Matthew Stafford’s prior back injury spotlights backup concerns
The revelation that Matthew Stafford played through a serious back injury last season only spotlights the Detroit Lions’ current backup quarterback issues.
It was recently revealed that Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford played a portion of last season with broken bones in his back. While the 10-year passer has had the offseason to heal, the revelation of this injury only places a brighter spotlight on the importance of securing a talented backup for the team’s most critical position.
Stafford’s back injury reportedly took place during the Lions’ matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 13. Including that contest, Detroit lost three of their final five games. Stafford completed 95 of his 149 passes, that’s a completion percentage of 63.8. He threw four touchdowns and had just one interception.
Entering his 11th NFL season, the 31-year old passer hasn’t missed a single game since 2010, posting an incredible 128 straight starts. But the injuries have started to pile up. Along with his back injury, Stafford suffered and played through a chest, shin and hand injury last season as well.
The revelation that Stafford powered through the end of 2018 with broken bones in his back certainly highlights his toughness as a player. But it also places a bigger emphasis on the fact the Lions must have an adequate backup in place despite Stafford’s current starting streak.
Last season, former New England Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel overtook Jake Rudock for the primary backup role in Detroit behind Stafford. Cassel was not re-signed in the offseason and is still a free agent. Rudock is now a member of the Miami Dolphins.
In their place, the Lions added quarterbacks Tom Savage and Connor Cook to the roster this offseason. Savage is a former fourth-round selection who started a total of nine games for the Houston Texans during his first four years in the NFL. Last season he spent time with three different NFL franchises (New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers, Cincinnati Bengals).
Savage’s head coach in Houston was Bill O’Brien, a former offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots. That might explain the 29-year old’s presence in Detroit with former Pats in Bob Quinn (Lions’ general manager) and Matt Patricia (head coach) at the controls.
As for Cook, he was a former fourth rounder as well and had a great local reputation as a former star at Michigan State. After playing in just one regular season game for the Oakland Raiders since 2016, Cook was released last September. After a short stint with the Carolina Panthers, Connor found himself on the Bengals’ practice squad last season.
After signing a reserve/future contract with the Lions in January, Cook was released by Detroit earlier this month. He was replaced by quarterback David Fales. A sixth-round selection by the Chicago Bears in 2014, Fales has made a total of three regular-season appearances (48 pass attempts) during his five-year career so far.
Neither backup quarterback inspires much confidence if Matthew Stafford goes down this upcoming season. Despite several highly publicized free agent signings, and making nine draft selections in April, the Detroit Lions have failed to secure anything but journeymen beyond Stafford on the depth chart. With the current free agent market for quarterbacks dried up, perhaps a better solution will present itself once teams start shedding their bloated 90-men rosters come late August.