When the Detroit Lions took to the practice field on Monday there was one obvious player missing: quarterback Matthew Stafford, and now we know why. It took all day to get everything just right but Stafford has signed a new five-year contract extension with the Lions worth a reported $135 million dollars. ESPN’s Adam Schefter has tweeted the Lions and Stafford have agreed to a new deal just before midnight local time on Monday night.
Why Stafford isn’t worth it
Let the debates begin. Is he worth it? Why Stafford’s not worth it? Who cares, it’s done. The one shortcoming that has been dogging Matthew Stafford over his career is the lack of talent on the roster behind him. Yes, the NFL is a passing league, but the Lions have had one 1,000 yard running back this century. Not exactly the recipe for success, even in a passing league.
To date, Stafford has an overall 51-58 record as the Lions’ starting quarterback. He is 0-3 in his only three playoff appearances. He’s never won an MVP award. He hasn’t even been selected to the Pro Bowl. However, he has appeared in the Pro Bowl as an alternate and won the game’s MVP award. None of this sounds like the resume of the NFL’s highest paid player.
Why Stafford is worth it
When the Detroit Lions selected the Georgia quarterback first overall in 2009 he came to the only team in NFL history to go 0-16. Yep, the Lions roster was so bad they didn’t win one game. It’s that roster that held Stafford back for most of his career. He’s on his third offensive coordinator. His second GM and his second owner. These are rarely the benchmarks for success in the NFL
I’m also impressed with the 2017 version of Matthew Stafford. He sought outside help this past offseason. He’s developed a touch pass that was nonexistent his previous eight seasons. He’s taken constructive criticism well, and he looks like a completely different quarterback since the additions of head coach Jim Caldwell and offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. Together, Caldwell and Cooter have improved Stafford’s ball control, completion percentage and best of all: his interception totals. Combined, Matthew Stafford has made the playoffs twice in the three years Caldwell and Cooter have been with the Lions.
Why Stafford chose to stay
My last point leads right into what convinced Stafford to stay. He can see the potential to win a Super Bowl with the Detroit Lions. Bob Quinn has had as much to do with that turnaround as anybody. He’s been a breath of fresh air in evaluating talent. He brought in a staff who had experience in New England’s successful scouting system and they haven’t missed a beat here in Detroit. The investment along the offensive line this offseason was a big step forward. No longer is the front office scouring the college ranks for wide receivers. Quinn has a plan for developing a winning roster and with this new contract, Matthew Stafford endorses that plan.
Yes, I said Super Bowl. And yes, the Lions just got waxed by the New England Patriots last Friday night, but the Lions aren’t a finished product yet. They are headed in the right direction. Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers have dominated the NFC North for years, but they haven’t dominated the Lions. They’ve won more games, sure, but they haven’t blown out the Lions either. Stafford can see how equal he is to Rodgers. Green Bay holds a 5-3 margin over the last four years. The only reason that isn’t 4 wins and 4 losses is one untimed down and a Hail Mary. That’s the difference and it isn’t much.
What Stafford realizes is the Lions are close to winning the NFC North. Do that and Stafford gets a home playoff game and probably a bye week as well. All he has to do is win the North and one playoff game and Stafford can see his team in the NFC Championship game, exactly what happened to the Packers last season. That’s one game away from the Super Bowl. Win the NFC North and the Super Bowl becomes a very real possibility. Couple that scenario with the progress his general manager has been doing with the increase in talent from top to bottom and Matthew Stafford is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Man, that’s a lot of money. Now he has to deliver. He still has his skeptics. He also has his supporters, like wide receiver Golden Tate, who wants to stay in Detroit and play with Stafford. Elite players have not been known to want to come to the Lions, let alone stay once they get here. Pro Bowl guard T. J. Lang came to Detroit this offseason. The best free agent tackle Rick Wagner also joined the Lions this year. These are talents that avoided Detroit in the past. With the caliber of quarterback of Matthew Stafford is, it’s extremely likely more elite talent will find their way next offseason. What all this adds up to is the money wasn’t the only thing driving Matthew Stafford’s decision, but it sure didn’t hurt.
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