Detroit Lions‘ starting quarterback Matthew Stafford did not play well on Thanksgiving day, but that doesn’t mean it’s time for fans to give up on him.
CBS Color guy and former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo said it perfectly on Thanksgiving Day when he mentioned in the broadcast that the Detroit Lions offense looked stagnant.
Stagnant may be an understatement, as the Lions fell to the Chicago Bears again this season, this time by the smaller margin of 23-16.
And while the running game was missing stud rookie running back Kerryon Johnson, they still totaled more than 100 yards combined as a unit, with veteran LeGarrette Blount getting the majority of those yards.
But despite the unexpected success of the running game, the passing game left quite a bit to be desired, as quarterback Matthew Stafford was only to manage 236 yards, completing 28 of his 38 passes and throwing two untimely interceptions that ultimately cost the Lions the games.
If one were to google the 10-year veteran’s name over the past few days, they would see a few articles calling for his head, and wondering if the former number one overall pick’s time in Detroit may come to an abrupt ending.
But it isn’t quite time for Detroit Lions fans to hit the panic button on their gunslinger. Yes, it certainly stings to get outplayed by Chase Daniel, a quarterback who hasn’t started an NFL in four years.
But with the situation that Stafford was put in, it was almost impossible for him to come up with a win on Turkey Day.
While Bears starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky missed the game, so did the Lions’ Johnson and starting wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr., two guys that could have taken pressure off Stafford and helped him significantly on the offensive side of the field.
And while it may be fair to expect a 10-year veteran passer to lead his team despite those medical setbacks, he was once again anchored down by the mediocre play-calling of offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter.
The Chicago Bears defense is one of the best in the league when it comes to pressuring the quarterback, so to combat that, Cooter didn’t use one of the strongest arms in the league and only had him throw quick passes, as he averaged only having the ball in his hands for 2.42 seconds per play this past Thursday.
Even though this was a solid strategy from preventing the Bears to get after Stafford, it made the former Georgia Bulldog quarterback look erratic, forcing him to make a lot of quick throws that he’s not usually comfortable.
And when getting rid of the ball quickly, it’s nice to have receivers who can get separation from their defenders and get open for fast catches. But when Stafford didn’t even have a pass catcher who ranked in the top 100 in separation.
This is an offense that earlier in the season boasted both Jones Jr. and former wideout Golden Tate as the two main pass targets; two guys who specialized in getting separation quickly who were very clearly missed on Turkey Day.
Despite Cooter trying to combat the Monsters of the Midway, they were still constantly in Stafford’s face, as while they held All-Pro linebacker Khalil Mack to no sacks, the same can’t be said for the rest of the Bears defense.
While an elite future Hall-of-Famer like New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees has made a career out of turning no-names into successful offensive players, Stafford is not that elite and he’s certainly not used to playing in that quick pass offense that Brees or quarterbacks like Washington’s Alex Smith saw success with.
It’s not an exaggeration to state that Stafford has one of the strongest arms in the league. He proved that with deep balls to Stafford, and many deep balls to the likes of Jones Jr., Tate and up-and-coming receiver Kenny Golladay in recent years has proved that he’s still got it.
Not letting your strong armed quarterback get into his groove is not solely on the shoulders of said quarterback. No quarterback in the NFL can succeed when his idiotic offensive coordinator is having him throw two-yard outs on 3rd and 4.
The good news is despite this mediocre performance is that his teammates still seem to support Stafford, as Blount told Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
"“I don’t like to point fingers and I don’t think that it’s his fault. He’s a great quarterback. He’s really good at what he does, he’s really great at his craft. But there’s no quarterback that’s going to go into a full season and not make any mistakes. So I think he’s human. He makes mistakes, I make mistakes, we all make mistakes and a lot of mistakes give you an L.”"
Is Stafford the elite quarterback that fans want him to be? No. After ten years of evidence, it’s safe to say that the passer is a little above average, but far from one of the best.
But solid quarterbacks can’t make an impact with a horrible offensive coordinator and almost no one to throw to in the passing game. And while Matthew Stafford has shown signs of regression, it’s not fair to assess his current state until the Lions find themselves a new offensive coordinator.