Matthew Stafford's Career Will Be Defined by a Super Bowl Ring (or Lack Thereof)

J.P. Scott@TheJPScottSenior Analyst IJuly 17, 2012

DETROIT , MI - NOVEMBER 26:  Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions looks on while playing the Green Bay Packers on November 26, 2009 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Ben Roethlisberger and Tony Romo.

Two quarterbacks who play for two of America's most popular teams.

If both retired today, Roethlisberger would likely go down in history as one of the greats, having played in three Super Bowls and winning two of them. Not elite like Joe Montana, but a solid, respected leader of a championship team, perhaps like Troy Aikman.

Romo, on the other hand, would go down as a guy who put up big numbers but could never win the big game. He would be compared, if lucky, to other prolific passers like Dan Fouts and Warren Moon, who also never won a Super Bowl. 

Matthew Stafford, thanks largely to the 2011 season, is on the brink of being an elite quarterback in the NFL. He is on the cusp of joining the list sure-fire first ballot Hall of Fame quarterbacks currently in the league. That list includes names like Manning, Brees, Brady, Roethlisberger, and perhaps even Aaron Rodgers.

Those quarterbacks all own Super Bowl rings.

Like Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan, and Joe Flacco, Matthew Stafford does not. As such, he still gets grouped with the latter group rather than the former at water cooler discussions.

Stafford, however, may be closer to a winning a Super Bowl than any of those other quarterbacks. This can be attributed to the offensive weapons around him, as well as a solid defense on the other side of the ball to back him up.

Perhaps more important than any statistic, Stafford throws to Calvin Johnson. The other quarterbacks do not.

The Lion's staff has done all they can to give Stafford all the weapons he needs to be elite. In addition to Johnson, Stafford should consider himself lucky to have guys like veteran Nate Burleson, speedster Titus Young, tight end Brandon Pettigrew, and even rookie Ryan Broyles to throw to.

Some NFL quarterbacks might give up their non-throwing arms for that arsenal.

Detroit, both offensively and defensively, is fast reaching a point where they will be among the five best teams in the league on paper. That should give them a five or six year window where they'll be legitimate contenders on a consistent basis. The bulk of the pressure will be on Stafford to get them to the pinnacle of the sport.

Together with the likes of Johnson and Ndamukong Suh, Stafford has resurrected the Detroit Lions from perennial doormat to sexy Super Bowl pick. That should keep Detroit fans happy for the time being, but eventually they'll want more.

Eventually, like Red Wing fans in the same city, the Lions faithful will demand a title, and ultimately, Stafford's legacy will depend on it.

Fail, and he may one day be the subject of articles like the one I wrote about Tony Romo.

Succeed, and he'll get the key to the city of Detroit along with perhaps a ticket to Canton for his troubles.