If you’ve followed my column at all, perhaps you have noticed my maniacal optimism about the Lions’ future. Except for that brief flirtation with respectability in the nineties, a lifetime of being a fan of this once sad-sack sorry football team cannot stop me from seeing that this organization is heading for great, yeah I said great, things.
The crazy thing is that I say that without knowing what we have at the most important position that is played in sports. Stop right there with the goalie talk, he can stop you from losing but the goalie can’t WIN the game for you, same as a starting pitcher, he can prevent you from losing but he isn’t going to score any runs for you.
Who is Matthew Stafford? Is he a franchise-saving quarterback who can hoist a team on his shoulders late in the game and will his team to victory? Or is he another in the line of high draft choice flops? Obviously he’s somewhere in the middle, but where? On top of that, there isn’t much to base an opinion on. He’s been in the league for two years now and we don’t know much more about him now than when we drafted him.
From the get go, Stafford has had a gun that should be registered with the state for a right arm. We’ve seen plenty of evidence of that! Most of the experience he has is from two years ago. The stats show a quarterback who had a typical crappy rookie year. In 10 games, he had 20 interceptions to go with his 13 touchdowns, with a quarterback rating of 61.0. Unless your name is Dan Marino, that is what you normally get out of a rookie QB.
The second year is when you see the maturation process start to take shape. Unfortunately for Lion fans, the most hyped draft pick in our team’s history got hurt in the very first game of the year. He tried to come back but was hurt on the lamest of plays, simply falling down. He probably came back too early and re-injured himself.
In just what amounts to two games, he completed 57 passes in 96 attempts for 535 yards for a 59.4% completion rate. His ratio of 6 touchdown passes to 1 interception helped him get to a outstanding 91.3 QB rating. If those stats held out over the course of a year, they would be terrific by anyones’s standard.
For the National media to pronounce the Lions as the next up and coming team is mind-blowing considering that they’re basing this on the fact that our star player hardly played at all last year. Side note here, is it just me, but for the first time in my lifetime the national media has a better opinion of the Lions than the people do around here? After so many years of losing, I guess the locals don’t have much stomach for guys like me saying ” Never mind the last forty years, this is the year they turn it around.”
Matt Stafford could very well break out this year and insert himself into the conversation when the NFL elite start talking about the next great quarterback in the league. I find it extremely likely that he will do so. Here are my reasons for this line of thinking: Let me take my Lions blue glasses off for a second and sound like a neutral NFL observer. He has a great skill set to play QB, otherwise he wouldn’t have been picked first in 2009. Don’t think for a minute the nicknames he’s acquired (ie, Glassford) don’t piss him off. He’s been working out big time with Dr. Andrew’s trainers in Fla., and showed a new and thicker body at the workouts last week in Michigan.
Lastly and most importantly, he takes this leadership stuff seriously. He knows his team and this city are counting on him to take them to the promise land. Remember that game against Cleveland his rookie year when he got hit by a mack truck wearing a jersey? With every ounce of will he could muster, he got up off the ground and threw a winning touchdown pass that defied logic. It was magic. If Matt Stafford has “it”, and unleashes “it” on the league next year, it will be the first of many happy years being a Lions fan.