Fans can say what they want about Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. He has been injury prone in his career and his numbers dropped off quite a bit last season from the year before. However, the Lions have never had a better chance of winning big games with Stafford under center since running back Barry Sanders was making defenders miss left and right. For that reason, the signal caller absolutely deserved the five-year, $76 million ($43 million guaranteed) contract extension he received.
“He’s evolved into a leader,” Lions President Tom Lewand said, according to USA Today Sports. “Now when rookies walk into the locker room they see a quarterback who’s been here four years and they see a different guy who occupies a different spot on the team and a lot of that is because of his own efforts.
“I don’t think we have a guy on our roster who’s worked harder than he has, and I’m not sure that you’ll find a guy who cares more than he does about this team and about winning, and about his teammates.”
With big money comes big expectations. Not only do the Lions expect Stafford’s numbers to jump back up to where they were in 2011, but also the organization wants to see the team consistently make the playoffs over the next half decade.
Stafford exploded in 2011 in his first season in which he was able to stay healthy for all 16 games. He completed 63.5 percent of his passes for a whopping 5,038 passing yards, 41 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. He is only the fourth quarterback in NFL history to throw more than 5,000 yards in a single season.
Unfortunately, Stafford’s numbers dropped off quite a bit in 2012. He still amazed fans with his 4,967 passing yards. However, his 59.8 completion percentage, 20 touchdowns and 17 interceptions were not ideal for a team trying to reach the postseason again. Not to mention, his passer rating dropped from 97.2 in 2011 to 79.8 last season. The worst part was that Detroit only managed to win four games after expectations were so high heading into the season.
With all of that being said, 2013 is a new year and the Lions appear to have the look of a team ready to clinch a playoff berth.