Matthew Stafford is plan A, B & C

This will not be a debate on how talented or untalented you think Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is, but more of a discussion on the probability of finding any sensible alternatives. It’s an attempt to answer the difficult question “If not Stafford, then who?”

There are three options for acquiring a franchise quarterback: draft, free agency, and via a trade.


This is the most common method for finding a legitimate QB. The accomplished veterans rarely hit the free agency market in their prime. If you find a QB on the open market, there are obvious concerns or flaws in their game that planted them there.

Let’s take a look back at the success rates for QBs drafted in the first-round from 2007-2014. Any signal caller drafted after 2014 are still under evaluation and it would be premature to label them one way or another. There are too many flash-in-the-pans to have a definitive answer on these young guns.


  • #1: JaMarcus Russell (LSU), Oakland Raiders
  • #22: Brady Quinn (Notre Dame), Cleveland Browns


  • #3: Matt Ryan (Boston College), Atlanta Falcons
  • #18: Joe Flacco (Delaware), Baltimore Ravens


  • #1: Matthew Stafford (Georgia), Detroit Lions
  • #5: Mark Sanchez (USC), New York Jets
  • #17: Josh Freeman (Kansas State), Tampa Bay Buccaneers


  • #1: Sam Bradford (Oklahoma), St. Louis Rams
  • #25: Tim Tebow (Florida), Denver Broncos


  • #1: Cam Newton (Auburn), Carolina Panthers
  • #8: Jake Locker (Washington), Tennessee Titans
  • #10: Blaine Gabbert (Missouri), Jacksonville Jaguars
  • #12: Christian Ponder (Florida State), Minnesota Vikings


  • #1: Andrew Luck (Stanford), Indianapolis Colts
  • #2: Robert Griffin III (Baylor), Washington Redskins
  • #8: Ryan Tannehill (Texas A&M), Miami Dolphins
  • #22: Brandon Weeden (Oklahoma State), Cleveland Browns


  • #16: EJ Manuel (Florida State), Buffalo Bills


  • #3: Blake Bortles (Central Florida), Jacksonville Jaguars
  • #22 Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M), Cleveland Browns
  • #32 Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville), Minnesota Vikings

In that seven year span, 21 quarterbacks have been selected in the first-round of the NFL draft. Of those picks, only four can be considered a “franchise” quarterback (Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Stafford). Eight of the 21 drafted are completely out of the league.

To put some perspective on your odds to hit on a QB in the first, you are looking at an around 19% chance in finding one. Your more than double your likelihood of drafting a bust in the first (38%) than you are a franchise QB. That’s a risk you must take in effort to find the most important position in the game.

Not to mention, in order to get in position to draft one of these up-and-comers, you must trade an exorbitant amount of draft capital that will cripple your franchise for years. Drafting a QB after the first round and placing starting expectations on him is unfair. There is a less than 5% chance you will find a Pro-Bowl caliber QB in the third round or later. There is only one Tom Brady, so don’t tell me it’s a good idea to draft a 6th round QB as a starter.

Long story short, the college QB is no surefire transition to the NFL game. You will enter the vicious cycle of QB carousel if you miss on your opportunity.


Outside of Drew Brees and Peyton Manning–who both had major injury concerns at the time–franchise QBs do not become free agents. Quarterback is too valuable of position to just let a player walk uncontested. Take a look below and get a feel for the type of QB talent on the open market. You may notice the same names often popping up from year to year.


  • Mike Glennon
  • Brian Hoyer
  • Colin Kaepernick
  • Matt Barkley
  • Case Keenum
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick
  • Mark Sanchez
  • Geno Smith


  • Sam Bradford
  • Brock Osweiler
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick
  • Chase Daniel
  • Drew Stanton


  • Ryan Mallett
  • Mark Sanchez
  • Matt Moore
  • Brian Hoyer
  • Shaun Hill
  • Josh McCown


  • Josh McCown
  • Michael Vick
  • Matt Cassel
  • Josh Freeman
  • Shaun Hill
  • Josh Johnson
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick
  • Mark Sanchez
  • Chad Henne

Free agency is not looking too promising if you are in need of a quarterback. Not one player on that list has turned into anything more than a backup quality player. Guys like Osweiler and Glennon landed inflated contracts in hope that they could turn their once semi-promising careers around.

Summary: Quarterbacks of Stafford’s caliber don’t become free agents. You will more than likely have to draft your QB of the future.


There are not a ton of trades recently that have transpired with a quarterback of any real significance. The biggest and most notable was the Minnesota VikingsPhiladelphia Eagles trade last year.

Sam Bradford


2017 First-round pick & 2018 fourth-round pick

That is a below average quarterback that cost a first and mid-round pick. Doesn’t seem ideal. There were rumors that the unproven Patriot’s backup, Jimmy Garoppolo, was on the trade block this past offseason as well. His price tag was also a first round pick, a little too rich for most teams.

If a backup quality player goes for a first rounder, a bonafide starter is just about priceless. You would have to give up the farm for a proven veteran. Heck, you have to give up the farm for a player who has never even played a down in the NFL.

Draft day trades are the most common, and we already went over how much of a crapshoot they can be. Take for example the 2012 trade between the Washington Redskins and St. Louis Rams.

QB Robert Griffin III


2012 first-rounder & 2012 second-round selection & 2013 first-rounder & 2014 first-rounder

A trade for a QB would make a lot of sense if there was certainty of success, but that is just never the case.

In all honesty, looking at recent history, it would be irresponsible to try your hand in finding an upgrade over the Lions incumbent. Rather you like Stafford or not, it may be time to just support the lightning rod because no reasonable GM would ship off a player of Stafford’s ability.

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