The Detroit Lions locked up the cornerstone of their franchise by extending QB Matthew Stafford to a three-year deal worth $53 million, the only question that needs to be answered now is, will he deliver?
He is locked up through 2017 and will receive $41.5 million in guaranteed money. Detroit did what any smart franchise would do. They locked up their QB for the long-term, who is on the cusp of being a borderline élite quarterback, is only 25 and is still growing into his identity as a player.
Stafford may be the most talented quarterback in the NFL, as he has the arm strength and velocity that is second to none in the game. One attribute that separates Stafford from the rest of the young quarterbacks in the NFL is that he has the heart of a warrior.
Stafford showed his grit when he was injured in the Browns game in 2009 and threw the winning touchdown with a crushed shoulder.
You can’t teach heart.
It is an innate asset that you either have it or you don’t. Stafford has heart, a lot of it. He is the leader on the Lions and the face of the team. Stafford motivates players with his passion and his arm. Those are the things that a captain is made out of.
There are a few things that he needs to work on in the technique department.
Stafford only threw 20 TDs with 17 interceptions in 2012. In his breakout season in 2011, he threw 41 TDs and only 16 interceptions. What could have caused such a dramatic downturn?
I am not an expert but here are some of my observations. Stafford rushed throws too many times and got sloppy with his reads. His mechanics were off a bit because of the sidearm motion that he tends to use when he throws, particularly when he is under duress. That limits his accuracy and he is more prone to throwing interceptions.
The final problem he has is his over-reliance on Calvin Johnson.
Megatron had the majority of the catches for the team and bailed Stafford out on many occasions with his size and talent. Matt has a tendency to overthrow targets and Megatron helped hide that flaw.
It wasn’t a great year but the Lions have made a key move to help get Stafford back on track.
The signing of free-agent running back Reggie Bush gives Stafford a weapon that he hasn’t had since Jahvid Best got injured. Bush is a running back who can catch passes out of the backfield and give him a safety blanket when the pressure comes.
Bush was good with the Dolphins and he could get a lot of catches in a pass-happy offense like Scott Linehan’s. It gives the high-octane Detroit offense another weapon to keep defenses off-balance.
All the pieces are there for him, it will all depend on Stafford.
The Lions are Stafford’s team now. He is the most talented quarterback they have had since Bobby Layne in the late 50s during their last great run. Stafford has everything you want a quarterback. He has also shown the clutch gene at times in his career.
The multiple comebacks in 2011 are just scratching the surface of what Matt is capable of. With the Matt Millen years a distant memory, Stafford helped get the Lions to the playoffs in 2011.
All that is left is to put it all together and be consistent.
The Matthew Stafford of 2011 is the one that the Lions drafted 1st overall in 2009. That is the version of Stafford that NFL fans expect to see for years to come, the one that will make the Lions a perennial contender.
With his talent and desire, Matthew Stafford can give the Lions and their fans what they have craved for over five decades, a championship and redemption.