Why Matthew Stafford is just our No. 19-ranked QB
Many fans might be surprised to learn that Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford ranks just No. 19 among NFL QBs in our PFF rating system entering 2015, with a rating of 74.2. That is just 0.4 points better than Bengals QB Andy Dalton.
But the truth of the matter is that Stafford has had a puzzling last two years. While most of his PFF metrics remained the same, his overall grade drastically dropped from a seventh-best QB rating of +18.6 in 2014 down to 22nd at -7.1.
Here are some signature stats that hardly show any difference (2013, 2014):
PFF QB rating: 85.27, 83.65
Accuracy rate: 72.1 percent, 71.9 percent
Deep passing accuracy: 37.7 percent, 36.5 percent
Under pressure rate: 28.9 percent, 31.9 percent
One possibility could be that Calvin Johnson, who missed Weeks 6-9, saw his yards per route run drop from 2.72 to 2.29. But that’s not that big of a drop, and Detroit had its bye in Week 9.
Another reason could be the coaching change to Jim Caldwell. More conservative, the Lions overall ran about 50 fewer plays last season than 2013. Stafford still dropped back just over 660 times, but their rushing attempts decreased from 400 to 346. Fewer plays means fewer opportunities for Stafford to throw, thus stagnating his passing grade. However, that still doesn’t explain a net 25.7 change in rating.
Stafford started off 2013 with 12 straight positively graded games, eight of which were green grades (representing a very good performance). Over his first 12 games last season, while he started off with a blistering +7.2 against the Giants, but only managed two other green grades.
It’s only until we look at his passing by direction and passing under pressure do we find the potential issue. In 2013 on throws between 0-9 yards of the line of scrimmage, he graded at +3.8. In 2014, that dropped precipitously to -6.8. It’s reasonable to think these short throws should be routine, especially for someone of Stafford’s ability. Furthermore, on plays when Stafford was not blitzed in 2013, he had a PFF rating of +23.0; whereas in 2014 he had another massive drop-off down to -10.7.
It’s possible that Stafford took the “easy” throws for granted last season, and with the opposing defenses doing nothing to him, self-destructed and was his own worst enemy. If Stafford can refocus and treat all throws with equal importance, Detroit should be there to contend for the NFC North and the postseason.