*Note: this piece was originally published prior to the 2016 regular season but it still rings true today, though some of the stats have certainly changed.
First of all, let’s get something straight. It took me a long time before I became a huge Matthew Stafford guy. Sure, I’ve always supported him and have wanted him to do well since he is the quarterback of my Detroit Lions, but in a sense of him being an “ELITE” quarterback, I’ve never bought-in until recently. That being said, there are WAY too many Lions fans who are counting the days that Stafford has as the Lions signal-caller and in my opinion, they are making a huge mistake.
Value of a franchise quarterback
Just recently, the Tennessee Titans (No. 1 overall) and the Cleveland Browns (No. 2 overall) traded away their 1st Round draft picks to teams who are expected to draft a quarterback. In order to trade up into the top two spots, the Los Angeles Rams, who now have the No. 1 pick, and the Philadelphia Eagles, who now have the No. 2 pick, had to give up what seems like an unbelievable amount. Sure, Carson Wentz and Jared Goff may both turn out to be franchise quarterbacks (UPDATE: Both look to have a chance!), but if history has shown us anything, the NFL Draft is a 50-50 proposition at best.
Whether or not you think that Matthew Stafford is the greatest thing since sliced bread, as an educated fan, you have to admit that he IS a franchise quarterback. He IS a guy, who with the right talent around him and a solid defense, can get the job done. Does this mean he is Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers? Of course not, let’s not get carried away, but I am confident (and you should be too) that Stafford would be the No. 1 pick in the 2016 Draft if he were somehow thrown in the mix.
Trying to replace No. 9
When somebody comes up to me or emails me saying the Lions must get rid of Matthew Stafford, I reply with the following question: Who would you replace him with? For some reason, that question almost always goes unanswered. Which quarterback, that is available, would come in and lead the Lions to a Super Bowl? I am telling you right now the answer is, NONE.
Can you honestly say that you would trade Stafford for Carson Wentz or Jared Goff? Would you rather have a guy (Wentz) who only threw 612 times in four years at a Division II school? How about a guy (Goff) who took 98.8% of his snaps from either the pistol or shotgun formation during his final year in college? Like I said earlier, both of those guys COULD turn into good professionals, but there is also a chance they could both be out of the league in five years. (UPDATE: Wentz and Goff both look like the real deal, but still not at the level of Stafford)
History is eye opening
Since Matthew Stafford was selected No. 1 overall in the 2009 NFL Draft, 16 quarterbacks have been selected in the 1st round. Let’s take a quick look.
2010- Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow
2011- Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder
2012- Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weedon
2013- EJ Manuel
2014- Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater
2015- Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota
So, of those 16 QB’s, how many would you consider to be a great quarterback? How many are even a franchise quarterback? I would argue that there may be two on that list that I would consider trading Stafford for straight up.
For those of you out there who say, “I would trade Stafford for a bag of balls,” you must not understand the difficulty of finding a franchise quarterback. It’s not easy.
It’s time to be thankful
Look around the rest of the NFL, how many teams in the league would give an arm and a leg to have a franchise quarterback? How many fan bases are hoping and even praying that they figure out a way to get a QB who can come in and get the job done rather than crap the bed like so many so-called “can’t miss” 1st round picks have done before? The answer may surprise you.
Is Matthew Stafford a Hall of Fame quarterback? Probably not. Does he have the ability to lead this team to bigger and better things if he is surrounded by the right players? Absolutely! In a league where finding a franchise quarterback is extremely important and extremely difficult at the same time, the Detroit Lions have one in Stafford and it’s time EVERY Lions fan admits that and is thankful.