We learned a few things about the Lions on Thanksgiving. First, with Aaron Rodgers injured, Detroit should win the NFC North, even if it’s by default. Second, no matter what type of game they’re in, the Lions always seem to make dumb plays and commit even dumber penalties. Third, Matthew Stafford is good enough to carry this team deep into the playoffs. He can also be bad enough to keep the Lions out of postseason play altogether.
Stafford has moments where he looks elite. He certainly has as much talent as any quarterback in the game. His arm is arguably the strongest and he can make throws that no other quarterback can even consider attempting. He is capable of reading the field and working through his progressions. He can fit passes into tight windows. He’ll spot a defender with his back turned, and even though it may look like he has good coverage to the untrained eye, Stafford will pull the trigger, able to recognize that a defender’s back equals an open receiver in the NFL.
Most importantly, he has a short memory. Even after a mistake, a bad throw, or a terrible interception, he stays aggressive and continues attacking downfield. That’s a hard skill to master, and it shows his level of mental toughness.
The problem with Stafford is that many of his strengths are also his weaknesses. His strong arm enables him to make throws no other quarterback can. It also lets him get away with bad mechanics. He can make throws when off balanced. He can use unorthodox arm angles, allowing him to weave the ball between defenders. However, this only reinforces those bad habits. When Stafford makes mistakes it’s often due to his poor mechanics. Bad arm angles and terrible footwork are the main culprits, and they are the only things holding him back.
The best quarterbacks in the game have a certain level of precision and consistency. This is why they have such success week after week and year after year. Every quarterback has a bad game occasionally, but the elite passers like Peyton, Brady, Brees and Rodgers don’t seem to have as many as Stafford does. They don’t make the same amount of mistakes. Their mechanics are sound. It may be boring to hear over and over, but the better a quarterback’s mechanics, the more precise and consistent they are. Precision and consistency lead to success.
Stafford’s amazing ability has been on display for a few years. He already has a few signature moments to his young career. But until he can become more precise as a quarterback, he’ll continue to make mistakes that prevent him from being considered among the elites in the game. This will also prevent the Lions from making a deep run in the playoffs in 2013.