Why Matthew Stafford is just our No. 19-ranked QB

Matthew Stafford went from No. 7 in our QB grades in 2013 to No. 22 in 2014. Jim Seki explains the reasons behind the drop-off.

| 2 years ago
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

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.

  • Terrance

    I’ve tried to figure out why Matthew Stafford hasn’t been ‘great’ also and from the numbers I think the one thing that really sticks out is his year to year ratings of how he plays when he’s NOT under pressure. He’s seems to be 1-2 levels below most of the better qb’s in that one area. Maybe that’s an accurate issue but I think if you put those numbers together over his career and compare them you will see this has been his biggest weakness.

    Also I’ve read a lot going into this year about how much better of an understanding Stafford and the rest of the Lions offensive players have in year two of the Joe Lombardi offense. Sounds legit IMO and from what we’ve seen this preseason it looks that way also as Stafford (without Calvin Johnson playing a single snap) had a nearly perfect 156.3 QB rating this year.

    Lastly not sure if anyone has had a chance to watch Lions rookie RB Ameer Abdullah yet but he looks to be a special player with the ball in his hands. If so he’d give the Lions 3 legitimate weapons with CJ and Tate this year. In fact I’d put those 3 guys up against any other teams top 3. Keep in mind that last season the Lions threw the football to their RB’s more than any other team in the NFL so the addition of Abdullah could be huge for them this year.

  • Eric O. Nelson, III

    Put down the crack pipe. He is much better than 19. How many qbs take over an 0-16 team and lead them to the playoffs in 3 years? How many have thrown for 5,000 yards and 41 tds in a year?

    Second year in Lombardi’s system, with abdullah added to the run game? Potentially a top 5 offense this year.

    • AJ

      I dream of a day sometime in the future when people learn to stop attaching wins and losses to quarterbacks.

      • wyzel

        Also give up the 5000 yd thing, its not a big deal anymore, it was in 08 when Brees did his first time. Also he hasnt hit 30 TD’s since that year either. Linehan is gone and so are the big numbers, Linehan had more to do with those numbers than Stafford, just look when he was in minnesota with Randy and Daunte.

      • Dohkay

        Ironic, since Stafford is usually on the receiving end of W-L record criticism (see: no road wins against teams that finish with a record of .500 or better).

      • Joe Doe

        I agree. Would especially love to see them get rid of it in baseball for pitchers.

    • bobrulz

      He had 40 TDs and 5,000 yards 4 seasons ago. He hasn’t even approached those numbers since.

  • The Mysteries of Bob

    He is Drew Bledsoe 2.0. Underwhelming number one pick with occasional flashes of top play between bonehead mistakes that will always leave you wanting for more.

    Also, Jim Caldwell is a terrible coach, for all his reputation as an offensive guru, he has led very lackluster offenses when Peyton Manning is not his QB, Baltimore under him had a historically bad running game in 2013 and an awful offensive line, in 2014 under Kubiak they suddenly turned into a top rushing team and a dominant offensive line. Detroit last year, for all the weapons it had and despite Golden Tate replacing an injured Megatron extremely well, ranked as a below-average offense, they spent two consecutive games without scoring a touchdown (in 2014!!!). The Lions offense finished 22nd in score, 19th in yards, 19th in DVOA, 19th in net yards/attempt and 27th in turnover percentage.

    They basically won games on defense. It’s worth mentioning they went 6-1 in games decided by one score in the regular season and they had a phytagorean record of a 9-7 team, regression to the mean is coming to Detroit and Suh leaving has nothing to do with it.

    • gregg rice

      Lol ur too harsh. But he is very similar to Drew Bledsoe, though. He played like shit last year, no doubt. I was most frustrated with the performance vs. The pats last year, ironically. He looked lost and frustrated at times last year, and his biggest knock is his inconsistency and holding onto the ball too long. He’s seems stuck in that third tier, as is Matty Ice, Dalton, and Tannenhill. He played downright awful in the first half of games a lot last year, but Bob, this is a deserving grade. Funny u Made a reference to f.o., yet left out his 15th qb ranking, which I usually just get a medium for and rate em…17th, lowest since sophmore year, Lol look up the averageaverage qb’s down years, a 12 year career usually garners three or four off or bad seasons, for even elite quarterbacks, which Stafford is NOT. but he’s a very good qb, and he’s right at home in Detroit. If he doesn’t want to see a playoff game by next year’s playoff by next year’s playoffs, then outlets of panic butto by next year’s playoffs, then outlets of panic button, is no notable quarterback in NFL history is takin is no notable quarterback in NFL history has taken 8 years to win his first playoff game. At the same time have faith, he’s a top one third of the league qb’s, we really can’t do much better.

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    • ToreBear

      Pst.. Regression to the mean would indicate that the offense is in for a drastic improvement.

  • Dohkay

    I’ll bite. Stafford and the offense as a whole looked lost most of last season in their first year with Lombardi and his New Orleans offense. He also dealt with Megatron being a non-factor in 5 games (sure Calvin missed weeks 6-9 but he was also injured and/or a decoy in the two games before that as evidenced by his 3 catches over those 2 games). They had a bad OL, especially up the middle with Sims and Raiola (both now gone), and dealt with injuries to the RT position to top it off.

    The Lions had almost no production from their TEs (Fauria was hurt and has now been cut, Pettigrew stayed in to block with the porous OL, and Ebron was a rookie in a complex scheme trying to learn several positions at once). The RBs weren’t much better with Bush and Bell battling injuries (and drops). The only real positive was Golden Tate.

    Everyone seems to be more comfortable in the offense thus far and everyone is healthy for the time being. They upgraded their OL at LG and C (Swanson, Tomlinson, and Ramirez will be much better than below average Sims and Raiola), they upgraded at RB (Bush was awful, AA will have no trouble replacing him), and they should have a TE presence this year if Ebron is now on board with the offense (though I’m holding my breath).

    If Stafford doesn’t improve this season then we can all agree he’s the 19th (or worse) rated QB. I think he’ll be considered top 10 after this season.

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    • terry welsh

      Almost right, most of the Lions fans were happy with Staffords play last year as he was learning a complex scheme. His passer rating was up and interceptions down. Yeah, the Lions were conservative, but that was Caldwell doing. Caldwell took a 4 12 team and turned it into a 11-5 team, so nobody should question their style of play last year. They were in the first year of a new Head coaches system, yet still won 11 games. Just because Suh and Fairley are gone don’t think that Detroit won’t have a good defense. It should be as good or better.

  • ToreBear

    Since we don’t know how you grade, we can’t really tell why your grades are so low. If for example you judge by what decision is the optimal one on a given play you might be in trouble because you don’t know his progressions.

    Otherwise the situation around him is a big factor. The Oline had no stability with injuries and age causing a regression. The same for the skill positions with only Golden Tate being a constant all season. The new system being implemented ment that Stafford and his receivers, TEs and RB’s were not always on the same page when they were available to play. The improved defense meant playing conservatively was a better strategy. Hence throws that carried high reward but with increased risk were not taken.

    The eye test and information from the coaches says he improved. So I would say his drop in grades stems from your grades inability to isolate QB play from the other offensive elements and game situation is the issue.

    With one more year in this offensive system for both Stafford and the offense, improved Oline play and better health in the skill positions, his grades in your system should improve. Though I suspect your graders not knowing his progressions might lead them to give a poorer grade than is waranted.

    • terry welsh

      I wrote basically the same thing you wrote ToreBear. I hadn’t read any other posts yet. I thinks they give all Detroit players 1 minute of their time, and then go over to Green Bay and spend 1 hour per player. Any good fan that knows football could see their analogy of this team is totally wrong. They won 11 games last in a totally new system, so I’m thinking they improve this year. They count them out already because the Lions let Suh walk, and the troubled and often hurt Fairley go. I think it was a smart move and will clear more cap next year. They picked up a decent DL when they got Ngata, and he will also have to be double teamed. He has never been able to really rush the QB in the Ravens system, so it will be fun watch what he can do.

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      • Joe

        actually they rate 11 Lions players with +80 or higher. They just don’t like Stafford. But really if you read into their analysis,, you can see he’s due for a rebound. 12 games in a row positive before the slump. more weapons this year. he’ll be back up there

  • terry welsh

    “opposing defenses doing nothing to him”
    The man was on his butt or running for his life more then any other year in his career. Plus, he was in a completely new offense. Watch what happens this year. You guys don’t spend much time evaluating Detroit or its players that’s evident. Stafford had the worse offensive line in front of him in his career. Most were playing hurt. They have some youth in there now, so this year will be a learning curve for them, but they will still give him time to throw the ball and go through his progressions. The right tackle is still hurt.