It's becoming a theme that Detroit Lions fans would very much like to move on from: hope leaving them.

The Burning Question: Just How Good IS Matthew Stafford?

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With all this talk about Cam Newton and these college quarterbacks, it makes one reminisce of all the quarterbacks that people said the same things about when they were at the combine.

It’s a natural thing. Every year there is the annual ‘Who’s going first?’ debate that is always bookended by the Top 5 Quarterback Draft Busts.

After all, do you really think the kids of today’s NFL would really know who Andre Ware was if it wasn’t for that list? I mean, when else is anyone going to mention Rick Mirer in a conversation and have it be relevant?

JaMarcus Russell is a popular name at the moment to top that list, but what about the guys still active? You don’t have to be a bust on the extreme scale these guys were to be considered a bust.

Remember Rex Grossman?

He’s by every definition a bust, but because he was the quarterback on that Bears Super bowl team, he’s still finding work. And just because Grossman wasn’t picked high doesn’t mean he can be exempt from the list.  How about a Daunte Culpepper? He proved one successful MVP-esque season does not a legendary career make.

The next guy sitting on that boom or bust bubble is a guy who was actually taken really high. In fact he went as high as you can go: numbero uno.

The question is starting to become more and more relevant as the fears of Lions fans start to as well.

Will Matthew Stafford be a bust?

Well it certainly isn’t for a lack of trying. It seems the Lions can’t catch a break in what has become a symphony of tragedy in Detroit. First Barry Sanders leaves, then Joey Harrington happened and it seemed as though no end to the misery was in sight.

But then came Stafford, who when he plays is actually good. He has to be the first Lion in a long time that is ahead in the touchdown to interception ratio (and yes, in Lions terms a 19-21 ratio is winning). But in true Lion tragedy fashion, he can’t stay healthy long enough to string together a respectable season. At first it was ‘Oh that’s too bad for that rookie kid,’ to ‘He’s hurt AGAIN?!’

The tragedy of Mickey Mantle comes to mind but the truth (and again tragedy for Lions fans) is that Stafford isn’t that good yet. At least when the Mick went down, he was already a legend; in Stafford’s case, it’s a more real example of the ‘what could have been’ scenario.

But in Stafford’s defense, he’s still young and his chief piece of evidence that he can bounce back is also a huge reason people are writing him off. That piece of evidence is that Stafford has posted a QB rating of nearly 68 as a Lions quarterback which is a huge feat given how sore they have been at that position and he’s only entering his third year as a pro so he still has a year or two before the Lions will be willing to cut him loose. I don’t want to seem like I’m jumping the gun, but Stafford to the Lions is a lot like Derrick Rose is to the Chicago Bulls. When he’s on the court, Bulls fans have a swagger and aura of hope about them.

Stafford delivers that same sense albeit his numbers and impact aren’t near the level of Rose’s yet.

However, despite the comparing of two entirely different sports, the Bulls were down and out a lot this decade with a string of bad runs. Now they’re the NBA’s most promising and powerfully young team. This is a formula the Lions would like to copy with Stafford at the helm of it.

But in that same vein Stafford has played in only 13 games in his two year career and that’s a formula for disaster. The NFL doesn’t stop for one guy to catch up, it keeps on moving and will swallow you up if you lag behind. Plus, if his shoulder still needs healing he can’t do it at a Lions facility due to the lockout which may prove to be Stafford’s drain pipe he didn’t see.

But facts are facts and Stafford needs to pick up his game and remain healthy if he’s to be success for the Lions. The verdict isn’t quite in on Stafford yet, but he’s definitely making people nervous. Ultimately it’s up to Stafford whether or not he can silence the questions and produce in Detroit.

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