Jon Gruden on Matthew Stafford's mechanics: "I think sometimes we might over-analyze that."

Posted Dec 21, 2012

Jon Gruden used all three adjectives (tough, consistent and clutch) in describing Matthew Stafford, who’s consistently had around a 60-percent completion percentage over the past three seasons and has led nine fourth-quarter winning drives over his career.

There's been a lot of criticism directed at quarterback Matthew Stafford for his part in the Lions' 4-10 record.

Stafford has 17 touchdowns - down from 33 at this point last season - with 15 interceptions. His 78.9 quarterback rating is the lowest since his rookie season.

Former NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski has been openly critical of Stafford's mechanics this season, particularly his footwork and the different arm angles he throws from.

Super Bowl winning head coach and current ESPN Monday Night Football color analyst Jon Gruden spent three seasons in the Monday Night Football booth with Jaworski, but doesn't share his opinions on Stafford.

Gruden said he has a different perspective on what makes a good quarterback.

"I think first of all, Stafford is able to throw the ball from different body angles unlike most quarterbacks," Gruden told Friday. "He's comfortable doing it. He did it at Georgia. I'm sure he did it in high school when he was in Texas. It's not conventional all the time.

"I coached a guy, Rich Gannon, who did the same thing. As long as the balls are complete, I never had a problem with it, personally.

"I saw Dan Quisenberry pitch for the Kansas City Royals one year - he threw fricking underhand, sidearm ... if you're striking guys out and we're getting off the field, I like that. I like a quarterback that's tough, that's consistent, that is clutch."

Gruden used all three adjectives in describing Stafford, who's consistently had around a 60-percent completion rate over the past three seasons and has led nine fourth-quarter winning drives over his career.

"I think you have to have mechanics, don't get me wrong," Gruden said. "You have to have rhythm in your passing game. Every pattern has a distinct drop, there's a timing and a rhythm to it.

"But inevitably the pocket's going to collapse. There's going to be issues with every play where you have to alter your throwing motion, so I think sometimes we might over-analyze that a little bit.

"When you throw the ball 40-plus times a game, you're going to have some mechanical issues because of the rush, sensing passing lanes ... I mean (Texans defensive end) JJ Watt, if you don't alter your throwing motion at times you might get a lot of balls rejected."

There have certainly been times this season when Matthew Stafford has rushed passes and thrown off his back foot despite the fact that there has been room - and time - to step up in the pocket and deliver the football more conventionally, but Jon Gruden said that's the case with a lot of quarterbacks in this league.

"Every quarterback that I know must continue to work on their mechanics and I'm sure Matthew feels the same way," he said. "I'm sure there are times that he doesn't have his feet set, that he doesn't finish on his front foot and I'm sure those are things that he wants to continue to work at like every quarterback."

Gruden also touched on receiver Calvin Johnson's pursuit of Jerry Rice's single-season receiving record and the disappointment of 4-10 for the Lions:

On what he would have done with a guy like Calvin Johnson:

"Well, I've been lucky to coach some of the best. I coached Jerry Rice. I coached Sterling Sharp and Irving Fryer and Art Monk, Andre Risen, Mark Clayton. Tell you what I love about Calvin is that he's a great guy. He's smart. He's a great talent, incredible physical tools, but he's a hell of a guy. And that's what I admire the most about him."

On defenses' inability to stop Johnson no matter the coverage:

"I said it last time we had the Lions. You guys played Tennessee and the safeties, both of them were about 25 yards deep. Barry Sanders would do cartwheels to play in an offense like that. Jerry Rice got doubled. I've got film of him getting tripled one time running a post pattern.

"They cut underneath him, the corner had him, he had help over the top. The great receivers get special coverages. And when they do get one-on-one coverage, they always get the best corner on the other team. So that's why this record is a great accomplishment given the fact that I know you're throwing it to Calvin, they know you're throwing it to Calvin, but you're still throwing it Calvin."

On the disappointment of 4-10 for the Lions:

"Look, it's a very disappointing 4-10 because when you watch the Houston game, when you watch the Green Bay games, they're good football teams that they're slugging it out with and they could have put them all away. Indianapolis, you got a 12-point lead, four minutes left and you have the ball. Ten-win teams you have on the brink. That's disappointing.

"There's a lot of reason to be excited about the future. There's plenty of players that are in the tub with the trainer that need to get out of the tub and get back on the field for them to get back to 10-4. But a 24-year-old quarterback? Mega-star wide receiver? You got some players. They have to try to stay with these guys, some of the young ones. (Mikel) Leshoure, who's a running back here, somebody's got to step up.

"What are we going to do with these free agents on defense? Who's going to play in the secondary? In this division, with this secondary, I think we have to address those issues. It's pretty obvious.

"You got (Jason) Hanson though."