Why Matthew Stafford's Offseason Rankings Mean Nothing for Detroit Lions QB

James Van Etten@jbvanettenContributor IJune 15, 2012

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 30:  Quarterback Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions looks on from the bench late in the game against the Denver Broncos Sports Authority at Invesco Field at Mile High on October 30, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The Lions defeated the Broncos 45-10.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The offseason always spawns inconsequential debate, and this year is no different. But the last things Detroit Lions fans need to worry about are the power rankings of their franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford.

 Matthew Stafford is underrated.

 Matthew Stafford is getting no respect.

Come on, seriously? Is there anybody out there who thinks Stafford is the Rodney Dangerfield of NFL quarterbacks?

Stafford has been lauded since he was in high school. Mel Kiper Jr. said Stafford was going to be the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft before he even threw a single pass in college. The former Georgia Bulldog has never been a QB afterthought.

The draft guru was right on Stafford; he has validated the Lions first overall selection in 2009 during his limited time under center, but should he be considered elite so soon?

The NFL Network has fairly ranked Stafford 41st in its top 100 and has him as its eighth-best QB, surprisingly ahead of perennial fantasy QB darling Peyton Manning. Other “experts” have Stafford outside the top-10 in the QB rankings. With regard to all these rankings, I say, “Who cares?” 

Last year was Stafford’s coming-out party. He torched the league like few before him have; specifically only Dan Marino, Drew Brees and Tom Brady have done what Stafford did in 2011—throw for 5,000 yards in a season.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 11:  Quarterback Daunte Culpepper #11 of Minnesota Vikings watches the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on September 11, 2005 at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Buccaneers won 24-13.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Ge
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

In a season, only a singular season; Stafford’s ascension up the ranks of NFL signal callers is based solely on 16 games. Is he really a top-five quarterback now because of one tremendous year?

Better yet, ask yourselves this question: Was Daunte Culpepper a top-five quarterback?

In 2004, Culpepper lit up the NFL with the help of Randy Moss. Culpepper threw for 4,717 yards, 39 touchdowns and 11 interceptions with a completion percentage of 69 percent.

That still stands as one of the best single-season performances by a quarterback in league history, but do you think he was elite?

If you saw any of his act when he was with Detroit from 2008-09, the answer should be obvious: hell no.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Stafford’s career will follow the path of The Captain Stubing of Lake Minnetonka’s Love Boat, but Stafford needs to add more to his resume than just the campaign of 2011 before he can pass some of the other quarterbacks on these lists.

Matt Ryan, for example, has led his team to three playoff appearances in four years. Granted, he has yet to win a game in the postseason, but he has shown he can get it done in multiple years. 

Plus the Atlanta Falcons' record of 13-3 in 2010 was best in the NFC, something Stafford has yet to accomplish.

HONOLULU - JANUARY 30:  Philip Rivers, #17 of the San Diego Chargers, passes against the NFC team during the 2011 NFL Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium on January 30, 2011 in Honolulu, Hawaii.  (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

Another player who actually ranks below Stafford on some of these lists but I feel is still the better quarterback is Philip Rivers. He led the league in passing in 2010 and still holds the record for most passing yards in the first eight games of the season (2,649).

That surpasses another Charger QB, Dan Fouts, and if you ever saw “Air Coryell” in action, that feat is impressive. Additionally, Rivers has had multiple playoff appearances, but more importantly, multiple playoff wins.

I’m not bashing Stafford. On the contrary, I think the sky is the limit for him and eventually he’ll be a top-five quarterback.

I’ve lived through the Eric Hipple and Rusty Hilger eras. I want Stafford to succeed. I never desired a Lions jersey as a kid and never purchased one as an adult until I bought a 4T No. 9 for my son that hangs prominently in his closet.

Stafford has all the tools necessary to become an elite quarterback. Big arm, smart, tough and carries himself with a touch of understated swagger. I’ve gone on record stating he’s going to be the best quarterback in the NFC North, surpassing Aaron Rodgers.

Stafford is good, and he will be great, but he’s going to have to get more games under his belt before he can be considered elite.

The true measuring stick for any NFL quarterback is not the power rankings generated in the summer. It ultimately boils down to wins and losses and Super Bowl rings.

Like Metallica serenaded to us all, nothing else matters.

Both Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger sit above Stafford on these lists, and both have two Super Bowl rings apiece, while Stafford has yet to win a playoff game. The potential for Stafford may be greater, but both of these quarterbacks have proven they can win when the lights shine the brightest.

Do you think Marino cares about where he was ranked in the '80s? Better yet, does Trent Dilfer lose sleep over how far down the lists his name appeared?

My guess is no, but Marino tosses and turns about never getting a championship during his time lighting up scoreboards with the Dolphins, and Dilfer sleeps like a baby after polishing his Super Bowl ring he won leading the Baltimore Ravens.

The coronation of Matthew Stafford should not take place after one successful season. Let the talking heads and the experts create their lists; they mean nothing. What truly matters is winning in the playoffs and finally bringing the Lombardi Trophy to Detroit.

If Stafford can accomplish what no other Lions quarterback could, or at minimum move closer to the ultimate goal, he will rightfully take his place among the elite at the position and will be considered the Lion King.


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