What we know about Matthew Stafford after 100 NFL starts


Detroit’s Matthew Stafford had more passing yards through 100 games than any quarterback in NFL history.

Matthew Stafford is a top-tier NFL quarterback. As recent as two years ago, you might’ve thought I was out of my mind for making such a statement.

No longer is such the case, as the Detroit quarterback has the stats to back it up over a large sample size of games. A little over a week ago, in Detroit’s victory over Washington, Stafford made his 100th career NFL start. That’s enough action to analyze his effectiveness as a pro player.

First and foremost, Stafford has developed a knack for coming through in crunch time. He’s orchestrated 24 game-winning drives and 21 fourth-quarter comebacks over his eight-season career. The 21 comebacks in the final quarter of regulation have him tied with Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler for the 21st-most in NFL history. Additionally, six of those comebacks have come since the beginning of the 2015 campaign, with the most recent one having taken place during Week 7.

Week 7’s come-from-behind win concluded a streak of three straight fourth-quarter comebacks for the Lions’ franchise QB, which matched his personal-high for consecutive comebacks that was set during Weeks 7, 8 and 10 in 2014.

Stafford is also tied with Cutler for the eighth-most comebacks in the fourth quarter among active QBs. New England Patriots QB Tom Brady leads all active passers with 37 such touchdown drives.

Of the seven QBs ahead of Stafford on the active fourth-quarter comebacks list, the former University of Georgia star possesses the most TD drives since the start of the 2015 season. It;s to the point now where Lions’ fans expect Matt to make it close in the final quarter. They might wish the team didn’t have to come-from-behind, but they must admit Stafford provides the possibility of excitement in the two-minute offense.

Through 101 starts (including the loss to the Texans this past Sunday in Houston), Stafford’s won-loss mark as an NFL QB is 46-55. Not stellar, but considering the woeful team he’s had around him at times, not too shabby. If you take out his 2-8 record as a 21-year old rookie in 2009 when the Lions were a terrible team, his overall record since is 44-47 with two playoff appearances. To be fair to Stafford, in his 8+ seasons he’s played under two head coaches, four different offensive coordinators, and he’s rarely had an offensive line that protected him in the pocket.

By the numbers, Stafford stacks up against the most heralded quarterback in his conference, Green Bay’s Super Bowl-winning Aaron Rodgers, who has twice been named NFL MVP. But does Rodgers still have the edge on Stafford? Maybe. But check this out: from the ninth game of last season to now, Rodgers has compiled 29 TDs and nine interceptions, whereas Stafford has accumulated 35 TDs and 6 INTs.

There’s also this: in the last two seasons, Rodgers has produced only two fourth-quarter comebacks, the last one in Week 13 last year on a Hail Mary that left everyone at Ford Field in complete shock.

What do these stats mean? While they don’t necessarily prove that Staff is the better QB, they do, however, prove that he belongs in the same conversation as the two-time regular season MVP.

If those stats aren’t impressive enough, there’s also the fact that Stafford, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, threw for more yards than anyone else in league history through 100 games. He achieved the feat October 2 versus the rival Bears. The Lion signal-caller had more passing yards through his first 100 games than Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Joe Montana, Steve Young and Dan Marino, whom Stafford passed to claim the honor.

Most importantly, though, he’s helped Detroit’s offense click in the post-Calvin Johnson era. He’s made the transition to new No. 1 wideout Marvin Jones, the former Cincinnati Bengals WR, appear seamless. Stafford and Jones have connected 36 times through eight games this season for 656 yards, which ranks fifth in the league.

And Stafford has done all this with a porous offensive line and a running game that has been missing number one back Ameer Abdullah since Week 2 when he suffered a foot injury.

After losing Abdullah, the Lions proceeded to drop their following two games at Green Bay and Chicago. It looked like the season was over, with seemingly everything, including calls made by officials, going the way of their opponents. Jim Caldwell was growing more and more irritable with every passing postgame presser in which his squad suffered defeat, and members of the media started calling for his head.

While Caldwell surely remains on the hot seat, especially after calling for an onside kick late in the fourth quarter in a loss Sunday against the Houston Texans while possessing three timeouts, interest in the team’s performance on the field returned after the three-game winning streak due to Stafford’s play. #9 returned some confidence in the team by coming through in the clutch in three straight contests in front of his home fans at Ford Field.

It started with late-game heroics in Week 5 against the Philadelphia Eagles, and didn’t stop until Stafford led the Lions to a come-from-behind victory against Michigan State product Kirk Cousins and Washington two weeks later.

And the key to that stretch of success from an offensive standpoint was Stafford spreading the wealth to his array of talented pass catchers, including receivers Jones, Golden Tate and Anquan Boldin plus running back Theo Riddick.

Stafford has made Lions fans kind of forget about Johnson, the franchise’s all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and TD catches. In addition, Stafford has validated his claim that the Lions’ offense will be harder to defend without Johnson, silencing the critics that thought he was crazy when he made the comments.

With Johnson having traded in his cleats for dancing shoes, it’s allowed Stafford to become the face of the team, and he has clearly accepted the role.

The Detroit QB has embraced every hard knock he’s taken, with or without a helmet, and he’s been able to elevate the Lions from lackluster to respectable.

That, to me, defines who Matthew Stafford is, now 100+ games into his career. The Lions’ quarterback is an emerging team leader, a clutch player, and a top-tier NFL passer.