Now, with the impending retirement of Calvin Johnson, it is time for Detroit Lions quarterback, Matthew Stafford, to step up and prove he does not need Johnson as a crutch. Ever since Stafford was drafted in 2009, many have believed Stafford’s success stemmed solely from the presence of Megatron. There are two former NFL signal callers who recently came to the defense of Stafford at the Super Bowl CBS media session.
CBS television sportscaster and longtime quarterback, Phil Simms, knows a thing or two about the QB position. Simms won multiple Super Bowls and had a stellar 14-year career for the New York Giants. When asked about what he thought of the Lions QB without his top target, he was unequivocal in his reply.
“It’s not going to change Matthew Stafford. He’s missing a good talent, but Matthew Stafford, listen, he was put on Earth to throw. I don’t know what it was going to be. It could have been a Frisbee, a baseball, whatever. But he was put on Earth to throw something and he is a phenomenal, gifted thrower of the ball,” said Simms.
It is clear, Simms understands how difficult it is to find a talent of Stafford’s quality. “If I own a football team, I’ll take him in a heartbeat. He can be my quarterback right away,” Simm exclaimed. He also commented about the state of the franchise and how it relates to the success of Stafford.
“I think it’s just up to the Lions organization to get this thing in order to take advantage of a talent that you could draft for the next 20 years and not find a guy that can throw the ball like him. I don’t make alibis for the quarterbacks, but a lot of times a quarterback fails because the organization fails. A quarterback can’t overcome the coaching, the general manager and the owner. So when things don’t work, start from the top and work your way down.”
You could presume that Simms was noting the contrast between the failures of former offensive coordinator, Joe Lombardi, and the quick turnaround under Jim Bob Cooter.
Boomer Esiason, another CBS analyst and heralded ex-NFL QB, also noticed a stark difference between the two halves of the 2015 season.
“I went on a radio show in Detroit three weeks into the season and I said he looked like a quarterback that doesn’t have the answers to the questions that are being posed to him every game on the field, and what I meant by that was, it was a lack of coordination. Whether it be Lombardi, whether it be their offensive line coach. Whoever the guy was that was responsible for the communication, it looked like Matthew was getting hit in the ear when he shouldn’t have been being hit in the ear. He should know whether or not to throw the ball or that guy is getting blocked,” said Esiason.
There was an obvious disconnect somewhere, and no matter the true culprit, the quarterback takes the blunt of the blame. The last eight games under Cooter was the best run of any Lions quarterback in the history of the franchise. Stafford accumulated an 110.1 quarterback ranking and completed 70% of his passes. Esiason took notice to Stafford’s quick transformation after the coaching change.
“And when your quarterback becomes exposed like that, then all of a sudden everybody starts questioning whether or not he’s any good. And then all of a sudden, Jim Bob Cooter came in and did a great job, I think, pairing things down, making Matthew understand what’s happening on the field along with his teammates. So Matthew’s going to be fine,” said Esiason.
Both Simms and Esiason shared the same sentiment. Matthew Stafford is an extremely talented individual and has been put in a bad situation the last few years. With the guidance of Cooter, he doesn’t need a hall of fame receiver to be a successful quarterback in this league. In Esiason’s own words, “You can definitely build around him.”