Counting Down the Top 5 Players in the NFC North: No. 4, Matt Stafford
As we talk the top five players in the NFC North, there will be some of you who believe that Matt Stafford doesn't belong here.
I get the arguments—only one year of health, so only one year of tremendous production; Calvin Johnson is there to help him—but I'm here to tell you, he's one of the most talented players in the division despite the small number of full seasons played.
In fact, there is plenty of evidence even during those short seasons to prove that Stafford deserves his top-five standing on this list.
First, we can focus on the "now."
Stafford is healthy and behind one of the better offensive lines he's had since he arrived in Detroit. In fact, with the addition of Riley Reiff, there is no equivocation—this is the best line he's had. So if he was healthy last year, he will be this year.
When healthy, he put up a historical season.
Now, perhaps you might argue that putting up those numbers wouldn't have made Rich Gannon a top quarterback, and you'd be right. However, nobody ever thought Gannon had the talent Stafford does.
In fact, part of the almost blase attitude about his season might actually be something more along the lines of a collective exhale as we all say, "FINALLY!"
This was, after all, the Stafford we expected to see. OK, maybe not EXACTLY this guy, but someone close.
Stafford showed us what we expected—a poised, accurate quarterback with a tremendous arm.
Yes, accurate—I know everyone loves to say the only reason Stafford is/was successful is because Calvin Johnson is his wide receiver.
It doesn't hurt, sure. Any quarterback is better with Johnson. How could he not be?
Of course, did we ding Joe Montana for Jerry Rice? Did we poo-poo Eli Manning last year for Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks?
No, we did not.
Stafford is an exceptional quarterback, and Johnson isn't the reason. He's not running all over the field as Stafford throws the ball like a drunken monkey.
Does he make some outrageous catches? Yes. Is he an instant maker of elite quarterbacks?
If he was, Shaun Hill would have thrown for a billion yards.
Stafford is a tremendous athlete who is finally healthy and entering the peak of his career. We can fight it, or we can admit what it is: a heck of a time to be a Lions fan.
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