Who’s the better quarterback: Matthew Stafford or Matt Ryan?

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /

Is Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford better than Matt Ryan?

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan have had somewhat similar career paths. Ryan entered the league in 2008 as the third overall selection by the Falcons and Stafford entered the league in 2009 as the first overall selection by the Lions.

They sit back to back in consecutive regular-season starts by quarterbacks with Ryan at fifth with 154 and Stafford at sixth with 136. Both of their streaks ended in 2019, a mere two weeks apart. Both have had an amazing, all-time wide receiver to throw the ball to in their careers in Julio Jones and Calvin Johnson.

Aside from the quarterbacks being good friends (and both would probably laugh at this topic altogether), that is where the similarities might end. Of course, there will be Super Bowl appearances and Most Valuable Player trophies to separate these players, but what else might set them apart?

That’s where his question comes in to play. On Twitter, Benjamin Solak, senior CFB writer for The Draft Network, asked:

What do the statistics say about Matthew Stafford and Matt Ryan?

Now, the fact that Ryan won the MVP in 2016 (the same year Stafford was in the MVP conversation before a finger injury) and nearly won the Super Bowl in the same season is a large factor for those in that easily selected the Falcons signal-caller. Others in the Ryan camp will quickly point to statistics where he has played in 189 games with a record of 109-80, a completion percentage of 65.4, 51,186 yards, 321 touchdowns and 147 interceptions.

At face value, the stats are in Ryan’s favor as Stafford has played in 149 games in his career with a record of 69-79-1, a completion percentage of 62.5, 41,025 yards, 256 touchdowns and 134 interceptions. While Ryan played in 40 more games and has one more season under his belt, the discrepancy is due to early injuries in Stafford’s career. But the statistical gap remains.

It’s all there to point to Ryan as being the better quarterback until Lions and Stafford fans dig into the meaning behind the numbers. Stafford was drafted to a winless team and tasked with turning things around. That’s a lot of pressure for a young quarterback and Stafford has endured it while bringing the team multiple playoff appearances.

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Then there is the fallacy of attributing wins to a single player, the quarterback. While he is the most important player on the field, he can’t do it all. He can’t throw the ball to himself or play defense. The wins must be looked at in terms of the team surrounding the player, their offensive coordinator, their defensive players and even special teams.

This plays into Stafford’s favor, especially when you talk about the Detroit Lions organization and their ability to build a competitive team around their franchise quarterback. It hasn’t all come together for Stafford, yet. The situation he’s been put in with multiple coordinators, coaches and general managers while still putting up those numbers is pretty impressive.

Ryan has had multiple coordinators as well. Let’s not forget his offensive coordinator in 2016 was Kyle Shanahan, the current head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. Yes, the team that narrowly missed winning the Super Bowl in 2019. Ryan’s stats lit up in 2016 and have dipped since then, including the team’s record dropping to seven wins each of the past two seasons.

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So, who do you got?

Taking everything into consideration, it looks as though the two players are very similar skill-wise. The teams around them and the opportunities they have had make the biggest difference. While neither seems to be a bad choice, who would you take as the better quarterback: the strong-armed Matthew Stafford or Matty Ice?