Detroit Lions’ Success Predicated on Matthew Stafford, Not Calvin Johnson


Yesterday’s look at the relationship to Detroit Lions’ record breaking quarterbacks Matthew Stafford and Scott Mitchell showed that Stafford relies on his top receiver a lot less than Mitchell relied on his. Hopefully it rids anyone of the thought that Stafford’s season is an apparition caused by the presence of a freakish all-world wide receiver. The question still remains, however; who is the Lions MVP?

It is a question that Kevin Seifert posed on the ESPN NFC North blog earlier this week. One could point to last weekend’s game against the Raiders as proof that Calvin Johnson is the team’s MVP. On the other hand, one could point to the Lions game against the Panthers as evidence for Stafford as the team’s MVP. After totaling nearly 5,500 votes, the general public gives Megatron the edge as MVP by a 58/42 split. I was one of those poll voters and I ended up in the minority. Here’s why I voted that way…

Attempting to name an MVP is difficult because everyone has there own definition for what and MVP should be, whether it be the player perceived as the best or the player with the gaudiest stats. I prefer to define the MVP as the player that has the most impact on winning a game. So, does Matthew Stafford or Calvin Johnson have the biggest impact on the success of the Detroit Lions? Again, we can point to individual games as evidence for either player, but let’s look at the season as a whole.

From my previous look at Matthew Stafford and Scott Mitchell, we see that Calvin Johnson has accounted for 22.75% of Stafford’s completions, 32.21% of his passing yards and 42.42% of his touchdown passes. That gives CJ an average stat line of 5.79 catches, 95.35 yards and 1 touchdown per game. A very nice season over the course of 16 games.

But we’re looking for impact on winning and losing. How do those stats change when separating the wins from the losses? Not as much as you might think. In wins (9 games), Calvin accounts for 23.96% of Stafford’s completions, 34.19% of his passing yards and 44.44% of his touchdown throws. In losses (5 games), Calvin accounts for 20.86% of Stafford’s completions, 28.68% of his passing yards and 33.33% of his touchdown passes.

To put it in terms of a stat line, the difference between Calvin Johnson‘s average stats in a win and a loss is less than one catch (0.8), 16.3 yards and about a quarter of a touchdown (0.26). Hardly numbers that suggest that the difference between the Lions winning and losing is just getting the ball to Calvin Johnson as some might suggest.

Conversely, the difference in Matthew Stafford‘s numbers in wins versus losses is quite interesting. We find that, on average, Stafford completes 3.7 fewer passes in wins than losses (on 9.7 fewer attempts) but throws for nearly the same number of yards (295.11 in wins, 297.8 in losses) with big differences in touchdown passes (3/game in wins, 1.2/game in losses) and interceptions (0.67/game in wins, 1.6/game in losses).

Both players are obviously valuable and I can’t argue with getting the ball in Calvin Johnson‘s hands as an offensive strategy but a closer look at the numbers shows that Matthew Stafford is more important to the success of the Detroit Lions. And that’s why he’s the team’s MVP.

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Tags: 2011 Season Calvin Johnson Detroit Lions Matthew Stafford MVP