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Twentyman: Stafford's leadership is exactly what the Lions need

Posted Nov 1, 2012

This Lions team has some veteran leaders and some terrific locker-room leaders, but if they are going to get back into the playoff hunt, it's Stafford who’s going to lead them there

Every Friday, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford stands in front of his offensive teammates and gives a presentation on that week’s opponent. He’s been doing it since he won the starting job out of training camp as a rookie.

But even though he has done the same thing week-after-week, those presentations have evolved over the years.

Early in his career, Stafford stuck to the X’s and O’s and the opponent breakdown. Now, he gets into much more than X’s and O’s.

Stafford understands every facet of the offense and isn’t afraid to speak outside of his responsibilities to any position group or player. He does it with a confidence that helps every player who listens feel he's prepared for Sunday.

It’s the maturation Stafford has taken as a leader, becoming exactly what this offense needs.

Good leaders do so unbeknownst to those they're leading. That’s Stafford in a nutshell. There’s a subtle confidence about him.

Take the final 16-play, 80-yard drive he orchestrated to beat the Seahawks last week. Stafford didn’t have to give a big speech when he entered the huddle following Seattle's lead-changing score. He stepped in, called the play, and the 10 other guys knew he had it under control.

Stafford has been described as a natural leader. A player so confident in his own ability that it’s projected onto others when he speaks ... like in those offensive team meetings.

Some of his teammates got their first real look at what type of leader Stafford was during his rookie season when he separated his non-throwing shoulder at the end of regulation against the Browns.

Stafford literally fought through the trainers and doctors back onto the field to throw the game-winning, 1-yard touchdown strike to Brandon Pettigrew with no time left.

Leadership is established first out of respect and Stafford’s performance against the Browns went a long way to building that up.

His play on the field last season, leading the Lions to the playoffs for the first time in 12 seasons, was another step.

Fast-forward to this season and Stafford is facing an even bigger challenge. The Lions aren’t living up to expectations at 3-4 and they need someone to lead them back.

As the franchise quarterback, that task falls squarely on Stafford's shoulders. It is complicated further by the fact that the offense is littered with young players and a range of personalities with receivers Titus Young and Ryan Broyles and running backs Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell.

Being the quarterback is almost as much about managing personalities and making it all fit together than it just making throws.

Stafford stepped the limelight as a sophomore in high school. He did it again as a freshman in college and did it as a rookie in the NFL. He’s used to the role and he’s a natural leader in it.

He’s not the 'rah-rah', get-in-your-face type, but rather the calm voice that feels comfortable stepping outside the quarterback position if he feels he can add something.

This Lions team has some veteran leaders and some terrific locker-room leaders, but if they are going to get back into the playoff hunt, it's Stafford who’s going to lead them there.

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