The fate of the Detroit Lions organization for the next five years rests solely on the beaten and battered shoulders of quarterback Matthew Stafford.
If that statement doesn’t send chills down your spine for all the wrong reasons, than I’m not sure what kind of person you are. Let’s be honest: The Lions are in a heap of trouble.
Stafford has gone out with another shoulder injury to that glass wing of his, and the prospects of a season filled with progress and hope seemed to have been shot. The simple fact of the matter is that the Lions have put all their eggs in the basket known as Matthew Stafford. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t realize that said basket is not the most durable basket around, and sadly enough, they are stuck with it for better or for worse.
Now, the marriage between a quarterback and his organization is easily the most precious and fragile relationship in football. They always say that “there is no I in team”, and to a certain extent that is true, but there is no denying the vital role that a quarterback plays on a team. There is no denying that the quarterback is the single most important piece of a good football team. The quarterback touches the ball on every single play, whether he is handing off to the running back, or going through his reads to find an open receiver. Offenses live by a quarterback’s decision making, and die by his execution, or more accurately, lack of execution.
Dynasties are built around great quarterbacks.
We have seen throughout history that a great quarterback can put a team on his back and lead them straight to the Promised Land. Joe Montana, Steve Young, John Elway, Payton Manning, Tom Brady, are all names that come to mind when I think of elite level quarterbacks that have accounted for a great amount of their teams success.
What is it that makes a quarterback successful you may ask? Is it arm strength or accuracy? Is it their decision making or clutch ability? Or are quarterbacks simply a bi-product of the team around them?
I believe that all of these play a factor in the greatness of a quarterback, but there seems to be one thing that we can sometimes overlook: Durability.
Durability is a simple concept actually. If a player cannot play the game due to some type of injury, then his stats and impact on the game dramatically decrease.
Joe Montana could never be the Joe Montana that we know today if he was constantly on the sidelines rehabbing a knee injury. Tom Brady could not have led those last minute Super Bowl winning drives if he was at home watching the game and cradling his crutches. For Pete’s sake think about Brett Favre for a minute! Would he be the same quarterback we know and love (or hate) today without his incredible “Iron Man” consecutive start streak? Plain and simple, durability is a quality that not only all great quarterbacks posses, but all great football players in general.
Matthew Stafford seems to have quite the durability problem at the moment.
Physically he seems to be a very gifted athlete. He is highly regarded as having one of the strongest arms in the NFL, and when he is on the field he does have a knack for making plays. Unfortunately though, getting him on the field seems to be the struggle.
In his two seasons as an NFL quarterback Stafford has only seen the field 13 out of 32 possible regular season games. He missed two games early on in his rookie year due to a knee injury, and was eventually put on the Injured Reserve after suffering a shoulder injury against Cleveland a few games later. In the first game of this 2010 season Stafford was hit by Julius Peppers of the Chicago Bears, and was held out with a shoulder injury until the Washington game in Week 8. Stafford put up good numbers in a win against Washington, and hope seemed to flood back into the desolate and dark cavern known as Ford Field. As it seemed to be the trend though, the very next week in a pressure packed game against the New York Jets, Stafford was hit trying to scramble for a first down. As he went to the ground his shoulder took the brunt of the fall, and he was lost for the remainder of the game.
What looked to be and should have been a turning point in the Detroit Lions ended up being a disastrous overtime loss, and now the Lions are faced with the prospect of going the rest of the year without their starting quarterback, again.
Looking back on the 2009 NFL Draft Matthew Stafford was not the only quarterback that was speculated to go high. Not everybody was sold on Stafford, and even here in Detroit there were calls to go a different route, or even a different position.
Let’s take a look at some of the other Quarterbacks that could have been dawning the Honolulu Blue and Silver had the Detroit Lions chose to go a different route in 2009: