General manager Bob Quinn is leaving no doubt about Matthew Stafford’s status with the Detroit Lions, or his appreciation for the injuries he played through for a large portion of the 2018 season.
Stafford will not be traded, and Quinn thinks the Lions can win a Super Bowl with him as the starting quarterback.
“Matthew Stafford is our quarterback; he will be our quarterback here,” Quinn said Friday in his annual postseason press conference.
“Listen – this guy is a really talented player. Myself, the coaches, need to put him in better situations to allow him to use his skill set. Matthew is extremely tough. He’s extremely diligent in his work ethic. He sets a great example for all our players, and really all of our staff on how to go about his business.”
Asked directly if he thinks the Lions can win a Super Bowl with Stafford, Quinn replied firmly:
“I do. I do, yes.”
Quinn also said the long-term contract extension Stafford signed before the 2017 season has no bearing on his status with the Lions.
One uncertainty that relates directly to Stafford is the search to replace offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, whose contract was not extended. Cooter took over as coordinator midway through the 2015 season and had a solid relationship with Stafford.
Quinn indicated that Stafford will not have direct input in hiring Cooter’s replacement but could be asked to get opinions from players on other teams who have played for a potential candidate.
The 2018 season was statistically one of Stafford’s poorest. He threw 21 touchdown passes, his fewest in six years, and had 11 interceptions. His passer rating declined from his career high of 99.3 in 2017 to 89.9, his lowest in four years.
Stafford also was prone to fourth-quarter turnovers, a reversal of the fourth-quarter comebacks he had engineered in previous seasons that had been his calling card.
A prime example of that were the two interceptions he had in the fourth quarter of a 23-16 loss to the eventual NFC North champion Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving Day. The first was returned for a touchdown that broke a 16-16 tie. The second was in the end zone that short-circuited a potential game-tying possession.
The Lions put more emphasis on the running game under new head coach Matt Patricia to give the offense more balance. That had an impact on Stafford’s passing stats – 3,777 yards compared to 4,446 in 2017 and 6.8 yards per attempt compared to 7.9 – but he clearly was not as efficient as in previous years.
“Matthew obviously didn’t have his best statistical year,” Quinn said. “I think that’s stated and known. We went through obviously some changes in the offseason. We really committed to the running game
“That’s one thing that was an offseason priority for us, in kind of having a more balanced offense. We didn’t have as much passing success. We had much more running success.”
Stafford’s durability and willingness to play when injured were not issues.
Stafford started all 16 games to extend his streak of consecutive starts to 128. He was listed on the injury report as questionable because of a back injury for three straight games – Weeks 14-16 -- but was not on the report for the final game, a 31-0 win at Green Bay.
The Lions’ training and medical staff followed protocols in treating Stafford to keep him on the field. He played 1,052 of 1,075 offensive snaps.
“He went through numerous things, where he wanted to play through it, and our doctors said he could play through it,” Quinn said. “He showed a lot of toughness. That’s a credit to him. That’s one thing I will never, ever question.
“This guy loves football. He’s competitive. He’s talented. We need to do a better job of putting better players around him, scheming things up better to use his talent.”