One of the more polarizing players in the league is Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions. The quarterback is regarded by some as a great player and only average by others. So what’s the case with Stafford? Is he an overlooked, secretly elite player, or does he receive too much credit?
There’s one stat that may prove Stafford isn’t as good as people think.
Matthew Stafford career overview
The Detroit Lions drafted Matthew Stafford out of the University of Georgia with the first overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. He started 10 games during his rookie season and played in only three during the 2010 campaign due to injury. Since then, he hasn’t missed a start. Here are his career achievements so far:
- 147 games played
- Win-loss record of 68-78-1
- Completed 62.4% of passes
- 40,277 passing yards
- 7.2 yards per pass attempt
- 250 touchdowns
- 132 interceptions
- One Pro Bowl selection
- 2011 Comeback Player of the Year Award
Stafford’s strengths are clear: he has incredible arm strength giving him the ability to get the ball downfield. And while he’s never been known for being the most accurate passer in the league, data from 2018 ranked him as the 10th most accurate quarterback in the NFL.
“But I think with my own eyes, the most talented quarterback that I’ve ever seen and just doesn’t get his just due, and it’s somebody that probably a lot of people wouldn’t put at the top of their list, but Matthew Stafford,” Palmer said.
Stafford’s numbers are solid. He has the respect of at least one accomplished quarterback. So what exactly is the knock on him? The answer may be with his team’s performance in the postseason.
Matthew Stafford has led the Lions to the playoffs three times: 2011, 2014, and 2016. The Lions have yet to win a game with him under center in January. Here’s how Stafford performed in each appearance:
- 2011: 28 for 43, 380 yards passing, three touchdowns, two interceptions
- 2014: 28 for 42, 323 yards passing, one touchdown, one interception, sacked three times
- 2016: 18 for 32, 205 yards passing, zero touchdowns, zero interceptions, sacked three times
The first two performances weren’t awful — while Stafford turned the ball over, he still showed the ability to pass for over 300 yards. But ultimately, Stafford-led Lions teams always come up short when it matters.
The stat that proves Matthew Stafford isn’t as good as people think
Though he’s been at the helm of the Lions’ offense for a decade, Stafford has never won an NFC North Division title. That in and of itself isn’t a huge indictment of Stafford’s career — after all, Eli Manning won two Super Bowls after qualifying for a wild card spot — but coupled with his lack of playoff success, it’s troubling.
There’s a reason Stafford isn’t looked at as one of the truly great quarterbacks. His failure to win in the playoffs or even become the best team out of the NFC North leaves him well behind quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees from a perception standpoint. But in fairness to Stafford, other factors must be considered.
As important as a quarterback is, Stafford is only one player on the team. The Lions have been woefully inept both on and off the field for years. They have failed to consistently develop talent. Calvin Johnson has famously condemned the organization for its ineffectiveness.
Ultimately, the Lions will need to improve more than the play at quarterback to win a division title or contend in the playoffs.