Stafford getting casual NFL fan’s respect without Megatron


Matthew Stafford has put himself on the national radar with some outstanding quarterback play and no Megatron.

Jan 3, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (81) walks off the field with quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) after the NFL game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. The Lions won 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /

After years of maddening inconsistency, the former 1st-overall pick from the 2009 NFL Draft has really come into his own. It’s not just the uptick in production or the rise of fantasy football where QBs like Stafford have a huge effect on the world of Daily Fantasy (gambling), it’s the absence of Calvin Johson that is causing the biggest change in perception.

Stafford has always gotten the pass from the casual fan, similar to that of Philip Rivers – a guy that is universally recognized as a talented passer stuck in a poor situation. But, due to Megatron’s greatness, Stafford often evoked phrases from our drunken uncles like “He just throws it up to Calvin, he has no accuracy” or “I could throw it to Calvin ‘f-ing Johnson!”

While those generalizations were sometimes true, they took away from some of the impressive things Stafford was doing. He, as a 23-year-old starter in 2011, on a team that missed the Playoffs 12 consecutive seasons, threw 41-touchdowns and 5,038 passing yards, leading his team to a 10-6 Wild Card Berth. Those ARE MVP-caliber numbers. His team won, mostly because of his play, and his numbers were comparable to MVP winner Aaron Rodgers (45 TDs  4,643 yards and a 15-1 record).

But Stafford wasn’t even mentioned in the conversation. As a matter of fact, he wasn’t even elected to the PRO BOWL?! So, despite doing all of this as a 23-year-old, he was overshadowed in a small-media market by a great player in Calvin Johnson. Johnson, who had 1,684 yards and 16 touchdowns that year, became the undisputed top wide receiver in the NFL because of those stats – the best of his career up to that point.

At 28-years-old, Stafford is playing like a 1st-overall pick QB is supposed to. Whether you found out as a die-hard Lions fan watching his every snap, through your fantasy football league, or during this past week’s flood of positive Stafford media coverage, the important thing is you know now.

I don’t think any Detroit Lions fan, or Stafford himself even, would have had it any other way.  The point is that Detroit was Calvin Johnson’s team then. It deserved to be, but teams that are led by a wide receiver have never historically win. Julio Jones routinely is one of the best players in football but it doesn’t translate to Atlanta having consistent success. Andre Johnson, Dez Bryant, Braylon Edwards all had comparable seasons while being the best players on their teams, but never got close to winning a Super Bowl.

As Jack wrote earlier, Bob Quinn has taken a different approach — a winning one focused on elite depth over elite talent. With Marvin Jones signing for a large, yet reasonable contract, replacing Calvin’s $20 million per season deal, the Lions have shown they  aren’t going to pay for luster or draft status. Now, this is where the perception all begins to change. Calvin retired before the season and the national media wouldn’t touch the Lions with a twenty-foot pole before this year. Most picked the Bears to finish above the Lions.

Even though Jim Bob Cooter had proven he was a very good play-caller who meshed well with Stafford, few (other than some of us here at SideLion) believed he would be a better QB in 2016. So, when Marvin Jones went from a decent number-two receiver to a top WR in football, people started to put it together. Somehow, Stafford was looking better than he’s ever looked without Johnson and as you read above, he’s had some impressive moments already.

At 28-years-old, Stafford is playing the like 1st-overall pick QB he was drafted to be. Whether you found out as a die-hard Lions fan watching his every snap, through your fantasy football league, or from this past week’s flood of positive Stafford media coverage, the important thing is you know now.

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