‘Tim Tebow has more playoff victories.’ He has a sub-.500 record as a starter.’ ‘He’s not even a top-five quarterback in the NFL.’
Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford has a new contract. In case you didn’t hear, it’s made him the highest-paid player in the NFL. While the Lions are happy to have their signal-caller locked up for the next five years, their excitement is not shared by many others. While criticism is to be expected when a player signs a record-breaking contract, the level of criticism Stafford has received has been unfair — especially from Lions fans. Simply put, Stafford is worth every dime of his $135 million contract.
It starts with supply and demand. There just aren’t tons of franchise QBs in their prime ripe for the plucking. Some are already locked into contracts and others are in the latter stages of their primes and/or careers, meaning they’re not candidates for expensive, long-term contracts. When one of these players does become available, you can bet he’s going to get his money. If his current team doesn’t offer it to him, another team in need of a good QB will surely do so. Given its history, Detroit is certainly not in any position to let a good QB walk out the door.
A list of Lions QBs who came before Matthew Stafford (viewer discretion is advised) https://t.co/rgJbLzsuar
— MLive Sports (@MLiveSports) August 30, 2017
While the deal Stafford received is the record-breaker now, another signal-caller will undoubtedly break it soon anyway. His contract broke the previous record set by Oakland Raiders QB Derek Carr — all the way back in June. Carr’s contract broke the previous record set by Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck just last year. Washington Redskins QB Kirk Cousins is in good position to break Stafford’s record with his next deal.
‘But what about his play?’ ‘Sure, he’s pretty good, but why couldn’t the Lions have signed him for a solid, but not record-setting, deal?’
It’s really not difficult to see why Detroit had to give Stafford this contract, but also why he deserved it. He’s brought stability and good play to a position that has been notoriously terrible in Detroit. From 2000 to 2010, the Lions started 12 different QBs. Since Stafford took over in the first week of his rookie season, he’s been their only starter. While he battled injuries early on in his career, let’s not forget he was playing on a team coming off a 0-16 season as a rookie. Once he finally got even a little help, he was able to stay on the field and improve as a player.
His progression has been easy to see over the past few seasons, too. It was especially on display last year when he ranked second in the league in total yards and set the NFL record for game-winning drives (8).
He’s proven he’s a quarterback capable of leading a talented team to a Super Bowl — now the Lions just need to build a Super Bowl-caliber team around him. Some downfield threats would be nice. As would a good defense that can handle offsetting a Detroit offense that is more turnover-prone due to its aggressive, pass-happy scheme.
Stafford is undoubtedly a franchise QB. To his franchise, he was worth whatever money he was seeking. It’s now up to Detroit to do all it can to ensure it gets the best return on its investment in him.