Is 2nd-Half Benching the Beginning of the End for Matthew Stafford in Detroit?

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystOctober 12, 2015

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) walks in the bench area during the second half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2015, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Paul Sancya/Associated Press

Enough could very well be enough.

The Detroit Lions are unlikely to find themselves in a situation where they finally compete for a Super Bowl for the first time in their organization's history with Matthew Stafford at quarterback.

Eventually, players reach a point where they're regressing and not helping their team win games. Stafford currently falls into this category, but he's also the worst kind of quarterback: one with potential.

The Texas native will always be a tantalizing option due to his natural ability to throw the football. Since his days with the Georgia Bulldogs, the ball has exploded out of Stafford's hand. This has been both a blessing and a curse during the former No. 1 overall pick's career.

His prodigious arm talent allows him to make throws other quarterbacks can't. Stafford also possesses a gunslinger mentality with supreme confidence in himself to make all of the throws. However, he also relies far too heavily on his raw natural ability instead of developing his overall game.

Matthew Stafford was the first overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft.
Matthew Stafford was the first overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft.Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Sunday's 42-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals highlighted Stafford's issues during a three-interception performance where he was eventually benched for Dan Orlovsky in the second half. The Lions are now 0-5 overall with major decisions to make throughout the roster.

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Those decisions start at quarterback.

As for right now, head coach Jim Caldwell decided Stafford's benching was a one-time event due to a poor outing. There won't be any major changes to the depth chart in the immediate future, per the Detroit Free Press' Dave Birkett:

However, this situation extends beyond one poor outing. As a team leader, Stafford must show more.

All quarterbacks have different personalities. Not all of them are demonstrative leaders like Tom Brady. Others can be more laid-back like Aaron Rodgers.

But the one thing none of them can allow is letting their teammates know when they're rattled. According to Birkett, Stafford didn't speak to the team after Sunday's loss. There is always a tendency for hyperbole in situations such as these, but this speaks for itself.

Can you imagine one of the game's top quarterbacks not saying anything if placed in a similar situation? And this isn't the first instance of Stafford's inconsistency in leading his team coming into question.

Stafford doesn’t necessarily need to have a fiery personality like Tom Brady has, but he still needs to be a leader.
Stafford doesn’t necessarily need to have a fiery personality like Tom Brady has, but he still needs to be a leader.Mike Stone/Getty Images

"I wish that the Matthew Stafford that we see in the fourth quarter I could see for all four quarters, because he loves to close the deal and [has that] great look in his eye," Golden Tate told ESPN's Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden (via ProfootballTalk.com's Mike Florio). "Makes those tight throws in a big spot."

The wide receiver quickly backed off his earlier statement, per the Detroit Free PressCarlos Monarrez:

My words, the way I say things sometimes I guess apparently don't come out the way they're meant to be. And I think Matt is a heck of a quarterback. But I've never seen someone like him, when it's fourth-quarter crunch time, he is making play after play after play after play. And it's a lot of things.

We're all more hungry, the coaching staff is more hungry, he's more hungry, everyone is just doing a little bit more. And I think we all need to do a little bit more for four quarters to play that way.

Regardless of how Tate feels, The Lions remain the league's only winless team, and Stafford's performances continue to worsen.

His eight interceptions lead the league, and his 6.18 yards per attempt ranks 34th among quarterbacks with 50 or more pass attempts this season. Obviously, Stafford isn't the only culprit; the offensive line isn't playing well, and the offensive scheme under Joe Lombardi can be predictable.

Yes, Stafford played in the Pro Bowl less than a year ago. He's also thrown for 4,200 or more yards each of the last four seasons, but his production came as the result of a pass-happy offense. His number of turnovers has always been a problem, and his stats are trending in the wrong direction:

Matthew Stafford's production: 2011-14
YearComp. %YardsTouchdownsTurnovers
201163.55,0384119
201259.84,9672020
201358.54,6502923
201460.34,2572218
NFL.com

During this period, Stafford helped lead his team to two playoff appearances, both of which resulted in first-round losses.

Furthermore, Stafford simply hasn't performed well against the league's better teams when asked to leave the friendly confines of Ford Field, as LeagueSafe.com's Paul Charchian relayed (via NFL Network):

The ability to play quarterback at a high level goes beyond passing numbers. A true franchise signal-caller elevates the play of those around him, and Stafford doesn't fall into that category.

The rest of the season should serve as an evaluation period for Stafford. The Lions are on track to "earn" the No. 1 overall pick, and quarterback cannot be factored out of the equation with a team playing as poorly as Detroit.

Cal's Jared Goff continues to gain traction as a top prospect and the potential No. 1 pick for April's draft. It's still early in the process, but Goff's ascension could prove to be quite the conundrum for a struggling franchise like the Lions.

Stafford signed a three-year, $53 million contract extension two years ago, and his potential cap hit finally becomes manageable after this season. If the Lions decided to move on from Stafford after the season, the organization would save $11.5 million in cap space, per Spotrac.

Hypothetically, the team could then turn around and select a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft and still save approximately $6.75 million (if this year's No. 1 overall contract is factored into the equation with slight inflation).

Potential change at the top of the organization should also be considered.

Might Cal's Jared Goff be the answer at quarterback?
Might Cal's Jared Goff be the answer at quarterback?Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

General manager Martin Mayhew's job security could be in jeopardy if the Lions don't drastically improve through the next 12 weeks. If a new GM is eventually brought in, his view of Stafford and where to go at the game's most important position could be drastically different than Mayhew's.

The Lions are currently a rudderless ship. The team doesn't offer many answers to its poor play, and said poor play starts with its quarterback.

A continuation of the team's current plummet into first-overall-pick oblivion should seal Stafford's fate after seven up-and-down seasons. He will then become some other organization's problem.

Brent Sobleski covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @brentsobleski.