Stafford Has That Big Arm But It's the Little Things With Matt

Blue in GreerCorrespondent IJune 4, 2010

ALLEN PARK, MI - MAY 01:  Matt Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions looks on during rookie orientation camp at the Detroit Lions Headquarters and Training Facility on May 1, 2009 in Allen Park, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Time for a little change of pace.

I have been writing about the Detroit Lions secondary and the OL and Mayhew and well, it's time for a little break.

Don't think I deserve one?

You try finding the bright spots with the OL and Secondary.

It's hard work.

I'll get back to my thankless task of trying to make your Kool-Aid a little sweeter out of these lemons but now it's time for a little recess, a little play time.

In other words, it's Stafford time.

Matt Stafford had one of the best rookie seasons I have ever seen by a QB, better then Joe Flacco, better then Big Ben, maybe better then Matt Ryan.

Maybe the best I have seen since Marino, but then again Marino went to a team that had one losing season over the last 13 years before he got there, the cupboard was hardly bare.

We sure can't say Stafford had all the groceries laying around to make a gourmet meal. What we can say is he is the first QB ever to take over a team that was 0-16 the year before.

We are talking about a 21-year old kid who was just given millions and all the pressures that go with it. Now add in a new coaching staff, a defense that gave him no help and all his help on the offensive side of the ball was constantly changing because of injuries.

To judge his seasons on statistics or wins is simply not seeing the whole picture, this team was a disaster and Stafford was our Red Cross.

We don't judge the Red Cross by how soft the blankets were or if the food was seasoned nicely, we judge the Red Cross by lives saved and this franchise was on life support.

The detractors will point out the 20 INTs or the 61.0 QB rating and I say who cares?

The detractors say two wins and they got lucky on one of those when the refs called pass interference and again I say who cares.

Let me tell you what I saw, I saw a confidence and just plain control of the offense that I haven't seen out of a Lion QB since ...... well, ever.

It's easy to point out the courage he showed with that TD pass after he over rode the trainers and ran out there. Every Lion fan literally had goose bumps on that one and we sure ate up all that love the national media was giving him.

But how about the way he was slapping the OL on their helmets in the huddle to make the defense believe he was saying it was on them?

So this 21 year old kid, while in tremendous pain, in a do or die situation had the presence of mind to try and deceive the defense in the huddle. Now that gives me goose bumps.

Remember in the OTAs last year when Julian Peterson was talking about how Stafford had deceived him with a no look pass?

Wish I could find the link for you but he said he had never seen that before. Julian Peterson is a 10 year veteran with five Pro Bowls, do you think he has seen some QBs before?

Remember that first win?

We might remember that gutsy call and pass to Heller that got the Lions up to mid-field before they had to punt late in the fourth quarter.

We might even remember that pass interference call on that scramble by Stafford and the deep pass into the end zone that set up the winning touchdown.

Thought it was telling when Chris Horton said he lost coverage on Bryant Johnson because they are taught to move in when a QB scrambles to his left like that because no QB can throw the ball that deep when throwing against his body, guess he was wrong.

But the maybe the biggest play of the game wasn't even a play. Remember mid-way through the first quarter when the Redskins had the Lions pinned on the one after a great goal line stand by the defense?

The Redskins went for it on fourth down because they knew even if they didn't make it they had a rookie QB making decisions standing in his own endzone for the first time of his NFL career. Best case he makes a mistake and they get a turnover or safety, worst case the Lions can't move the ball and punt so the Redskins get the ball inside the 50.

What did Stafford do?

On the first play he knew the Redskin defense was anxious so he drew them offside with a hard count. I don't know about you but that was a huge play to go from 1st and 10 with your feet in the endzone to 1st and five with some breathing room.

Sure enough the Lions convert the first down and for extra measure Stafford draws them offsides on the next set of downs to set up another first down. Before it was done he led the Lions on a 99 yard drive that took the air out of the Redskins.

That was in the second game of his NFL career, I don't remember too many Lions QBs doing something like that no matter how experienced he was.

We see the arm and the guts but it's the little things we should be giddy about. It was the way he had total command of the huddle and how he understood game situations so well.

It's how we see him moving safeties around with his eyes and pump fakes.

Speaking of fakes, it's the way he carries out not only the fake hand offs but the way he does hand off. It looks the same and rookies are not supposed to even understand why that is important, but those safeties won't get an early jump on the runner by watching Stafford.

Remember when he said he watched every game tape of a Greg Williams defense he could find before playing the Saints last year?

The guy is a film rat in the way all great QBs are. When things are tough that huddle will turn to the QB for answers and you have to do your homework to give them the right answers.

Do we think he might have a little better handle on what to expect this year?

The game should slow down a little and he will be able to make in game adjustments much easier. He will see the windows a little quicker because he will understand the speed of those DBs and be a little more comfortable in the pocket.

He won't be surprised by a safety blitz or a defensive  tackle in coverage. When a team shows something different than the Lions expected Linehan can say remember that game last year when so and so did something similar.

I am fired up for this year and many years to come, the NFL has turned into even more of a passing league and for once the Lions are in a position to take advantage a change. No more outdated offenses around here.

What I am seeing is so far the maturation of a great QB.

Not a starting NFL QB, not even a very good QB, but a great QB. I'm talking Hall of Fame great type stuff here.

Fortunately it is way too early to vote him in yet, we want to watch this whole thing play out first. He will still have plenty of struggles this year but so far everything says this guy will be great and maybe only the team around him will determine how great he will be.


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