Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford must ‘unlearn’ previous coaching

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions may ask Matthew Stafford to elevate his game in new ways this season. One thing is for certain, Matt Patricia is key to making it work.

Let’s get it out of the way. The Detroit Lions looked awful in their first preseason game. I don’t place a ton of emphasis on exhibition games, and I certainly don’t care about wins and losses. But the team just didn’t look right.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford did not play at all. As far as backup quarterbacks Tom Savage and David Fales, their last names serve well to describe the way they played last Thursday. Since the draft, the importance of fixing the depth at quarterback has been very clear. But the team did nothing.

So, the Detroit Lions count heavily on Matthew to continue his iron man streak and not miss any snaps this season. Honestly, Stafford is tough. But sometimes it might be against the team’s own interest for him to play when he is hurt.

On Monday’s Pro Football Talk, host Mike Florio spoke of what general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia expect of Stafford this year, and it was quite enlightening (08-12-19):

"“I think they’re trying to unlearn all those years of coaching that weren’t quite pushing him to be the best quarterback he could be. And I think they’re trying their best to turn this guy into their version of a Tom Brady. He’s got the basic skills to do it. But there’s more to that game that he’s trying to develop.”"

Florio’s thoughts take me back to Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) when Yoda told Luke Skywalker, “You must unlearn what you have learned.” For the Jedi apprentice this meant thinking in entirely new ways, and for Stafford this may also apply.

Do the growing pains for Matthew Stafford go beyond his performance on the field? Does he have it in him to be the ultimate executioner of game plans from week to week?

This might mean less to do in terms of throws – with game plans that might emphasize ball control with the ground game. And when called upon, having to make the right read and delivering the ball in perfect rhythm of the offense.

That’s exactly what New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady does. And I don’t mean that as an insult to Brady’s game. He is the ultimate winner at the quarterback position because he – along with head coach Bill Belichick – understand the strategies of football. It wasn’t about having the most talent (and yes, they are talented) or statistics. But about executing game plans and maximizing player’s abilities on the field.

During the last 18 seasons, the Patriots have not had a losing record, been to nine Super Bowls, and collected six championship rings. Of course, the combination of Belichick and Brady is the key to their consistency.

So, the onus isn’t only on Stafford to be able to execute, but also on Patricia. The head coach is a key component to winning games in the NFL. This will not work unless both of these guys are on the same page.

The first preseason game has to give everyone pause. But nothing matters until September. And it all hangs on this Quinn/Patricia/Stafford trinity that must elevate the franchise to only focus on what it takes to win. Not statistics, not egos, not ever letting up until the clock says zero.

But that’s a tall order because that’s the attitude of championship teams. And this team lacks that attitude, even as recently as last year.

Next. The slightly too early Lions All-Decade defense. dark

In my heart of hearts, I want to unlearn my own cynicism that things will change. But if Stafford and Patricia can take this next step together, it would make the path to a Lombardi Trophy that much clearer. If they cannot, the Detroit Lions will have to start again. The pieces are there. But, as always, the execution is lacking.