After the underwhelming debacle that was the Detroit Lions 2012 season, they had an ultimatum to consider; To make Matthew Stafford their franchise quarterback or humbly regress themselves to another disappointing season in an attempt to receive a top quarterback prospect in next years draft. While gifted standouts such as Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel could prove to be viable options next year, the Lions would be in the exact same position as they were when they first acquired Stafford from Georgia in 2009. However, rather than concede that Stafford was a lackluster quarterback, the Lions made a bold move by giving Stafford a three-year $53 million extension with $41.5 million guaranteed. While this may seem like an inevitably fatal decision given Stafford’s recent performances, he hasn’t exactly had the ideal team dynamic to back him up.
Last year, Stafford threw 727 passes throughout the regular season which is the most thrown by any quarterback since Drew Bledsoe threw 691 passes for the New England Patriots back in 1994. Obviously, Stafford’s numerous pass attempts can be initially attributed to a lack of a solid and a consistent running game. Despite the fact that Stafford threw for over 307.9 yards per game (2nd most in the NFL), the Lions running game often failed to exhibit any type of offensive prowess by only rushing for a mere a 100.8 yards per game (23rd in the NFL). While the Lions defense wasn’t exactly as terrible as their aforementioned running game, it was average at best in stopping the pass (223.1 yards per game, 14th in the NFL) and the rush (118.1 yards per game, 16th in the NFL). Simply put, Stafford’s lack of expected continuity as an avid passer has more to do with a team that lacks overall cohesion rather than Stafford being inadequate.
Luckily, the Lions draft prospects look to address these lingering issues and can hopefully provide this team with some much-needed balance. The Lions first round draft pick of defensive end Ezekiel Ansah from BYU set tone for how this team wanted to reload. In three out of the first four rounds of the draft, the Lions went with mostly defensive prospects such as corner back Darius Slay from Mississippi State and defensive end Devin Taylor from South Carolina. The Lions utilized the latter rounds of the draft to flesh out their offense with wide receiver Corey Fuller from Virginia Tech and tight end Michael Williams from Alabama.
Yet, while the Lions draft was fairly solid given the fact that they acquired crucial defensive prospects, one of their free agency acquisitions could prove to be more beneficial than any of their young draft picks. Given the Lions ineffective running game, receiving Reggie Bush from the Miami Dolphins was a vital need that the Lions couldn’t afford to live without. Although Bush has had issues with ball security in his last two years after fumbling eight times and losing the ball four of those times, his swiftness and hard nosed running abilities have proven to be stellar. In Miami, Bush was clearly in the prime of his career when he scored twelve touchdowns and rushed for over 2,000 yards in his two years with the Dolphins. If Bush can cut down on the careless and costly turnovers, he’ll prove to be the final component to the Lions reinvigorated offensive squad which should make them a much more potent force to be reckoned with in the NFC North.
In the end, while it could be argued that Stafford wasn’t worthy of such a risky contract, his toughness and overall passing abilities which have proven to be exceptional when he his at his best make him a quarterback worth taking a chance on. If the rest of the Lions squad can hold up their end of the bargain by putting forth just as much determination and passion as Stafford has, this team could be the Cinderella story of the NFC and regain the respect they were worthy of during their impressive 10-6 season only two years ago.