2010 Detroit Lions Sophomore Leadership on Display: Matthew Stafford

John Farrier@GriffWings UnitedCorrespondent IJune 23, 2010

MINNEAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 15:  Matthew Stafford #9  of the Detroit Lions scrambles in the fourth quarter as Jared Allen #69  of the Minnesota Vikings pressures on November 15, 2009 at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the Lions 27-10.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

If you’ve been a Detroit Lions fan for any length of time or have had occasion to visit the madhouse over at mlive.com/lions, one thing rings true: The Detroit Lions are always on the clock.


When Sam Bradford decided to return to Oklahoma following the 2008 season, Matthew Stafford became the “prized QB” of the 2009 NFL Draft for the Detroit Lions. 


It wasn’t Stafford who was the consensus All-American quarterback; it was Sam Bradford.  Only Pro Football Weekly named Stafford as All-American at quarterback in 2008.  The previous year it was Tim Tebow who would get all the love from voters to become consensus All-American QB for 2007.  Matthew Stafford played “second fiddle” to Tim Tebow in being named Second-Team All SEC, instead of First-Team.


To quote one of my favorite movie characters, Major Payne, “Who’s the dummy now!???”


Matthew Stafford was selected as the #1 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, and Detroit Lions team president, Tom Lewand, signed the rookie signal-caller to a six-year contract with an estimated overall value of $78 million with nearly $42 million in guarantees.


Despite Tebow’s collegiate success, it was only enough to earn him the 25th overall pick by the Denver Broncos in the 2010 NFL Draft.


Sam Bradford, despite an injury-plagued 2009 season, became the #1 overall selection of the Saint Louis Rams atop the 2010 NFL Draft.


Okay – sometimes they get it right and sometimes it’s merely a popularity contest.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell the difference.


During the heated debate and run up to the 2009 NFL Draft, I was firmly entrenched in the Wake Forest LB Aaron Curry camp, while others were in the Stafford camp (Blue in Greer among the “Stafford wives”, along with cheerleaders Pit and Mav).  As a former collegiate starting MLB, my natural bent is to want a strong linebacker corps with a dominant defensive line in front of them, and great coverage in the defensive secondary behind them.  And who wouldn’t, right?


For years, the Detroit Lions defense has been either dead last or among the worst in the NFL.  After the franchise has used its top resources to acquire offensive players who have busted early and often, if there is a change of direction toward selecting defensive players with the club’s top resources, won’t that help to create a more effective defense in the least amount of time (thank goodness for the selection of Ndamukong Suh!)?


Well, that’s my thought process anyhow.  I didn’t want to see the Lions add another Joey Harrington.  He just never fit in with the fans in the motor city – a real oil and water mix.  Andre Ware was supposed to be a rocket-armed QB who would lead the Lions forward.  That didn’t work out too swell either.  How about Chuck Long?  Loved him at Iowa, but the coaches threw his arm out by overloading his repetitions during training camp, and never was he “Hawkeye Chuck” again.


And I didn’t want another prospective colossal bust in a Junior-declared quarterback.  Frankly, I was scared.


But no more.


For years, my favorite draft information site has been NFLDraftScout.  I like the layout of the information, the sourcing, the statistics and data, the reports, and find it to be very useful for my interests.


Matthew Stafford draft profile on NFLDraftScout:




Whenever you consider what is or what is not a “franchise” quarterback, there was much debate about whether there even was a true “franchise quarterback” in the 2009 NFL Draft.  It was almost as if people were saying, “Well, if Matthew Stafford isn’t the second-coming of Payton Manning, then he’s not a franchise quarterback, and you shouldn’t take him number one overall.”  (Mike Mayock said the Detroit Lions should pass on Matthew Stafford.)


All I can say is that I am glad to have been wrong concerning my fears, which were based on lack of evidence and preconceived notions based on the failures of others.  I’m glad there was consensus in the Detroit Lions front office – Mayhew, Lewand, Schwartz & Co. – with regard to the selection of Matthew Stafford to become the next leader for the franchise.  I believe they got the right young man with the right “fit” for the Detroit Lions and their win-hungry, long-suffering fans.


John Gruden said in his analysis running up to the 2009 NFL draft, “If your team is picking in the top five, you have a problem at the quarterback position.”




What we know with one year under his belt is that young Matthew Stafford is one tough gun-slinging-son-of-a-gun who isn’t going to back down from any fight (ask the Browns).  He’s going to keep fighting and clawing at the opponent’s defense until the game clock gives no more.  Keep Vicki Vanelcourt on the sideline as necessary in case we need a repeat of the final plays of the Cleveland game from last season.


For an account of Stafford’s freshman-season leadership in action, visit my recent article, Vince Lombardi on The 2010 Detroit Lions:  Part 4.




The top offenses in the NFL these days tend to feature a “franchise-type QB” who is surrounded with a multitude of weapons at the skill positions.  It is building a series of steps beyond that of the “triplets” of Dallas Cowboys lore.  Added are more receivers and more outlets.


The 2010 Detroit Lions are moving in that very direction, with QB Matthew Stafford, TE Brandon Pettigrew, TE Tony Scheffler, WR Calvin Johnson, WR Nate Burleson, and RB Jahvid Best.  The Lions front office has spent top resources on most of the aforementioned players, and each player must live up to his draft status inasmuch as free agents need to shine to free up Calvin Johnson and the running game.


Lions offensive coordinator Scot Linehan has assumed the role of quarterbacks coach for the 2010 season, and I believe that to be an outstanding decision in terms of unity of command and the direct flow of information.  Linehan had highly successful offenses in the past in Minnesota, and if he can achieve similar success, now, as he did then, Lions players and fans alike will be singing his praises.


Ultimately, the play and leadership displayed by Matthew Stafford will determine the overall effectiveness of the 2010 offense.  Matthew is an incredibly fast learner and has football savvy beyond his years.  With a fast learning curve, I believe Stafford will improve both his accuracy and decision making enroute to a much more potent offensive threat.


The only problem is that if the Detroit defense can’t hold the opponent to fewer points than the Lions offense can score, what the offense does won’t matter.  Pucker up, Joe Dirt, and kiss your sister.


A top-rated NFL offense that is paired with a deadbeat NFL defense has little chance to find its way out of the division’s cellar.  If both are improved, you can actually go all the way and win the Super Bowl.


Right Saints fans!?


First, they had to acquire the right quarterback – Drew Brees.  Check.  Add offensive weapons the defensive will have difficultly in covering.  Check.  Add new defensive coordinator who can lead the team’s defense in the game that matters most of all.  Done.


This is the formula the Detroit Lions appear to be using as we go forward into the 2010 season.  Louis Delmas says playoffs and beyond.  Many question the validity of whether or not the 2010 Detroit Lions squad can achieve a .500 record, let alone the playoffs. 


Despite the hype and hysteria, the front office has added a tremendous amount of offensive weapons who should prove valuable to their sophomore leader.


It will be fun to watch the offense of the 2010 Detroit Lions come together and see which new pieces of the puzzle will fit into the grander scheme.  Strong leadership by Matthew Stafford will be a deciding factor in the overall win-loss record compiled by the 2010 Lions.


Legendary coach Vince Lombardi said,


“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.”


The Lions faithful will soon see how sophomore-QB Matthew Stafford leads the 2010 Detroit Lions, and how his will can deliver success on Sunday afternoon.


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