Super Bowl LVI win sharpens Matthew Stafford’s Hall of Fame chances

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Matthew Stafford

Matthew Stafford
Photo: Getty Images

I know you probably read the headline and thumbed your way to Twitter already to mock me for my recency bias, but I don’t think it’s that far-fetched anymore. Stafford has always been one of the most statistically-gifted quarterbacks in the NFL. However, the knock against him was always his inability to win. Now, in his first year away from Detroit, he wins a Super Bowl. That sort of validates the rest of his career.

Yes, he has a career losing record (86-95-1), but there’s been an enormous recent push to stop calling wins and losses a quarterback stat. If people truly believe that, and trust me, lots of people believe that, then how can Stafford be passed up? The man is the fastest quarterback to ever reach 20,000 career passing yards. He’s the fastest ever to reach 30,000 yards, and wouldn’t you know it? He’s the fastest ever to reach 40,000 yards. In fact, Stafford only needs five more yards in a regular season game to reach 50,000 career yards. Yes, he’ll be the fastest ever to do that, too, at 183 games.

Sure, a lot of those yards came because he was trailing in games so often, but he’s also one of the best ever at racking up those late-game yards to help his team comeback to win games. Since entering the league, no quarterback has more 4th-quarter comebacks than Stafford. And he led the league in that category in 2014 and 2016. He led the league in game-winning drives three times: 2014, 2016, 2017. For all the talk about Tom Brady’s clutch factor being a big reason why he’s the best quarterback of all-time, Stafford often gets overlooked because he was on one of the worst teams in the NFL. Just this postseason, Stafford had three game-winning drives. He had two fourth-quarter comebacks and he beat Tom Brady. Yes, it’s just one postseason, but it’s also his first year in a capable system. Give the man a break!

Let’s compare Stafford’s career to some Canton quarterbacks who never won a Super Bowl. I’m talking about Dan Marino, Dan Fouts, Philip Rivers (likely), and Jim Kelly.

Of those five guys, Stafford is second in completion percentage, first in yards per game, first in touchdowns per game, and tied for first in interceptions per game. He leads everyone in sacks taken per game. He leads everyone in career rushing yards and rushing touchdowns (I know that doesn’t matter, but it’s still fun), and most importantly, he has a Super Bowl ring. Nobody else on that list has one.

These are all Hall of Famers, or soon-to-be Hall of Famers (yes, Rivers is a Hall of Famer; fight me), and statistically speaking, Stafford surpasses them all. As long as he can play a few more years, he’ll likely pass them all in career yards and touchdowns, as well. He’s already second in career yards and third in career touchdowns vs. everyone on this list. The only stat Stafford falls behind in is wins.

Are we really going to keep a man who was stuck in a miserable situation for more than a decade out of the Hall of Fame because that’s where he was drafted? That doesn’t seem right. Sure, he could’ve refused to re-sign with the Lions or forced himself out of Detroit, but it’s arguable that Stafford’s resiliency and willingness to stay in Detroit through thick-and-thin, even while the Lions’ ineptitude as an organization ruined his career reputation, is more admirable — or dare I say Hall of Fame-worthy — than forcing your way into a good situation and reaching the playoffs time-after-time.

Keep in mind that with the Super Bowl victory Sunday, Stafford officially has a better postseason win percentage (.571) than Aaron Rodgers (.524) and as many rings. I’m not saying that Stafford is better than Rodgers as that would be preposterous. But his career accolades line up with some of the best ever in so many ways. The only, and I mean ONLY, thing holding Stafford back is regular-season win percentage.

However, even that poor record of his can be looked at somewhat positively if you squint your eyes and tilt your head. Since 2009, the Lions have the fourth-worst win percentage in the NFL (.397). Only Jacksonville, Cleveland, and Washington have worse records. From 2000 to 2008 though, the Lions had the worst winning percentage in the NFL (.278) — nearly 80 points lower than the next-closest team: the Houston Texans (.357), and they were an expansion franchise that decade. Stafford pulled that team out of the gutter and brought that pitiful franchise to the playoffs in just his third year, all while recovering from a shoulder injury that forced him to miss 13 games the year prior. Stafford is tougher than a $2 steak.

Stafford was always one of the most gifted quarterbacks in the league, and although he was never elite, he was always consistent. That’s the same argument every Rivers fan makes for his Hall-of-Fame case. Well guess what? Stafford has 38 games in hand on Rivers and I can almost guarantee that he’ll pass Rivers in nearly every category in that time. Even then, Stafford will still have a few good seasons left in his tank.

Stafford is a great talent, a great story, and now, he’s a champion. And no one can take that away from him no matter how many times they mention his career win-loss record. So, enjoy your victory lap Mr. Stafford. You deserve it for proving all of your haters wrong. 

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