Was anybody really surprised by Sunday’s outcome in New Orleans? Considered suspect by most pundits, the defense gave up six touchdowns through the air to Drew Brees on their way to a 45-27 thumping. On the other sideline stood a poised Matthew Stafford, starting his first meaningful game since beating the MSU Spartans at the Capital One Bowl in Orlando. While his numbers were anything but spectacular, his pocket presence has made a lot of fans confident that he will shortly lead this team to their first victory since 2007.
History tells us that highly touted draft picks also have their struggles. Indianapolis’ Peyton Manning may have had a huge rookie season throwing the ball, but his 28 picks did lead the league for the 3-13 Colts. Troy Aikman’s first game was a 28-0 loss to the Saints and his first year included twice as many picks as compared to touchdowns. While I am not suggesting that Stafford is of a similar caliber to Manning or Aikman, I believe his current on-field experience will make a huge difference down the road. Not every team can have Philip Rivers waiting in the wings, Stafford’s time to play now will benefit from a difficult schedule and reps with the first team.
There is no mistaking this team for a Super Bowl championship team. They are taking their lumps now with the hopes for long-term dividends. Stafford showed some great poise in a pair of solid drives and it is clear he’s developing a strong chemistry with Calvin Johnson and Bryant Johnson. With Minnesota coming to town for week two, Stafford and the Lions will get the opportunity to take on a defense which can really cause some problems at times. Coach Jim Schwartz’s willingness to ride Stafford to begin the season could be the greatest reason that Schwartz lasts longer than three years with this team.