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Matthew Stafford's Thanksgiving Shows the Folly of the "Statement Game"

Dean Holden@@Dean_HoldenAnalyst INovember 28, 2009

DETROIT , MI - NOVEMBER 26:  Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions looks on while playing the Green Bay Packers on November 26, 2009 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Matthew Stafford has arrived, and his legend has begun.

As of Monday, Nov. 23, that legend depicted Stafford as a child of the football gods, a immortal savior delivered unto the wretch of the Detroit Lions.

After setting an NFL rookie record with five touchdown passes, including a game-winner after a play in which he separated his non-throwing shoulder, the consensus was to declare him a wildly successful draft choice, destined for the Hall of Fame.

Then Thanksgiving came along, and the legend began a new chapter, as Stafford started the game injured after not practicing during the short week.

At the conclusion of that chapter, the legend reads quite differently.

Matthew Stafford is human.

More than that, he's a rookie, and any attempts to anoint him after one good game are fallacious at best.

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Why? Because for rookies, the "statement game" doesn't exist.

Rookies don't need a statement game. It means nothing. What it means is that they have enough talent on a given day to perform well in the National Football League.

What that doesn't mean is that they have enough talent to perform consistently .

And consistency is ultimately the deciding factor when determining whether rookies are going to work out. A quick flash and fizzle of talent means far less in the NFL than a moderately good consistent player.

For example, Joey Harrington threw for 300 yards and two touchdowns in his fifth career NFL game. How did that one work out?

In the case of Stafford, a string of games with pedestrian-but-solid numbers  would be far more exciting for his future than one great game followed by two mediocre games and an abysmal one.

Yes, Stafford had as many touchdown passes in four quarters as Andre Ware did in his four-season career, and that is certainly reason to get excited.

But a better reason to get excited is to find out Stafford is playing with consistency.

Consistency means he really has the stuff. If the great games and solid performances become the norm, rather than the exception, then we have ourselves an NFL quarterback, and likely a good one.

But don't be fooled, Stafford is still a rookie quarterback who has yet to determine whether he will reach his potential.

The Cleveland game shows only that the potential exists.

The Green Bay game shows us that he has not achieved it yet.

And future games will show us which direction he is heading, but not by themselves.

Because Stafford, as we have seen, has nothing to gain from a statement game.

When he puts up a statement season, we'll talk about building him a pedestal.

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