After a poor nationally televised performance, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is under fire once again. The usual negative platitudes are littering the blogosphere after resting dormant most of the season.
“He can’t win the big games.”
“He can’t even beat a backup QB.”
“Why is he the highest paid player in the NFL again?”
The signature wins are the last stat that Stafford is missing on his resume. Without them, the critics will never be silenced. He has just about every record in the books so far in his prolific career, but what good are stats if they don’t lead to victories?
— Logan Lamorandier (@LLamorandier) November 24, 2017
Unfortunately, Stafford may have hit his ceiling. There is not a ton more he can do to elevate his game to what would be considered an “MVP” level. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve every penny of his huge new contract. He is an elite quarterback in this league.
It’s the player around him that need to step up.
I know what you are thinking, “good QBs can win on their own!” That is a true statement to a degree, but recent history would suggest otherwise.
There are not many quarterbacks in the NFL that can put up big win totals without some help in key departments– the biggest being the run game. A run game can make even a mediocre QB look great. There are plenty examples of this.
Let’s take a look at the last four years, including 2017, at the MVP favorites and their corresponding team rushing ranks.
(NOTE: For sake of conversation, you will not see Tom Brady‘s name on this list. He is a unicorn and an outlier in which no QB should be compared to. Nobody is claiming Stafford to be on Brady’s level.)
Stafford easily falls into the same tier as many of the QBs listed above.
What seems to be the common denominator with all of these signal callers? You got it, the run game– something that the 9th-year Lions quarterback has never been afforded.
What a coincidence that a quarterback’s best season in the eye of the media and fans are also when they have great rushing attacks. Outside of Brady, every other QB needs at least a decent run game to consistently win games and in turn, be in the MVP conversation.
It’s all about perception. There seems to be an inability for many to separate the difference between a good offense and a good quarterback. Not every great offense has a great quarterback.
Now let’s see what Matthew Stafford has had for a running game throughout his career.
Not once has he ever been in the top half of the league in the rushing department. That is a recipe for failure for 95% of the QBs that pass through the NFL. You can count on one hand the QBs that can have sustained success with no run help. Stafford does what most can’t do and he is being paid handsomely to do so.
I fully understand how some feel that Stafford has worn out his time here in Detroit. From the outside, his lack of big wins are concerning, but judging a QB solely on wins is lazy. Football is much more complex.
Until Stafford fails with a legitimate run game, I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt for as long as it takes.