I think we all know the numbers by now. With 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns, Matthew Stafford was one of only two NFL quarterbacks to eclipse both the 5,000 and 40 marks (Drew Brees being the other). But some still don’t consider him worthy of high accolade citing the existance of one Calvin Johnson on his team. I’ve heard it stated (as a fact) on talk radio that without Megatron, Stafford would only be an average passer.
Sure, Calvin is one of the, if not the single, best receivers in the game, granted, but how much should that penalize Stafford?
Let’s run through an excercise. If we completely remove Johnson’s numbers (1,681 yards, 16 TD) from Stafford’s season line, we come up with 3,357 yards and 25 touchdowns. By yards, that would put him 17th in the league, right between Andy Dalton and Michael Vick. By touchdowns, he’d be tenth, right in between Mark Sanchez and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
So I guess it’s true. If you take away Calvin Johnson and leave his spot on the field empty, then Matthew Stafford would only be an average-ish quaterback. In reality, taking away Johnson would mean that Stafford would have to spread the ball around to other receivers. So what if the sum of CJ’s replacement and the rest of the receivers on the squad could put up half the numbers that Calvin could?
In this scenario (probably a relatively conservative one still), Stafford “would have” put up 4,197 yards and 33 touchdowns. That would have been good enough for a top seven spot in passing yards (between Philip Rivers and Tony Romo) and a top five spot in touchdown passes (between Tom Brady and Romo). This scenario would be akin to replacing Calvin Johnson with Baltimore’s Torrey Smith (38th in receiving yards with 841).
Obviously it’s impossible for us to tell exactly where Stafford’s performance would have ended up without Calvin by running these silly scenarios, but it’s clear to me that “merely average” would be an absolute worst case scenario for Stafford sans Megatron. In all likelihood, he could still be putting up near Pro Bowl type numbers.