Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
Two seasons ago the young QB tore apart the league and rewrote the Lions passing record book, and he became just the fifth quarterback to ever top 5,000 yards in a season.
That 2011 season was magical, as Stafford was near the top of the league in a number of significant categories: He finished third in the NFL touchdown passes with 41, fifth in completion percentage at 63.5 percent (fifth), and seventh in yards per attempt (7.7). His passer rating of 97.2 was fifth best as was the four game-winning drives he engineered.
His vulgar display of firepower catapulted the Lions into the 2011 playoffs and established Stafford as one of the brightest young stars in the league.
Alas, 2012 was a different story. Stafford’s numbers declined across the board. Even though his 727 pass attempts shattered the NFL record for a season with 727, Stafford failed to hit the 5,000-yard passing mark. More to the point, his still-gaudy 4,967 yards rang largely empty. His touchdown total plummeted by more than 50 percent, while his other primary statistical metrics all regressed back to right around the league average.
On five different occasions Stafford started a game 4-for-11, and the slow starts squandered too many opportunities for the Lions to build big leads. Detroit did not reward Stafford with a $76 million-dollar deal for the next five years for him to produce shallow, average numbers.
Matthew Stafford has proven he can be a star, but he’s also shown that he is not yet among the league's elite QBs. In 2013 it is imperative he performs more like the 2011 comeback whiz kid than the mechanically lazy 2012 version who helped squander several fourth-quarter leads.
Which Stafford will we see?