Why Matthew Stafford Has Been Underappreciated
Jason Ross Jr.
We can’t argue against the individual accolades of Matthew Stafford’s career.
His statistical status ranks as the best among any quarterback that’s ever worn a Detroit uniform.
Despite that, the perception of Stafford around the league and within the Lions’ fanbase has perhaps led him to being overlooked and underappreciated at various points throughout his career.
Let’s examine a few reasons why:
His 69-82-1 record, including three losses in the postseason, qualifies him for the most wins as a starter in Lions history.
The issue is that not a single one of those victories have come in the playoffs.
Due to the lack of playoff success, the Lions simply haven’t been in the national discussion often enough for Stafford to be consistently mentioned with the likes of Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.
The separation in those conversations typically stems from being able to mention what Brady and Rodgers have done in playoff games.
Seven of Stafford’s 11 seasons have been losing campaigns.
While a quarterback shouldn’t be charged entirely with the outcome of a team sport, more often than not -- in this league -- many will point to the QB first when it comes to team success.
When Stafford signed a record-setting five-year, $135 million extension in 2017, he was already the franchise leader in passing yards, completions and touchdowns.
You would typically associate that level of individual success with a fanbase being more than ready to offer up a very high seven-figure salary.
At the time, the backlash to giving that amount of money to the franchise's former No. 1 overall pick stemmed from, once again, team success.
The Lions were coming off a 9-7 campaign that led to a wild card berth, but also a 26-6 loss at the hands of the Seahawks to close out the season.
From an objective viewpoint, it’s difficult to see the Lions having more success without Stafford than with him. So, perhaps the money was warranted.
He had also been coming off a 96th straight start prior to signing -- a streak that would reach 136 last season prior to a season-ending back injury.
Any team would long for its quarterback to show that level of durability, and setting franchise records doesn’t hurt, either.
Perhaps, it was the speculation around the deal that overshadowed the positive numbers that Stafford produced to earn the record-setting salary.
At 32, Stafford can still make the flashy sidearm throws, and he can launch the ball downfield -- as most fans love to see.
But, has it become more attractive to watch Patrick Mahomes or Lamar Jackson do the same, simply because they are a part of the new and exciting wave of dual-threat QBs in the NFL?
In 2019, Stafford became the fastest QB in NFL history to reach 40,000 career passing yards.
He’s also the fastest to reach 15,000, 20,000, 25,000 and 30,000 -- numbers that exemplify how many times we’ve seen him throw the ball over the years for a considerable amount of yardage.
One would wonder, though, if Stafford’s numbers have been put on the back burner due to people focusing their attention on Mahomes winning a Super Bowl at 24 years old and Jackson winning an MVP at 23 -- becoming the second-youngest player to do so.
Fans enjoy following the national attention -- wherever it may be -- and the attention that Mahomes and Jackson have received in their brief careers has been abundant.
Stafford has proved his worth as an individual, and he’s not done yet.
The 2019 campaign could have very well been his second career 5,000-yard season, if it weren’t for a back ailment cutting his season short.
The Lions went 3-4-1 with Stafford last season and 0-8 without him.
While the status of his success in Detroit may be a polarizing conversation to have, he certainly isn’t done adding his input to the discussion just yet.