Shouldn’t Our Trust Be In Matthew Stafford’s Arm?
I was there on October 11, 2015. The Detroit Lions were trailing the Arizona Cardinals 35-7, and Matthew Stafford had just thrown his third interception of the game midway through the third quarter. The crowd at Ford Field booed the home team quarterback off the field. Minutes later, when the Detroit offense once again took the field, Matthew Stafford was on the sidelines. Taking his place was Dan Orlovsky.
Those who were left in Ford Field, which couldn’t have been more than 25,000 to 30,000 fans, howled with joy, as another quarterback would now attempt to move the Lions’ offense. Almost everyone in the building had forgotten that Orlovsky had been one of the reasons that just a few years prior the Lions had made humiliating history and finished their season with a record of 0-16.
I won’t lie, at the time due to my anger I joined the masses and cheered for Danny O to take Stafford’s place under center. As I did, I looked to my left hoping to see my father garnering some happiness from this game, finally being able to cheer for something or someone.
Instead, I saw one of the few people in Ford Field who did not stand and cheer. I saw a man disgusted, and the look in his eyes spoke to me without him ever having to say a word. I could tell that he would never forget this moment and that he would never forget what these “fans” and I were doing to the leader of the Detroit Lions, Matthew Stafford.
The way I saw it, there was one other man in the stadium that would never forget that moment: Matthew Stafford.
Now, the media and Detroiters credit the success the Lions team has had, from halfway through last season up to this very day, to offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. But I’ve got to ask, why not Matthew Stafford?
The wins did not come right away. I know, I know. After that game against the Cardinals, the Lions had ugly losses to both Minnesota and Kansas City before seemingly righting the ship and finishing with 6-2 ending another lackluster season.
Maybe this is why the credit is given to JBC for supposedly fixing the Lions’ offense. Soon after the inept Joe Lombardi was fired, the Lions turned their game around on offense and became something other than pathetic.
Fact is, since that unfortunate Arizona game, there have been changes. Stafford has decided many times to finally put his head down and tuck the ball tight. He’s charged forward down the field looking for a first down or more with his feet. Although many Detroiters never thought it was possible, Stafford has turned the proverbial corner.
Along with a ridiculously efficient redzone TD percentage, his general completion percentage is up, and maybe most importantly, turnovers are down.
I’m a big believer in the intangibles in life, or the things you can’t explain. I believe that Stafford is cut from that very same cloth.
October 11, 2015 was possibly the most humiliating day of the young quarterback’s life. Since then, I believe Stafford looked deep inside himself and said, “If no one else will fix this, I will.” Something clicked with him that can’t be explained. Something that can only occur within the greatest of leaders or the greatest of men. He decided not to be the face of the “same old Lions” anymore.
Since then, the Detroit Lions have had hope, and hope is something that this team and this city needed. Last year, it was hope for next season. This year, it’s the hope that the Detroit Lions will be the NFC North champions for the first time since the division was renamed in 2002.
To be honest, I’m terrified about this weekend’s game against the New Orleans Saints. A few weeks ago in the locker room, Stafford told the team that the fans need to stop leaving early. This week could very well prove his point, as it may be a shootout to the very end.
You know what, with Stafford, I’m okay with that.