow’s.
Matthew Stafford never got proper support in Detroit
Identical to Burrow, Stafford was drafted No. 1 overall to be the savior figure to a franchise desperate for long-term success. The Lions were one of the worst-performing franchises in the NFL when they drafted Stafford in 2009. The hope was he would be good enough to carry the Lions out of NFL purgatory and into the postseason consistently.
Stafford did lead the Lions to the postseason on three separate occasions (2011, 2014, and 2016). However, the problem in Detroit was that the front office never gave Stafford the support he truly deserved. Of course, Stafford had Calvin Johnson or “Megatron” to pass to for several seasons. However, the offensive line was always a consistent mess. This led to Stafford dealing with significant injury issues during his Lions career.
The Lions asked Stafford to be literal Superman for their franchise. On the contrary, the Bengals have done an above-average job surrounding Burrow with winning pieces. The Cincinnati front office acquired several defensive starters via free agency and gave Burrow multiple top-tier receiving threats.
The Rams surrounded Matthew Stafford with weapons this season
When the Rams first made the — extremely aggressive — move to acquire Stafford this past offseason, there were a significant number of voices in the media who questioned the decision.
Was Stafford truly an elite passer? Could he win in the playoffs? Was he the one holding the Lions back?
However, as we saw countless times this past season, Stafford is more than capable of leading a dominant offense. Upon being surrounded by elite pass-catchers Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr., a solid offensive line, and strong coaching staff, Stafford performed like one of the better passers in the NFL.
He finished with 4,886 passing yards and 41 passing touchdowns and has the Rams one game away from a Super Bowl win. Stafford was everything LA could’ve asked for and then some.
A Super Bowl win would cement his legacy
Burrow winning the Super Bowl during his first full season would be a heartwarming finale to the 2021 NFL season. However, Stafford pulling out the win, after years of suffering in Detroit, should be viewed in the same light.
Stafford paid his dues for over a decade with the Lions. Now, he gets the chance to capitalize on playing with a stacked roster.
As far as underdog stories and redemption arcs go, Stafford’s path to the Super Bowl is up there with the best of them.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.