Why Matt Stafford Isn't a Lock as Lions' Long-Term Franchise QB

Chris Trapasso@ChrisTrapassoAnalyst IJune 5, 2013

GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 09:  Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions celebrates scoring a touchdown against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on December 9, 2012 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Lions 27-20.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Matt Stafford is only 25 and has thrown for an average of 5,002 yards, 30.5 touchdowns and 16.5 interceptions over the last two seasons, but don't for one second think he's a lock to be the Detroit Lions' long-term franchise quarterback.


Far from.

The No. 1 overall selection in the 2009 NFL draft had an injury-plagued start to his professional career—he missed 19 combined games in his rookie and sophomore campaigns—yet rebounded amazingly well and hasn't been sidelined with injury in any of the most recent 32 regular-season games. 

During that two-year healthy stretch, Stafford has shown flashes of his elite potential, and he led the Lions to the organization's first playoff berth in over a decade during the 2011-2012 season.

But the recent trend of well-being and prolific passing statistics doesn't mean he's a viable future option in Detroit at the game's most vital position.

Here's why. 


Big-Game Disappointment and Blitz Troubles

Bleacher Report's in-house NFL researching extraordinaire Scott Kacsmar—known on Twitter as @CaptainComeback—recently wrote a column explaining where the Lions can improve from their underwhelming 4-12 record of a year ago. 

In it, he featured a frightening statistic about Stafford's inability to beat good teams. 

The former Georgia Bulldogs standout is 1-23 against teams with a winning record in his NFL career, which includes his playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints in January of 2012.

Now, defeating teams with winning records certainly isn't an easy task, but Stafford's win percentage of .042 in those games is downright horrendous. 

The 78.6 QB rating isn't fantastic, either. 

Obviously, Stafford's record in those contests isn't all on him, but one victory against a team with more wins than losses doesn't exactly paint him as a legitimate franchise signal-caller. 

Kacsmar also highlighted a disheartening statistic on Stafford's trouble when facing a blitz from the opposition. 

When blitzed in 2012, the Lions quarterback completed only 54.7 percent of his passes with no touchdowns, four interceptions and a QB rating of 64.5.

Those two metrics don't automatically doom Stafford, but they aren't encouraging, that's for sure.

To be the best, you have to beat the best, no? 


Stafford, one of the last top-drafted quarterbacks who signed a rookie deal under the old collective bargaining agreement, is set to make a base salary of $12.5 million and is a $20.8 million cap hit in 2013.

In 2014, he'll play at a "reduced rate" of $11 million in base salary, but he'll still represent a $19.3 million cap hit. 

The following year, he's set to make a base salary of $15 million, but 2015 is a club option for the Lions, which, in theory, would allow another team to sign him to its own long-term contract. 

If Stafford doesn't improve on a lackluster 2012 campaign and, most importantly, doesn't lead Detroit to the postseason this year, he could be a prime candidate to be sent to the trading block. 

Because, if he doesn't develop and the Lions don't advance to the playoffs again with Stafford under center, would he really be in line to receive a monster extension?

In that circumstance, there's a chance the rocket-armed quarterback would settle for a more fair and modest deal to stay in the Motor City, but that would create the possibility of the Lions being outbid by another team. 

Calvin Johnson 

Calvin Johnson is the best receiver in the game today, and he may be the most physically impressive wideout in the history of the league. 

Stafford and Johnson have established quite the rapport, especially over the last two years. 

However, couldn't the argument be made that Megatron could flourish with just about any relatively competent quarterback?

Johnson has been the target of 363 of Stafford's 1,390 attempts since the start of the 2011 campaign.

Receivers ultimately depend on the signal-caller throwing them the football, but Johnson has the athletic capabilities to come as close as possible to transcending that truth.

Essentially, the thought is: a cheaper quarterback would probably be pretty darn productive, too, if he threw 26 percent of his passes Johnson's way.



Stafford is a young, inherently talented, bold quarterback with tremendous potential. He's produced at an extremely high level in the past, but his teams, for the most part, haven't achieved as much as his statistics would indicate. 

That fact, along with his struggles against the NFL's better teams and a huge contract makes it easy to see that Matt Stafford is entering a make-or-break year in 2013.


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