In 2016, Matthew Stafford refused to let the Detroit Lions die as he set a new NFL record by leading his team to a come-from-behind win on eight occasions. When all was said and done, the Lions finished 9-7, despite losing the NFC North in the final week of the season to the Green Bay Packers. Those nine wins were good enough to squeeze into the playoffs but it certainly did not leave a good taste in anyone’s mouth, especially after the Seattle Seahawks dismissed the Lions in the first round.
Now it’s almost time for the 2017 season to kick off and Stafford will have to be at his absolute best if the Lions want to successfully navigate through what, on paper, looks to be a very difficult schedule. In fact, Stafford will likely have to be even better than he was last season when he was being mentioned in the MVP race before injuring in finger in Week 14 against the Chicago Bears.
One person who believes Stafford is even better than he was a year ago is Lions offensive coordinator, Jim Bob Cooter.
Justin Rogers of The Detroit News recently had a Q&A with Cooter and the Lions OC answered some questions about Stafford.
Many fans have noticed that since Cooter took over as offensive coordinator, Stafford has really not thrown the ball deep as much as some would like. When Rogers asked him about this, specifically about whether or not we would see more deep passes in 2017, Cooter explained what goes into the decision to stretch the field vertically.
“He’s definitely got it in him. It’s a bit of multiple factors, I would say. It’s a little bit schematic, a little bit personnel driven, and a bit on figuring out how to block up the opposing pass rush. It’s certainly not something we’re trying to avoid and something we could certainly see more of (this season).”
In the past, at the end of the 2013 season to be exact, some suggested that Stafford work with a quarterback ‘guru’ to help him improve his game. At the time, he brushed the idea off and went on with offseason as regularly planned. But this offseason was different as Stafford worked with a private quarterback ‘tutor’ for the first time in his career. When asked about whether or not he has seen improvement in Stafford’s game as a result of his tutoring sessions, Cooter had good things to say.
“I do see improvement. Every player in this league wants to improve year to year, using the offseason. For Stafford, who has had a lot of success in this league, to go out and work on improving himself, work on stepping up a couple different factors in his game, it’s really big of him to do and we’re seeing it pay off in practice, and I think we’ll see it pay off in the games. He is doing some things better and I expect that to translate in a few more good plays for the Lions this year.”
Fans have been waiting a long time for the Detroit Lions to finally make some noise in the NFL Playoffs and it all begins with Matthew Stafford. If he can raise his game to yet another level, it could be a special year for the Lions and their fans. From the sounds of it, Stafford is doing everything he can to make that happen.
H/T to Justin Rogers of The Detroit News for quotes used in this piece. To read the entire exclusive interview, please click here.