Matthew Stafford: "Jekyll or Hyde?"

PJ PointerCorrespondent IMarch 13, 2009

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is the story of Henry Jekyll, a doctor who drinks a potion of his own design and goes from a mild-mannered man to the evil and cruel Edward Hyde.

It's the ultimate story of split personalities. It gives light to the inconsistencies in all of us. It shows the nightmares that can occur when we give into the darkness within us.

When it comes to NFL prospects, inconsistency is a word that can give owners, general managers, and coaches nightmares. If the wrong person shows up, the Edward Hyde of a player, then the owners are out millions of dollars and general managers and coaches may be out of a job.

This rule holds especially true for teams with draft picks at the top of the first round. And especially with the quarterback position.

Is the latest can't-miss quarterback the next Peyton Manning or the next David Carr? Is he the next Carson Palmer or the next Ryan Leaf? Jekyll or Hyde?

Who is the player that has owners, GMs, and coaches losing sleep this year? None other than the immensely talented, yet immensely inconsistent Matthew Stafford.

Matthew Stafford – QB – Georgia

Stafford came to the University of Georgia as one of the most highly recruited high school quarterbacks in the country, with a skill set that prompted ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. to predict, before he had ever taken one snap for the Bulldogs, that, “Matthew Stafford will eventually be the No. 1 pick in the draft.”

With those lofty expectations, you would assume that Stafford would have been the best quarterback in the country. The truth, though, is that he had a very up and down career at the University of Georgia. Not necessarily in terms of statistics, but in terms of results.

You see, Stafford was never the best quarterback in college football, never once in his three years at Georgia. He never won a National Championship, he never won the Heisman trophy, in fact, he never even won the SEC championship.

That being said, you still have to realize that football is the ultimate team sport. Some of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game have never won those things. Dan Marino was never the Heisman trophy winner and never won a National Championship.

The same can be said for John Elway, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady.

Sometimes the elite talent of a quarterback just isn’t enough to overcome the mediocrity of the players around him. And make no mistake, Matt Stafford has elite qualities to his game.

He has one of the strongest arms ever to play college football, he has above average athleticism, and he has thrown for a ton of collegiate touchdowns.

Just look at the statistics he put up in his three years in college: 464 completions in 987 attempts for a career completion percentage of 57.1. He’s thrown for 7,731 yards and 51 touchdowns with only 33 interceptions.

These numbers look even worse than they are, although they look very good, because of a very lackluster freshman year. It should also be noted that Stafford won 30 games against only nine losses in three years.

It’s easy to see then why the Mel Kipers and Todd McShays of the world are certain that he should be the No. 1 pick in the draft.

However, none of them list him as the top player in this year's draft. In fact, Kiper has him as the seventh ranked prospect this year. Why the disparity?

Simple. Stafford has put up phenomenal numbers, he has won a ton of games, but he hasn’t put up the numbers and won the games when they counted.

He lost games to Florida two out of the three years he was the quarterback for the Bulldogs. And he seems to choke under pressure. Stafford is wildly inconsistent.

Just take this past season. Ranked No. 1 in the country to start the season, Stafford and the Bulldogs welcomed the Alabama Crimson Tide. Stafford played a game that could be described as mediocre at best.

Although he threw for two touchdowns, both were late in the game after it was already decided.

The following week, Georgia hosted Tennessee, who had one of the best defenses in the SEC, and Stafford again struggled, throwing only one touchdown and two interceptions in the win.

Skip forward two weeks and Georgia goes into the state of Louisiana and beats the LSU Tigers in their own back yard. Stafford, although the numbers weren’t gaudy, played a wonderful game in the win.

The following week, back at home, Stafford plays his worst game of the season against the pressure of the Florida Gators. He throws no touchdowns and three interceptions and Georgia is completely dominated 49–10.

Skip ahead then to the final game of the regular season and Georgia is hosting their in-state rival Georgia Tech. Stafford plays an absolutely brilliant game, throwing for 407 yards and five touchdowns.

Still, Georgia loses the game. Although, this loss can by no means be laid at Matthew Stafford’s feet.

We then jump to the Capital One Bowl and Georgia is playing Michigan State, a far cry from the No. 1 ranking that Georgia had at the beginning of the season. This game, in particular, exemplifies Matthew Stafford’s college career like no other game he has played. The inconsistencies are off the charts.

With constant pressure being applied by Michigan State in the first half, Stafford goes 6–14 with no touchdowns and one interception. At this point, Stafford does not look like a first round draft choice, let alone the No. 1 pick in the draft.

The second half starts and suddenly Stafford is a different player. He goes 14–17 and throws three touchdowns in the win.

So you can see the dilemma. If you draft Matthew Stafford No. 1 overall, is he the Matthew Stafford that played against LSU, Georgia Tech, and the player from the second half against Michigan State?

Or is he the player that couldn’t handle the pressure against Alabama, Florida, and Michigan State in the first half?

Matthew Stafford may very well be the savior that he’s been painted to be. He also may be the next Joey Harrington. He’s probably the most boom-or-bust player in this draft.

What the Detroit Lions have to ask themselves is: Who is Matthew Stafford? Jeykll or Hyde?


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