Column: Give Matthew Stafford the credit he deserves


Courtesy / LA Times

Brian Bloom, Staff Writer

When you hear the word “Most Valuable Player” (MVP) in a conversation about football, who do you think of? The first names that come to the majority of fans’ minds are quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, or perhaps even Aaron Rodgers. All three have had tremendous success over the last couple years, all winning the award in one of the past three seasons. 

When I think of MVP, former Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford comes to my mind. On Sunday Oct. 24, fans will get to witness the reunion of Stafford and the Lions; the team that deprived him of a plethora of accolades and career accomplishments. Vastly underrated throughout his illustrious career, it’s time to start giving him the credit and recognition that he deserves. 

Stafford has been overlooked his entire career for numerous reasons. He has seen a lack of team success, his best seasons have been overshadowed by another player who barely outplays him, and he is just now getting the opportunity to display his talents on a playoff team. 

Stafford has been the victim of an ill-fated organization for his entire career. In 12 seasons with Detroit, he has only been a part of four winning teams, three of which made the playoffs and lost in the wildcard round. The organization has made no conscious effort to build a true playoff contender. They failed to satisfy Calvin Johnson, one of the greatest receivers of this generation, they didn’t build a reliable running game, and the defense for the vast majority of his tenure in Detroit was nothing short of disappointing. 

This lack of success, especially in the playoffs, has largely been attributed to the reasoning as to why Stafford isn’t associated with the all-time great quarterbacks. Jason Ross, a journalist for Sports Illustrated says that Stafford owns the record for the most wins by a quarterback in Lions’ history, but the lack of playoff success puts a divide between him and all-time great quarterbacks such as Tom Brady and Rodgers. 

This irreverence towards Stafford shouldn’t be attributed to his individual play; the organization didn’t do enough to help him succeed. In 165 games played in Detroit, he was sacked an absurd 385 times, which is almost three sacks per game. In five games with the Rams, he has only been sacked four times. The Lions have made a lackadaisical effort to protect Stafford throughout his service with the team.

Despite this, Stafford produced record-breaking statistics, many of which could have garnered MVP recognition if the team performed better. In 2011, Stafford boasted his greatest season in terms of passing yards and touchdowns. He threw for 5,083 yards and 41 touchdowns, both good for third in the entire National Football League, and the Lions made the playoffs that season, however, Brady and Drew Brees also eclipsed the 5,000-yard mark and their teams saw tremendous success. 

In 2014, the NFL MVP was Rodgers. He threw for 4,381 yards and 38 touchdowns. Comparing these two seasons together, Stafford most likely would have been considered the MVP. In the following six seasons, he passed for at least 4,200 yards in each season and averaged 26 touchdown passes per season. 

Yearly stats like these typically translate into Pro Bowl seasons, but because of his team’s success, he was only selected to the Pro Bowl once. Not only has Stafford performed at a Pro Bowl level for the majority of his career, he also has many NFL records attributed to him. He is the fastest player to throw for 15,000, 20,000, 30,000, and 40,000 yards

These numbers should hold more weight than they already do. He has done this with a poor offensive line to protect him, multiple head coaches, and only a few reliable weapons to throw to. Despite all of this, he has produced perennial Pro Bowl statistics year in and year out without receiving the recognition he deserves. 

This season has been tremendously different, and Stafford in a Los Angeles Rams uniform may have been the change required to help the media and fans come to their senses.

In the Rams’ offense, he has looked absolutely electric, helping the Rams soar to new heights, reaching a record of 4-1 through the first five weeks of the season. 

Stafford’s performance this season has been nothing short of outstanding; he has thrown for 1587 yards, 12 touchdowns, and has a Quarterback Rating (QBR) of 74.8. These stats challenge the pinnacle of quarterback rankings, he has cracked into the top five in nearly every quarterback statistic through Week Five. In the first rankings in the MVP race, Stafford is tied with Mahomes and Brady for second in the rankings. 

While they may be outstanding, these statistics are nothing new for Stafford. The media is finally starting to recognize his accomplishments, but his output has not been different from what fans are used to seeing out of the signal caller.

Stafford’s critics cite weeks four and five, where he struggled to find his footing against the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks, when they attempt to argue that he is overrated. 

Stafford’s struggles from week 4 continued into week 5, and his passes sailed over the heads of his open receivers,” Journalist JB Scott for said. “Many of the plays that we’ve seen made on a routine basis in recent years were no longer automatic.”

Even so, he is not completely to blame for the sputtering offense. He has been playing in the same system for 12 years– learning a brand new system and playing for a new team takes more than just a few weeks to process and perfect. 

Stafford has been extremely underrated throughout his entire career and he deserves to be considered heavily in the MVP conversation. He has been producing Pro Bowl caliber numbers since he came into the league, and the lack of team success has been the number one key to the shadow of doubt surrounding his legacy and where he stands among the all-time greats. However, this season will be one to remember for Stafford. He is on a new team–a playoff team–and one that will be contending for a Super Bowl title come February.