Dan Orlovsky: Saints, Rams, Bears Just As Good With Stafford At QB

"If you look at the numbers this year, they’re not that different, Brees and Stafford."

Jamie and Stoney
January 03, 2019 - 6:04 pm

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Another year, another disappointing season for Matthew Stafford and the Lions. The difference in 2018, as opposed to the recent past, is that Stafford was part of the problem. His 10th NFL season was improbably one of his worst. 

We pause here to bring in Dan Orlovsky, Stafford's former teammate and longtime supporter who now works as an analyst for ESPN. 

"I'm not going to disagree," Orlovsly said. "Matthew’s year was not to the year that the expectations are, the standards that he has set. ... The play-calling was head-scratching, it seemed to handcuff him a little bit. The talent and the support level around him wasn't very good, dealt with some injuries, didn’t push the ball downfield enough, was asked to do a lot. You’re looking at all those variables and none of them are good enough, and Matthew will be the first to tell you that."

Still, Orlovsky remains in Stafford's corner.  

"We have to look at this in totality. … The easy narrative is to say, 'Well, he’s so great and he’s paid so much money that everybody around him should become better.' That is such a bunch of bologna. Find me the quarterback — Aaron Rodgers can’t play anymore? No, he doesn’t have any weapons around him. That’s my thing. You have to be honestly looking at this in totality. Is Matthew Stafford not good anymore or do they need to upgrade the people that are around him weapon-wise? I believe it’s the latter," Orlovsky said. 

Stafford finished the year with a passer rating of 89.9, 25th in the NFL and his lowest since 2014. (Rodgers' rating, for comparison, was 97.6. The Packers finished 6-9-1.) The Lions went 6-10 for their worst record since 2012. Stafford was no doubt limited by compromised personnel on offense, including the losses of Golden Tate, Marvin Jones and Kerryon Johnson. But it's been a common crutch for him over the course of his career. Give him a better supporting cast, and he'd be a winner. 

Would the 13-3 Rams be just as good with Stafford instead of Jared Goff at quarterback? 

"Ohh, yeah," said Orlovsky. "Matthew Stafford on the Rams? Yeah, they’re going to be easily one of the top two seeds in the NFC. You put Matthew Stafford on the Bears, they’re as good. You put Matthew Stafford on the Saints, they’re as good. … If you look at the numbers this year, they’re not that different, Brees and Stafford. The picks are different, but other than that, not that different. I’m not saying Matthew Stafford’s as good as Drew Brees. What I’m saying is, those teams, look at the surrounding picture, look at the surrounding help on those teams. It’s not close, it’s not even in the same category." 

Stafford threw 11 picks this season, compared to five by Brees. But that was far from the only difference between their respective numbers. Brees threw 32 touchdowns, Stafford threw 21. Brees completed 74.4 percent of his passes -- an NFL record -- Stafford completed 66.1 percent. Brees' passer rating was 115.7 -- an NFL high -- Stafford's was 89.9. The list goes on. To say the Saints, the No. 1 seed in the NFC, would be just as good with Stafford as Brees is a stretch. The same could probably be said of the Rams and Goff. 

For Stafford, it's been a tough year in the court of public opinion. He's been criticized by former quarterbacks Boomer Esiason and Rich Gannon, with Esiason knocking his leadership ability by dubbing him a "locker room lawyer." On the contrary, Orlovsky, who played with Stafford for three seasons in Detroit, says No. 9 has plenty of fire. 

"I don’t know if he goes berserk, but he’s a fantastic leader. He says stuff when he needs to say stuff, he jumps people when he needs to jump people. There’s different forms of leadership. I also don’t see Drew Brees kicking over coolers or the guys that we consider to be great quarterbacks…I don’t see most guys flipping out," Orlovsky said. "He’s a fantastic leader, that’s the last thing I ever question about him.

"I think the reality is, understanding the role that he’s been put in, you have to be able to handle the ups and downs, and sometimes that comes off as monotone or dry. But you have to have that ability. I always say one of his greatest strengths is his ability to handle the suck and his ability to handle the success. People can question what they want about him -- do not question his leadership, do not question his heart, do not question his character."