Detroit Lions: What If Matt Stafford Goes Down Again?

Andrew GardaFeatured ColumnistJuly 11, 2012

DETROIT - NOVEMBER 07:  Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions bends over in pain against the New York Jets during the third quarter of the game at Ford Field on November 7, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan. The Jets defeated the Lions 23-20 in overtime.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

We finally—FINALLY—got a whole season of John Matthew Stafford, and oh my goodness was it everything we suspected it could be and more.

The likelihood of a repeat of those heights is tough to consider given the perfect storm of the season, but the fact remains that Matt Stafford is a vital part of this offense.

So the question is, what if Stafford gets hurt again?

We've seen it before, but that was with a much different team—one which lacked some of the important playmakers there today as well as the much-improved defensive front.

So what would happen if the Lions lost Stafford in 2012? Let's look at it long term and short term.

In the short term, Shaun Hill looked more than adequate in Stafford's stead the last time the Lions' quarterback was seriously hurt.

Hill, after an up-and-down career with the San Francisco 49ers, arrived just in time for the Lions and tossed 416 pass attempts in 11 games for 2,686 yards and 16 touchdowns.

The interceptions were and would still be a concern, but with a more mature Brandon Pettigrew, a more consistent Nate Burleson and an emerging duo of effective receivers in Titus Young and Ryan Broyles, Hill would have more effective weapons than he had in 2010.

Of course, with Calvin Johnson, you always have a shot, and you know Hill would find him as often as he could.

The Lions wouldn't get Stafford's 2011 production out of Hill—he's just not that good. That's not a knock on him, though—not being elite doesn't mean you're bad.

Still, Hill would be more than up to the task of filling in, and while they wouldn't be as good as they would be with Stafford, the Lions' season wouldn't go up in flames.

If Hill went down, well, that dovetails nicely into the long-term outlook if Stafford went down.

Of course, you bring him back. You can't dump Stafford, but at the same time wouldn't the Lions then be at the point where they seriously had to consider options?

It would depend on the injury as well as how long he was out, but let's—for argument's sake—say he went on IR early in the season.

If you look at his career, he's missed 19 games in three years. That's some significant time, and losing him for most of the 2012 season could lead to fans and the team asking questions about his durability.

There are some who really like Kellen Moore as a long-term prospect—I am not really one of those people. He might become a decent backup, but I don't like his arm enough to see him as a long-term solution at quarterback. I don't believe for a second the Lions do either, nor any other team, or else he would have been drafted.

He wasn't and there is a reason for that.

Unfortunately, it's unlikely the Lions draft another quarterback very high. Maybe in Round 3 you might see them dip their toe in.

But I don't see them grabbing a quarterback high.

Yet depending on the injury, we're looking at a quarterback who can't stay on the field. Sure, when he is under center, he is spectacular.

That does you no good if he's injured.

In all likelihood Stafford will be fine. A better offense, an improved offensive line, a healthy run game—these things are all positives for his health.

However, it's interesting to wonder what would happen if the worst comes to pass.

In the short term, the Lions would probably be fine. Long term? They might have quite the dilemma on their hands.

Do you have a 'What if' scenario for the Lions or another NFC North team? Hit me up on Twitter at @andrew_garda and tell me what it is. Maybe it'll be a column!

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