Comparisons between Matthew Stafford and John Elway are quite natural considering both players have been blessed with physical tools headlined by their rocket arms. It is too soon to say whether or not Stafford will put together a championship resume but his numbers must look a whole lot better than Elway’s if the Stafford era is to be a success.
Matthew Stafford finished his rookie season with a completion percentage of 53.3, good enough for 30th out of 32 regular starting quarterbacks. Inexperienced quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Brady Quinn checked in just above and below respectively while JaMarcus Russell earned the designation of low-end outlier by completing just 48.8% of his passes. Sanchez may have found success with his team last year but the names surrounding Stafford on this list doesn’t make for great company.
During the 2009 season, 21 quarterbacks completed at least 60% of their attempted passes. The list includes some names that are less than inspiring: Alex Smith, Chad Henne, and Kyle Orton. The Lions drafted Stafford to be a franchise quarterback; the stats show that elite quarterbacks complete 65% of their passes. That will be a lot to ask in year two, but that is where Matthew Stafford will ultimately need to be to have his name mentioned with the upper echelon.
Today’s NFL is a quarterback-lead, passing-driven league. Even average quarterbacks have completion percentages around 60%, which brings me back to my John Elway comparison. Elway surpassed the 60% completion rate just three times in his 16 year career that spanned from 1983 to 1998. Elway retired with two Super Bowl rings and a career completion percentage of 56.9. Plug that number into the 2009 completion percentage leader board and Elway sits at number 24, just ahead of what Mark Bulger did in his nine games with the Rams. John Elway’s career completion percentage isn’t artificially low because of some rough seasons early in his career. He had a completion percentage in the neighborhood of Stafford’s 53.3 in his seventh and ninth seasons.
The stats won’t matter if Matthew Stafford matches Elway’s two Super Bowl rings by the time he hangs up his cleats. In order to do that, however, Stafford’s stat lines will have to be more awe-inspiring than John Elway’s.