Quarterback Matthew Stafford's inability to stay healthy should not be the most concerning aspect of his career to his employer, the Detroit Lions.
What should trouble the Lions more than the fact that the former No. 1 overall draft pick and recipient of $41.7 million in guaranteed money has only been the primary quarterback for Detroit in 12 games over two seasons—games in which he either attempted the most passes or threw for the most yards—is how he played when he has been healthy.
In those 12 games, Stafford struggled mightily. His completion percentage was an extremely poor 53.9 percent, and he also performed ineptly in other passing categories.
Stafford's passes only netted 5.9 yards per pass attempt, 4.7 adjusted yards per pass attempt, 5.2 net yards per pass attempt and 4.0 adjusted yards per pass attempt.
When one looks up "mediocre passing" in the dictionary, a statistical line similar to that is what will be found.
Additionally, in those 12 games, Stafford threw 19 touchdowns (4.1 touchdown percentage) to 21 interceptions (4.6 interception percentage). The touchdown-interception ratio Stafford possessed in the 12 contests is not awful, considering many quarterbacks throw more interceptions than touchdowns early in their careers, but it cannot make up for his other pedestrian statistics.
Stafford's already middling performances look even worse when one realizes he has been outplayed by the very quarterbacks he is supposed to be better than.
Since Stafford has missed 20 games over the past two seasons, there have been 20 opportunities for one of his three backup quarterbacks to be the primary quarterback for the Lions, and they have made the most of each opportunity.
When comparing Stafford's statistics to whichever backup quarterback played in his absence, Stafford was 9.6 percent worse in completion percentage (53.9 percent to 59.6 percent), 6.3 percent worse in yards per pass attempt (5.9 to 6.3), 11.3 percent worse in adjusted yards per pass attempt (4.7 to 5.3), 7.1 percent worse in net yards per pass attempt (5.2 to 5.6) and 13.0 percent worse in adjusted net yards per pass attempt (4.0 to 4.6).
Stafford holds the advantage in his touchdown-interception ratio (4.1-4.6 vs. 3.2-3.8), but just like it did not make up for the other deficiencies he had in his overall passing numbers, it cannot overcome the advantages his backup quarterbacks currently hold over him.
If Stafford were being backed up by elite quarterbacks, then his inferior play could be understood...but he is not.
His three backups were Daunte Culpepper, whose career was in a serious decline when he played for the Lions, Shaun Hill, who is never a long-term solution for any team's quarterback problem unless he is playing for Mike Martz, and Drew Stanton, who is a former second-round draft pick and a quarterback to whom the Lions never gave a fair shot.
Stafford's backups were not even playing well, yet they still outperformed the supposed franchise quarterback.
If a starting quarterback cannot outplay such below-average talent, then he does not deserve to start, nor does he deserve to be paid tens of millions of dollars for his paltry efforts.
Perhaps Stafford will discover the ability to make it through an entire season unscathed and outplay his backups, but as things stand now, the Lions' already dubious decision to draft Stafford with the No. 1 pick in the 2009 NFL Draft looks even more foolish.