Detroit offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said Thursday that quarterback Matthew Stafford could be better than he was without retired all-pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson.
I do think he was better than he was the last year, two years ago, three years ago.
Jim Bob Cooter
The undisputed champion of the NFL’s all-name team, Cooter is drinking a flavor of Kool-Aid that even the most die-hard of Lions fans can’t possibly swallow. Ridiculous numbers aside, there’s just no measuring the intangible value that Megatron provided as perhaps the ultimate go-to receiver of his generation.
— Michael Rothstein (@mikerothstein) October 13, 2016
Looks can be deceiving with Stafford.
It’s easy to glance at the numbers and think that Cooter may be on to something. Stafford is on pace for career bests in completion percentage, passer rating, and QBR through the first five games of the 2016 season.
Without his best receiver enduring smothering coverage schemes, it’s no doubt easier for the Lions’ signal-caller to read defenses and make adjustments. But the Lions are a meager 2-3 and, given that they play in the same division as the Packers and the suddenly indomitable Vikings, the chances of Detroit even sniffing the playoffs are slim to none. So it’s a bit misleading to say that the quarterback, and by extension the team, are in a better place without Johnson.
And that’s the real rub. In their playoff seasons of recent memory, Stafford had a receiver in Johnson that he knew he could count on in crunch time. When the Lions are near the goal line and need a big play in the end zone, there’s just no substitute for Megatron’s size and strength. Stafford knew he could throw a jump ball and, probably 80 percent of the time, Johnson was going to come down with the football. Detroit has no such threat these days.
No offense to early season statistical leader Marvin Jones. He’s a fine receiver, but he’s no Megatron.
So while it may be flashy for Cooter to say that Stafford is doing better now that Johnson is out of the fold, it’s just not so–and insinuation is pretty silly.