A common knee-jerk reaction to an underperforming quarterback is to criticize either his mechanics or his decision-making.
Matthew Stafford, despite outpacing his passing output from last year, hasn't been particularly consistent this year, and he hasn't quite had the accuracy he showed last year. That's what the eye test says, right?
Well, I see your eye test and I'll raise you statistics.
Stafford is completing 63.6 percent of his passes through eight games in the 2012-2013 season with an interception rate of 2.0 percent.
In 2011-2012, Stafford completed 63.5 percent of his passes with a 2.4 percent interception rate.
So then, by numbers alone, Stafford is actually more accurate so far this season than he was last season, when he was the darling of everyone other than Pro Bowl voters. And he didn't even have to deal with his receivers coming down with drop-itis last season.
That said, Stafford throws off his back foot once in a while, and he would probably do well to improve his footwork in the pocket. But oftentimes when Stafford throws off his back foot, his pocket looks like this:
Now, it's reasonable to say that when Stafford is under that kind of pressure, he should throw the ball away instead of trying to make something happen with an inaccurate, underthrown pass.
But isn't it also true that Stafford makes some great throws when he's under this kind of pressure, too?
Stafford's mechanics are certainly unorthodox, both in terms of his footwork and his arm angle/slot. But for as much as that may bring him grief among those who want to criticize him, it provides him just as much opportunity to make something happen in unorthodox positions.
After all, I never see anyone criticize Aaron Rodgers for this, despite the fact that he is throwing a jump pass.
Sometimes it doesn't turn out well, but when it does, it's an incredible play.
Similarly, people tend to forget that Stafford threw this now-famous pass off his back foot, too.
Nobody criticizes Stafford for this, because it's hard to argue with his results.
One result Stafford is getting criticized for is his lack of touchdown passes. I understand that, since Stafford is sporting a touchdown/interception ratio of 8/7.
But how many touchdown passes (and long passes that could have been touchdowns) have Stafford's receivers dropped this season? Five? Six? More?
Stafford has thrown a lot more touchdown passes than his receivers have caught. And that's not the only thing keeping Stafford's numbers down.
The Lions have 10 rushing touchdowns over eight games this season, three of which belong to Stafford himself, and four of which came last week alone.
How many rushing touchdowns did the Lions notch in 16 games last season? Nine. The Lions have already punched in more touchdowns on the ground this year than they did all last season.
So basically, we have a quarterback whose completion percentage is up, interception rate is down (four over his last seven games), and is losing some of his touchdown numbers to drops and the ground attack.
All this while he's on pace to follow up a 5,000-yard season with a 4,800-yard season. And he's being criticized?
I admit Stafford isn't always Joe Prototype in the pocket, but clearly his mechanics are doing just fine. Why mess with success?
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