Jul. 24, 2015
Is Matthew Stafford an MVP Candidate?
Quarterback Matthew Stafford is in his 8th donning No. 9 in Honolulu Blue for the Detroit Lions. Up until now Stafford has been nothing but mediocre with flashes of brilliance throughout his career. After a flurry of front office and coaching staff firings last season, including the firing of former Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi who was replaced by Jim Bob Cooter in Week 8 in London, Stafford has been a different QB.
Jim Bob Cooter has been at the helm of the Detroit Lions offense for 16 games to this point, and he has helped turn No. 9 into a top 10 elite quarterback in the NFL. Over the 16 game span Stafford has completed 391-of-570 passes (good for a 69% pass completion rate), for 4,310 yards to go along with 35 touchdowns to only 8 interceptions. Stafford is also boasting a 105.4 passer rating over that time. From the beginning of the Cooter era until now, Stafford currently ranks 2nd in the NFL in TDs, 3rd in completion percentage, 3rd in passer rating and 4th in interceptions.
Thus far in 2016 Stafford has gone to the air for a total of 1,914 yards with 15 touchdowns and 4 interceptions – nearly a 3-to-1 ratio. Under Cooter’s play calling Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions have gone 10-6.
Over the last 16 games, especially the first 7 weeks of the 2016 season, Stafford has vaulted himself into Elite status. The veteran QB is currently throwing TDs at a 6.2% rate, which matches his career high from 2011 when he threw 41 TDs, it is also well above is 4.5% career rate. In 2016 Stafford has also collected three games with a completion percentage of 74% or higher.
Let’s focus in on 2016. This season, Stafford has led four comeback or game-winning drives accounting for every victory thus far. Stafford and the Lions are also the only team in the NFL to have four wins that have come by 7 points or fewer. Over his last three games, the Lions QB has completed 70.6% of his passes averaging 269.4 yards per game and has thrown 8 touchdowns with 0 interceptions to go along with a 105.4 passer rating – also a passer rating of 108.5 when blitzed.
The Detroit Lions have needed every bit of Stafford and his ability to collect their 4-3 record – thanks to an abysmal defense that can’t even manage to stop Case Keenum and the LA Rams. If Stafford was not running Detroit’s offense it could be argued that the Lions would be 1-6 or quite possibly 0-7 this season. It’s also important to remember that Stafford has put together the current 3 game win streak and 4-3 record with little to no run game, and the absence of offensive weapons Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick and Eric Ebron.
Many people will argue that Stafford should not be in the MVP conversation because of his losses to the god awful Chicago Bears and a Tennessee Titans. The Bears loss can be chalked up to strictly a bad day, however, there were a lot of circumstances out of Stafford’s control against the Titans. In their 15-16 loss to the Titans Stafford received no help from his offensive line which caused him to be sacked a total of four times. It wasn’t just the sacks that killed the game, Lions receivers dropped 8 passes on the day and the team committed 17 penalties – three of which ended up having Stafford touchdown passes called back.
Outside of the typical numbers everyone like to look at when discussing the MVP candidates, Matthew Stafford is also passing what I, and may other people, like to call the eye test. The veteran passer is leaner and stronger this season; the strength evident in the number of times he’s gone in to truck a defender rather than sliding during a scramble. The Lions QB seems to have taken over the team as well, up until now it always seemed as though it was Calvin Johnson’s team and everyone looked to him, thus far in 2016 it seems as though the team is Stafford’s and everyone looks to their play caller in game. Outside of the extra strength Stafford has been more mobile in the pocket avoiding rushers and sliding out of tackles and is currently second on the team in rush yards with 126.
After the last minute win at home against the Washington Redskins last Sunday it was reported that Stafford went into the huddle at the beginning of the drive and told the team “we got this” showing that his leadership has jumped in 2016.
To date Stafford is the MVP of the Detroit Lions in 2016. He’s put up massive numbers, his winning games in dramatic comeback fashion; and he’s doing it all with no run game or defense. If you strictly look at the numbers on paper and give him the eye test I referred to earlier and ignore the 4-3 overall record, Matthew Stafford deserves to be in the MVP discussion.
Other interesting Stafford career facts….
• Through his first 100 games he has thrown for 27,890 yards, which is the most by any player all time through their first 100 games.
• He has collected 19 4th quarter comebacks and 22 game winning drives; no other QB has more since 2011.
• Has thrown five game winning touchdown passes in the final 30 seconds of the 4th quarter, which is the most by any quarterback since the 1970 merger