Making the Lions a consistent winner is next for Matthew Stafford

Posted Jul 15, 2013

The Detroit Lions extended Stafford's contract with the expectation that he can turn the team into a perennial winner

When the Detroit Lions signed Matthew Stafford to a three-year contract extension last week worth $53 million, they made a calculated bet that Stafford's 2011 season – the one in which he led the team to 10 wins and a playoff berth on the back of 5,000 passing yards and 41 touchdowns – would become the norm the next five seasons and not the exception.

Former Pro Bowl quarterback turned NFL analyst Donovan McNabb said last week that Stafford's career regular season record of 17-28 shouldn't have led to an extension of this value.

"I understand his point of view," Stafford said in an interview with ESPN's Mike & Mike when asked about McNabb's comments.

"I am all about wins and losses as well. It hasn't happened for us (consistently). That's something that's obviously extremely important, especially playing the quarterback position. I totally understand Donovan's point of view, but at the same time, I am trying to please the Lions and my teammates and my coaches and nobody else."

Nothing would do that more than making the Lions a consistent winner here on out. That's the next notch to add to an otherwise impressive resume so far for the fifth-year former No. 1-overall pick.

Stafford's extension, which includes more than $40 million in guarantees and carries a total value of $76.5 million over the life of the deal, makes him among the highest paid players in the league. His annual salary of around $15.3 million is currently the sixth-highest among quarterbacks.

That's the going rate these days to re-sign top quarterbacks, though. The number of quarterbacks making more than $13 million a year is now at 10, and when Atlanta's Matt Ryan signs his extension in the coming weeks or months, that number will grow to 11, which is more than one third of the league's starting signal callers.

Only Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo, Drew Brees, Joe Flacco and Peyton Manning make more per season than Stafford. Interestingly, four of those players own a Super Bowl ring and all five have a career regular season win-loss record over .500 (414-230 combined).

Stafford has orchestrated one winning season in Detroit in four years. His first two seasons were plagued by injuries, and to be fair, he was also inheriting a roster trying to revamp from 0-16.

But that's the past. Winning needs to be part of the future equation. That's the one thing that validates the deal. His paycheck places him among the game's top quarterbacks, winning will seal his place there.

Stafford is one of only three players (Tom Brady and Brees being the others) to throw for more than 10,000 yards over a two-year span. The talent is there. He's got one of the strongest arms in the NFL and the "moxy" as Lions president Tom Lewand called it to lead a franchise.

Last week's extension wasn't so much about what Stafford has already done, but what the organization thinks he's going to do over the next five seasons.

"He has that work ethic, he's got the personality, he's got the leadership characteristics," Lewand said.

The Lions did Stafford a huge favor this offseason in surrounding him with arguably its most talented roster in more than a decade. He has the weapons, the security of a long-term deal and the full backing of the coaching staff, the front office and the locker room.

"I put a ton of pressure on myself," Stafford said. "I want to be a great quarterback in this league and win a bunch of games and win Super Bowls like everyone else."

The only thing left to do now is make good on those remarks.