Detroit Lions: Why Matthew Stafford Will Be the Next Dan Marino

Jay WierengaCorrespondent ISeptember 6, 2011

19 Sep 1999:  Dan Marino #13 of the Miami Dolphins passes the ball during the game against the Arizona Cardinals at the Pro Player Stadium in Miami, Florida. The Dolphins defeated the Cardinals 19-16. Mandatory Credit: Andy Lyons  /Allsport
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Granted, this is incredibly early, and expectations have never been higher for this team. But mark my words, Stafford is going to reward Lions fans for generations of quarterback mediocrity.

And no, I'm not talking about some second-coming of Erik Kramer or Eric Hipple. I'm not even talking about Greg Landry, who was the last Lions signal-caller in the Pro Bowl.

No, I am talking all-time great good.

I think Stafford has the makings of becoming the next Dan Marino.

I will give the non-Lions fans a chance to regain their composure after laughing themselves off their chairs.

Dan Marino was the best quarterback I have ever seen in my life.

His mixture of composure, toughness and moxie, not to mention the quickest release in football, made him my generation's original gunslinger.

So why does Stafford remind me of Marino?

Some of it is tangible, some of it isn't.

For the tangible, check out their stats in college. They had nearly identical completion percentages (57.7 for Marino, 57.1 for Stafford), their QB rating is similar (130 for Marino, 133 for Stafford) and both played in similar offenses.

They also played in tough conferences with tough games against rivals. Marino had West Virginia, and Stafford had the entire SEC to contend with.

That is the tangible. Here is the non-tangible. Stafford just carries himself like Marino. He doesn't have the same type of intensity, but he has the same type of confidence.

They both had a lot of adversity they had to handle early on.

Marino had a terrible senior season that gave rise to some nasty rumors that hurt his draft stock.

Stafford, obviously, has his injury concerns.

But both have a drive that comes across during interviews. It's like they are so confident in their ability that they never even fathomed the possibility that they wouldn't make it. Stafford, through it all, is a football player. It's just that simple.

Both of them were strengthened by their roots, Marino from the steel city of Pittsburgh, Stafford from the winds of Texas. These are two men from different backgrounds; however, each is from a football-crazy part of the country.

Now, just look at their style's. Both lack mobility, but make up for it with quick releases. Marino had one of the strongest arms of all time, but Stafford is right there with him. They both have the gunslinger mentality that allows them to fit the ball in holes that most quarterbacks wouldn't even consider. And both trusted their talent enough to allow them to make those throws.

They also both lacked good running games, making it crucial for them to dictate the game plan through the air.

The major differences between these two is the personnel around them. Don Shula's Dolphins invested in their offensive line, protecting Marino at all costs. They had solid receivers, but neither Mark Duper nor Mark Clayton were truly elite.

The Lions do not have that type of offensive line, but they make up for it with some elite offensive weapons. Calvin Johnson is 10 times better than anyone Marino ever threw to, and Brandon Pettigrew, Nate Burleson and Jahvid Best represent targets that would have made Marino's life that much easier.

So, will this year be Stafford's coming out party to the tune of Marino's debut? Probably not to that level, as Marino put up some sick stats in his first few years. But what you will see this year is a healthy Stafford, one that will remind everyone of that other guy 20 years ago with the flowing locks and rocket arm.