The Detroit Lions have done much in a short period of time to re-vamp the roster and coaching staff in order to meet Matt Patricia’s expectations. While both sides of the ball still need more pieces, every other team in the NFL is feverishly working on trying to strengthen weaknesses of their own as well.
So while trying to solve the mystery of abolishing all weaknesses is every team’s goal, it’s a goal that’s seldom realized.
In the case of teams like the New England Patriots, every year we usually don’t find ourselves overwhelmed by their roster, but a few key names like Tom Brady, Sony Michel, Julian Edelman, Michael Bennett, Stephon Gilmore, and Dont’a Hightower, not to mention head coach Bill Belichick, remind us that the Patriots are still a team to be feared.
Now the Lions don’t have the history of a team like the Patriots that allows them the benefit of a doubt. If anything they have the opposite. A history worth forgetting.
Yet after comparing the Lions to the rest of the NFC North as I did earlier, they don’t exactly have much to apologize for. So why are they quickly dismissed from any talk about a divisional title?
On a national scale, there are still plenty of non-believers in Matt Patricia’s ability to lead Detroit to a championship, but I suspect the biggest reason the Lions are overlooked is Matthew Stafford.
The irony is that Matthew Stafford is actually fairly well thought of on a national scale, compared to locally where his biggest fans live right next door to his biggest detractors. But while the national media has been wowed by his strong right arm and the numbers he has put up, the fact remains that Stafford is a 10-year veteran who has never won a playoff game.
Let’s put it like this; if the 2019 Detroit Lions were led by Tom Brady, Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers, would they be the favorite to win the NFC North?
If any of you said ‘yes’, then the answer is pretty clear. Matthew Stafford is considered the weak link. Is that fair? Maybe or maybe not.
While it is true that Matthew Stafford has never won a playoff game in the NFL, he is also the biggest reason the Lions have been competitive at all over the last decade. Football is the ultimate team sport and one player never wins a championship on his own.
The Lions should be very competitive defensively this year and the offense has enough talent to be much improved in Darrell Bevell’s system, although the development of some of the younger pieces would really help from a depth standpoint. So the obvious question is; will Stafford bounce-back from a subpar season?
The distance between the Detroit Lions and the rest of the teams in the NFC North isn’t that far and Aaron Rodgers is the only signal-caller in the division who could clearly be considered better than Stafford. So, once again, is the perception that Stafford is holding the Lions back fair?
All NFL quarterbacks get too much credit in victory or too much blame in defeat. Stafford has played his entire career with an unstable franchise that has difficulty building a winner. Whether Stafford is now a symptom of that culture that can’t seem to win the big game or just a talented player who hasn’t had the necessary help to make the Lions winners, he will always receive plenty of blame.
Before we know it, the season will be here and Matthew Stafford will once again be under center leading the Lions offense. However, this may perhaps be his best opportunity to prove he can lead the Lions to the playoffs and a win or two on the big stage.
Will 2019 be marred with the agony of defeat that Lions fans know oh so well or will they finally realize the thrill of victory in the playoffs? One way or the other, chances are good that Matthew Stafford will either get too little credit or too much blame.