Here is Jaworski's explanation taken from Kevin Seifert's NFC North Blog on ESPN.com:
“I remember studying Matthew Stafford when he came out of Georgia in 2009. My first impression was this kid can really spin it! In 2011, Stafford played a full season for the first time in three years. That’s why he enters 2012 as No. 14 on my quarterback big board…
“Another full season with similar production (as 2011), and there's no question Stafford is a top-10 quarterback. He's an elite arm talent. I just need to see durability and performance over a longer period of time.”
Jaworski was a solid quarterback in the NFL and he's proven to be a very good analyst for the world-wide leader. The ranking he assigned to Stafford is debatable, though.
His point about needing to see high-level performance over a longer period of time is duly noted. Stafford had an exceptional year in 2011 but that doesn't mean he should be considered equal to Tom Brady and Drew Brees just yet.
However, Jaws' mention of durability is puzzling. Stafford proved his durability last year by appearing in all 16 games. He also played through a hand injury that might have sidelined other quarterbacks.
A bigger sample size is needed for Stafford to be considered truly elite, but what does it take for him to shake the durability question marks?
In the mind of most Lions fans, it's 16 games.
He could get hurt again. Anyone in the NFL can at any moment. He's proven his shoulder is fully healed, he played through an injury and he's taken countless hits. What else does a guy need to do? The durability tag needs to be put to rest.
Besides, what is more important, durability or performance? Stafford threw for over 5,000 yards last season. Only three other quarterbacks in NFL history have done that. That should be enough to get him higher than No. 14.
Each one of these players have longer careers and better overall numbers than Stafford. Yet how many would NFL GM's select over Stafford to lead their teams? One, maybe two.
Take Matt Schaub for example. He's never approached 5,000 yards passing (he got 4,770 yards in 2009) and he has the same number of playoff wins as Stafford: zero. Schaub's also been plagued by injury in three out of his five years as a starting quarterback for the Houston Texans.
Does he get marked down for durability issues?
Joe Flacco has thrown for approximately 3,600 yards the past three seasons and averaged only 22 touchdowns per. Matt Ryan's averages over the past three years are almost identical to Flacco's. Their numbers pale in comparison to Stafford's.
Do they get ranked higher because of playoff appearances, which is a team accomplishment?
Apparently a performance such as Stafford's doesn't carry the weight it once did. In only one season, throwing for 5,000 yards has been normalized.
When Dan Marino threw for 5,000 yards in his first full season as a starter—he only started nine games his rookie year—I'm pretty sure he vaulted into the NFL's group of elite quarterbacks at that time.
Regardless of the changes in the NFL since then, Stafford should be revered in the same way. He isn't a quarterback drafted in the fifth-round who was forced into the starting job and had a flukey career year.
Stafford is a No.1 pick who everyone predicted had the skill set to be an elite quarterback. In 2011 he backed up those expectations and proved his durability. For that reason and despite the small sample size, his performance should be enough to crack the top 10 in Jaws' list.
Stafford's only recourse, to get the respect he deserves, is to continue to play like he did last year. He doesn't need to reach the 5,000 yard mark again. He does need to lead the Lions to another winning season and playoff berth.
If he does that you can bet Jaws, and every other talking head with a list, will have Stafford ranked higher this time next year.
* All stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com.
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