Every week during the season, we’re debating the biggest talking point from the week before about the Detroit Lions.
Lions’ Toss-up, Week 5: After Calvin Johnson couldn’t go, the Lions lost in Green Bay 22-9 and didn’t get much offensive performance at all. Are you concerned about Matthew Stafford’s abilities as a franchise quarterback given his inability to rise above an injury to his top weapon and make his other receivers better?
Andrew Tomlinson: I think the exact opposite. I thought Stafford played exceptionally well despite what he had on offense. His numbers weren’t flashy, but with a lack of a running game and no deep threat receiver, I thought he looked really good. His receivers couldn’t hold on to the ball and that is ultimately what the issue was against the Packers. Stafford should have had two touchdowns, too. Don’t forget how Patrick Edwards couldn’t hold onto the ball in the end zone.
With Stafford making guys like Kris Durham look serviceable and getting solid contributions out of Kevin Ogletree just days after he joined the organization, it is safe to say he’s the best franchise quarterback the Lions have had in several decades.
Max DeMara: The Lions did have five drops against the Packers (tied for a single game high this season), which was an important statistic given the lack of Johnson meant everyone else would have to elevate their game and didn’t. I don’t think the performance in Green Bay itself is the issue for Stafford, but rather, his repeated inability to make his other wide receivers great. Give Tom Brady or Peyton Manning someone with Durham’s size and they would turn him into a name, not merely a serviceable player. Some quarterbacks have a knack for that and others don’t. Stafford is what he is, which is why he will be thought of as a third tier quarterback until he manages to prove otherwise.
That isn’t Stafford’s fault, though. He’ll never be a Brady or a Manning in terms of the ability to make other receivers better on his own. Very few quarterbacks are, and the Lions need to understand that. Even with Johnson and Reggie Bush in the fold, Stafford needs more help. Defensively and in the trenches, two typical areas of concern from fans, the Lions are getting to a point where they’re solid enough that they can afford to add options on offense. This offseason, Detroit needs to add another top playmaking wide receiver. We’ve seen how tough things can be without Nate Burleson, but without Johnson, the offense is downright dead. Given his role on the team, Johnson’s going to take hits and may be forced to sit out, no matter how durable he’s been. It’s up to the Lions to be prepared for this and give Stafford at least one better option down field than Edwards, Durham or inconsistent slot receiver Ryan Broyles. That’s the real issue.