Yesterday, the Lions officially nailed down their franchise quarterback. When Stafford signed on the proverbial dotted line, he instantly became $27.5 million richer. Now the question has to be asked; is Stafford worth the money?
In short, my answer to that question is no, but as with most issues, it's not an open and shut case. Let me explain my reasoning.
The great quarterbacks in the NFL win games for their teams. Matthew Stafford keeps his team in a lot of games, but he's only been able to push the Lions to one winning season in his four-year career. Granted, he missed a big chunk of his rookie season and most of his sophomore year, but that doesn't tell the whole story.
The best quarterbacks in the league post big numbers, even when their receivers aren't very good. True, Stafford pushes the ball down field, but he also makes far too many mistakes. In the three years he's played meaningful time, he's thrown a minimum of 16 interceptions (3rd season). Last year, he threw for a whopping 17 interceptions. That means, at least once per game, he gives the opposition the ball, often, in good field position. For comparison's sake, neither Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady have ever thrown 16 interceptions in a season.
Again, Stafford is good, not great.
The final statistic to focus on is completion percentage. Stafford's career completion percentage is just under 60 percent at 59.8%, which conveniently mirrors his 2012 percentage. Tom Brady's career mark is at 63.7%, Peyton Manning's is 65.2%, and Aaron Rodger's is 65.7%; all well above Stafford's percentage. Only once has Stafford topped 60% for a season, while other quarterbacks such as Tony Romo have never thrown for less than 60% in a season.
So no, Matthew Stafford is not an elite quarterback. He puts up big numbers, but that includes interceptions, not just completions and touchdowns. Matthew Stafford will likely keep the Lions near the middle of the pack over the course of the next several years, but that won't be good enough for head coach Jim Schwartz to keep his job, and when coaches change, systems change. When systems change, it's hard for a quarterback to keep up.
With their current roster, the Lions need a quarterback that can will his team to win, despite a lack of talent. Those quarterbacks are few and far between. If the Lions can put talent around Stafford, they can succeed, but the clock is ticking, and I'm not sure they've done enough for their quarterback in 2013.