There is no shortage of culprits, real or imaged, in the midst of a tough season. That holds true with the 2012 Detroit Lions and one of the hot topics this season has been the mechanics of Matthew Stafford.
So what is Matthew Stafford doing differently this year compared to last year? Not much except for losing instead of winning.
Yes, his completion percentage is down around 60% (John Elway was a career 56.9% passer) but so too is his interception percentage (2.1% compared to 2.4% last year).
Watch a game closely and you’ll notice that Stafford’s mechanical “problems” are pointed out when a throw is off target but rarely does he get credit when his unorthodox style is the reason a play works. Whether it is adjusting his arm angle to get a pass around a defender or using his arm strength in lieu of ideal footwork, I would bet the number of unorthodox throws that end up as “pluses” outnumber those that end up as “minuses”. The minuses are just easier to spot.
To the detractors, I grant you that Stafford relies on his arm strength over proper footwork too often and slips into his gunslinger mentality too easily. But the fact that he can get the job done in an unusual manner is actually an asset. When Stafford can learn to rely on those abilities only when he has to is when he will be regarded as an elite quarterback.
The true elites can get the job done in a number of ways. Take a look at this pass by Tom Brady from just a couple weeks ago:
Back foot throw? Check. Sidearm delivery? Check. Result? Touchdown.
Of course, it’s not be fair to cherry-pick one throw from Tom Brady to show that, from time to time, poor mechanics can be an asset rather than a detriment. That still leaves us with the career of Brett Favre, who built a Hall of Fame resume as a fun-loving gunslinger. His approach to the game led to some terrible plays, but more often than not it led to great plays that can only be described as “Brett moments” – anyone that saw him play knows what I mean.
Matthew Stafford may very well end up being universally regarded as elite but it may never be for pristine mechanics but that’s OK. No one would argue against Brett Favre as an elite quarterback and you won’t see him used in any instructional videos. Ultimately, it comes down to winning. Favre got things done his way and Stafford will look to do the same. When that happens, the mechanics debate will be gone forever.