Stafford had an outstanding 2011 campaign that saw him flirt with the "elite" label, but has come violently back down to Earth in 2012.
Last season, Stafford threw for a ridiculous 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns with a 97.2 rating over 16 games. In five games in 2012 Stafford has thrown for only 1,493 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions with a 79.2 rating.
Let's examine a few reasons why Stafford won't ever repeat his 2011 success.
Stafford had his career best 2011 campaign while playing a full 16 games, but that was the first time in his four year career that he has participated in an entire season.
In his rookie year in 2009, Stafford missed six games, and the 10 he played were not exactly spectacular, although that is to be expected from a rookie. The following year Stafford only appeared in three games.
Stafford is injury prone and it will prevent him from being anything more than a one-year fluke. He has appeared in every game so far in 2012 but has been battling nagging issues such as a hip injury—injuries that are once again preventing him from being one of the NFL's best.
Lackluster 2012 Campaign Against Weak Opponents
The bulk of Stafford's mediocre 2012 season thus far has come against equally mediocre competition. In Week 1, Stafford barley slipped by a 3-3 St. Louis Rams squad with 355 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
In Week 3 Stafford was simply average against a 2-4 Tennessee Titans squad that ranks 29th in the league against the pass. He threw for 278 yards, one touchdown and an interception in the loss.
Stafford failed to have an impact against the Minnesota Vikings in a Week 4 loss, although threw for 319 yards.
His inability to blow-out lesser teams, as he did last season, is a big factor in Detroit's disappointing 2-3 start.
Had Stafford not played with Calvin Johnson in 2011, we wouldn't even be having this discussion. Johnson is the best receiver in the NFL and had an outstanding year with 1,681 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns.
Subtract those numbers from Stafford's last season and we begin to see how much he over-relied on Johnson.
It's not a bad thing that Stafford utilizes his best target, but it works against him in the evaluation process considering his backups such as Shaun Hill have had absolutely no issue staring down Megatron on every play, either.
Johnson has been having a down year so far for his standards and has been battling issues such as concussions—Stafford has suffered as a result. The best quarterbacks in the NFL, such as Tom Brady and Drew Brees, don't simply rely on one elite target—they spread the ball around and make those around them better.
So far Stafford has only put together one quality season.
There's still time for Stafford to turn things around and have another great year. He's young and has some outstanding talent around him. Sometimes simply being a one-hit wonder at the position is enough to win a Super Bowl.
Stafford's issue is that he set the bar extremely high in 2011 with over 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns. The odds of him doing so again are not good.
For now, Stafford is a one-season wonder. Whether he can change that in the coming years remains to be seen.
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