Pat Caputo: Sorry, But Matthew Stafford Not NFC North's Best QB

So are we to presume Stafford would have matched his first-half level had he not been forced from the lineup?

Pat Caputo
June 18, 2020 - 2:29 pm
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Projecting Matthew Stafford as the NFC North’s best quarterback isn’t based on merit, but rather conjecture.

Stafford had a terrific first half last season.

He then went out of the lineup, and his absence only made the collective heart of Lions’ fans grow fonder. 

Evidently, it’s made them - and some pundits - forget about where the issues lie separating Stafford from very good and elite status.

Finishing.

It’s not work ethic, toughness nor smarts. Certainly, it has nothing to do with arm strength. Stafford returned to routinely making electrifying throws last season under offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.

Yet, whether Stafford has gotten over the hump will be determined by whether he can put together a great season start-to-close, leading the Lions to somewhere other than mediocrity in the process.

Stafford -- Best QB In NFC North -- Poised For Career Year: NFL Analyst

The Packers’ Aaron Rodgers will be 37 in December. You can make a case he is slowing down. Statistically, he didn’t have his best season in 2019, although it is based on a very high standard. He only threw four interceptions in 569 attempts, and has just six in 1,166 attempts the last two years. He takes care of the ball. Rodgers was 13-3 and won a playoff game.

Push comes to shove, honestly, who are you going to take - Stafford or Rodgers?

The debate is different in regard to Vikings’ QB Kirk Cousins. He possesses similar qualities to Stafford in arm strength and strength of character, but also, unfortunately, in tending to wane at key moments that determine success of seasons.

Not in 2019, though.

Cousins did have a much better completion percentage than Stafford, and his traditional QB rating was higher. More importantly, Cousins did make the clutch throws necessary for the Vikings to win a road playoff game at New Orleans.

The website profootballfocus.com had Rodgers, Cousins and Stafford rated sixth, seventh and eighth among NFL QBs in ’19. It seems about right entering ’20.

Rodgers and Cousins did succeed the second half of the season and in the playoffs in ’19.

Often, Stafford has faltered at those points in his career.

So are we to presume Stafford would have matched his first-half level had he not been forced from the lineup? And the Lions were just 3-4-1 when Stafford went out, albeit primarily because of a sieve-like defense.

Now, Stafford and the Lions could be on the way to changing that perception in 2020. Rookie running back D’Andre Swift is explosive. Stafford has an excellent receiving corps led by Kenny Golladay.

You’d think Stafford is too gifted to not have a season or two in which it all comes together for him.

Perhaps this is the year.

But can we please wait for Stafford to do it before anointing him as the best QB in the NFC North.