Matthew Stafford: He's Proven His Toughness, Now Get Him Out of There!

Greg Eno@@GregEnoSenior Analyst IDecember 7, 2009

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 6: Quarterback Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions throws under pressure from the Cincinnati Bengals in their NFL game at Paul Brown Stadium December 6, 2009 in Cincinnati, Ohio.    (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)
John Sommers II/Getty Images

OK, I get it—this kid, Matthew Stafford, is tough. So I wish the Lions would quit forcing him to prove it every week.

Actually, it’s the Lions’ offensive line—feel free to put the accent on the second syllable—that’s putting QB Stafford in peril every Sunday. Just as I feared, way back in training camp.

Stafford winced and grimaced and grunted and groaned his way through another football game yesterday, picking himself off the turf in Cincinnati slower than molasses running uphill at times.

It’s his non-throwing shoulder that is a mess, with the emphasis being on “non-throwing.” In football, if what’s hurting you isn’t threatening your life—or keeping you from throwing the ball— you’re expected to be out there.

But Stafford has proven himself. Now it’s time to think about getting him out of there before he gets waylaid and we see his helmet rolling away—not empty.

Stafford was 11-for-26 with a touchdown and two interceptions in the Lions’ 23-13 loss to the Bengals. That’s two awful games in a row following his storybook win over the Browns. Two awful games since his left shoulder got jackhammered into the faux turf at Ford Field against Cleveland.

Stafford is playing behind a line made of balsa wood. He has a pocket as claustrophobic as a phone booth. Unlike the other team’s quarterback, who, with the Lions’ pass rush, has time to not only read defenses but War and Peace , Stafford must make decisions in the blink of an eye, if not sooner.

That might be a cause for the low completion percentages. And for needing an ambulance on the sidelines, the engine running.

But not only is Stafford a work in progress, so is the entire team. The kid QB’s maturation is whipped into the Lions’ makeup like cake batter. You can’t separate it from the other ingredients, no matter how distasteful they may be.

Should Stafford be out there now, working with one good shoulder? How much longer before he’s operating on one good leg? No good heads?

We’ve seen how tough he is. I’m convinced. The Lions are 2-10. They’re going nowhere. But they’ll be going worse than nowhere without the franchise quarterback on board. Is it mathematically or physically possible to go nowhere to the minus nth degree?

I’m afraid we’re going to find out, the longer an injured Stafford plays behind this house of cards of an offensive line.