With Matthew Stafford’s early lack of success (1 TD/5 INT, or 9 INT in 14 quarters counting the pre-season and a lowly 40.5 QB rating), he has formed an early point of contention, which has superseded the fact that the Lions are now embarking upon the second worst losing streak in NFL history and are not all that far off from possessing the absolute worst streak of all-time.
Fran Tarkenton, a fellow Georgia Bulldog alum and among the all-time greats at Stafford’s position, made these comments on an Atlanta sports talk show:
Host: I was born and raised in Detroit, and I’ve been living here in Atlanta for a couple of years now. I’m wondering what you think after a couple of weeks. Did the Lions make the right move in deciding to name Matt Stafford the starter so soon in his career?
Tarkenton: Well, I, I don’t think so. I watched Matt play for three years at Georgia. What’s the first thing everybody says about him? He’s got a strong arm, right? That’s the least important thing to a quarterback.
Host: How so? Why do you say that?
Tarkenton: Because. You don’t say Matty Ryan has a strong arm. You don’t say Peyton Manning or Eli Manning or Tom Brady has a strong arm.
Host: You say they’re great quarterbacks.
Tarkenton: You say JaMarcus Russell has a strong arm, Vince Young has a strong arm, and Matthew Stafford has a strong arm.
Matthew Stafford has got to prove to me – and maybe he will – that he’s a great playmaker. I don’t think he was a great playmaker at Georgia.
And I watched him play against him Minnesota last week, because we have the (NFL TV package), and I’ve watched him play for two weeks. I see the same things: he’s not a playmaker.
I see the kid in New York (Mark Sanchez), playing the New England Patriots, and he made plays all day. Stafford had a chance to win a game – his team was up 10-0 – and he throws two interceptions.
Tarkenton’s points are valid, but he neglects to mention, even as highly-touted as the Manning’s were coming out of college, there were a number of early doubts about their future NFL success. Tom Brady emerged from nearly out of nowhere in New England, with few expectations, at least externally, and Ryan seems to possess a near unmatched makeup, although having Michael “The Burner” Turner in his backfield couldn’t have hurt Ryan’s chance for success, either.
Pro Sports Weekly chimes in with this scouting report in their Sept. 23rd issue:
His arm strength has been compared to John Elway’s and Dan Marino’s. Excels at delivering the long ball in stride. Carries himself with confidence bordering on cockiness. Viewed as a can’t-miss prospect since he led his high school to a state title, so pressure doesn’t faze him. Tended in college to be a streaky performer whose decision-making was not always sound.
Stafford later states, in the same article in Pro Sports Weekly, regarding whether he feels pressure as the top pick, “No, that’s the last thing on my mind, to tell you the truth. I’m focused on seeing progressions and throwing touchdowns, and all that will take care of itself. You can’t look at the big picture too much.
Stafford also mentioned that his favorite player was “John Elway” and that “the way he (Elway) played, his team was always in it, no matter what. Hopefully, Stafford will have a fraction of the success that Elway enjoyed as one of the greatest all-time NFL qb’s.
Well, so far, we have seen most of the things that were indicated (Good and BAD) in his scouting report. What we forget is, despite his cannon right arm, Stafford is largely an unfinished product and the rise up in levels, from college to pro, is near inestimable and incomparable, even for top athletes.
“Killer” Kowalski recently discussed Stafford on a call-in radio show, and says that the Lions need to stay vigilant in allowing Stafford to play, despite his struggles or failings.
Caller: Do you think this kid is in the same league as Peyton (Manning), coming out of school?
Killer: I don’t know. I’m telling you, that’s my point: I don’t know. And neither do you. And the issue is we have to find out. Maybe the kid could be great. And by next year, we’ll know (if) this kid could be on the verge.
When you’re a team as bad as the Lions, then you can’t say, OK, winning two or three games this year is the most important thing to us, and then we’ll just try and reload the next year. You’ve got to build a competitive team. They were not even competitive last year.
Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan discussed Stafford with Mike O’Hara and had these interesting comments to make:
My question for Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan this week wasn’t about the ceiling for Matthew Stafford, the Lions’ rookie quarterback. Potential is a wonderful commodity – when it is fulfilled.
Stafford has potential and a high ceiling. That is evident in his skill level and demeanor. He has a strong arm, and he has a football mentality. He loves the game and works at it.
There are so many factors involved that it is impossible to predict whether Stafford will reach his ceiling. A snap judgment two games into Stafford’s career is just that – a snap judgment.
Stafford could become Peyton Manning, a quarterback for the ages, or Kerry Collins, a 15-year pro who is still starting with the Tennessee Titans.
But what about the other end of the equation? What about the floor?
Linehan has worked with Stafford for five months – through the offseason program, training camp, exhibition season and the first two regular-season games.
If Stafford were going to be a flop, would Linehan have an inkling of that already?
Linehan is convinced of one thing: Stafford has shown that he’ll be reaching for the ceiling, not the floor. There are no signs that the Lions miscalculated when they drafted Stafford first overall.
Some things about quarterbacks are evident early. If Stafford didn’t have the skills or makeup to play quarterback in the NFL, it would have been shown by now, Linehan said Thursday.
“He has as good a sense as anyone I’ve been around,” Linehan said. “You know, he’s only 21 years old. He can handle it. I know he can.
“I look at this kid – he’s going to be as good as he wants to be. He’s got the makeup for it.”
and later, Linehan says:
Linehan pointed to how little work Stafford got in the exhibition season with three of his top offensive players – tight end Brandon Pettigrew, tailback Kevin Smith and Johnson.
“He probably had them on the field together for 12 snaps,” Linehan said.
In Sunday’s game, what that looks like it could be very close, Stafford’s ability will need to overcome his lack of experience and poor decision-making, if the Lions have a legitimate chance to win. Hopefully, for Stafford and Lions fans, we don’t lose sight of Stafford’s youth too soon, just because the team is amid the second worst losing streak in NFL history. The losing streak, however long it persists, is a done deal, Stafford can only take ownership of the team being 0-2, at this point.
Pro Sport Weekly: Best Advice He (Stafford) Received: (Atlanta Falcons Quarterback) Matt Ryan told me to take care of my business. Worry about getting better and not worry about too much else that’s going on around me.
I hope you can continue to subscribe to Ryan’s advice, Matthew, through thick and thin. Detroit Lions fans are an embittered bunch who have suffered greatly for supporting this abysmal franchise. If you can rise above, and emerge from your chrysalis, moving from larva to butterfly, proving your doubters wrong, you may serve as a fine example to us all about how to actually succeed in life, regardless of the pursuit. That mere fact alone is much more valuable than any victories you can lead the Lions to in your inaugural season in the league.