By Eric Thomas

When word of Matt Stafford’s contract extension came down from Allen Park, a predictable and depressing moan yawned from the mouths of frustrated Lions fans.

You heard it, too. It’s the “bottom line” paradigm — One of sport’s most ridiculous ideas, repeated often by otherwise intelligent people with college degrees. “Bottom line,” they say, finger extended in the chest of a nonbeliever, “Stafford hasn’t won a playoff game so he isn’t worth the contract.”

“Bottom line” statements have gained some kind of odd credibility in sports commentary these days, in spite of their stupidity. Think about it. Why would anyone, when attempting to evaluate a problem, eliminate information? Why put on a filter? Do you gain anything by excluding certain facts from your decision making? If you went to a doctor complaining of an intestinal obstruction so pronounced that your head grew two hat sizes—would you extend an approving thumb if he looked you dead in the eyes and said, “Bottom line, you’re sick,” or do you dial whatever lawyer has the best track record for record-breaking medical malpractice returns?

Did you set your lawn ablaze when you got dandelions? Did you divorce your wife for dinner related failure? (“Bottom line: She burned pasta.”) Did you send your car into Houghton Lake because it blew two alternators? Of course not, but for some reason this idea persists with the Lions. Matt Stafford hasn’t won a playoff game, but there are other mitigating factors leading to that failure.

Matt Stafford has been compared to Aaron Rogers, Drew Brees and Joe Flacco for the last few days. These comparisons shouldn’t surface, but of course they do in the world of “bottom line” statements. Even Stafford himself had to stand on the field, ink drying on the line and summon answers for these ridiculous comparisons. Because he’s a nice southern gentleman, he didn’t collapse into a knee-slapping fit, pointing at the absurdity and the general premise of the question. He didn’t even mention that none (NONE) of the mentioned men inherited an 0-16 team.

Other fun differences between Stafford, Flacco, Brees and Rodgers:

  1.  Matt Stafford is younger than all those quarterbacks by 3 years.
  2. Drew Brees walked out of San Diego after that team committed to Phillip Rivers. Brees won the Superbowl in New Orleans. San Diego decided to spend the next decade perfecting the December collapse.
  3. Aaron Rodgers inherited a team that went to the playoffs almost every year with Brett Favre.
  4. Flacco has a defense. And a running game. Just a way better team.
  5. It took Drew Brees FOUR years to win the Superbowl in New Orleans, after leaving the Chargers.
  6. Stafford was a Pro Bowl alternate last year. Seriously, calm down.
  7. None of the above QBs had a receiver that was clinically insane.
  8. Every QB but Stafford had a threat out of the backfield, even if it was a swing or screen pass.

There are reams of information out there if you want it. You live in an age of available game film, libraries of statistics online and Russian novel length reams of analysis—all available at your fingertips, in a heartbeat, and you ignore all of it and focus on the “bottom line?” Why only focus on any one statistic?

Stafford threw for 5000 yards in consecutive years; 1.5 of those years without the ghost of a running game. Any Lion fan under Sodium Pentothal, even those who limit themselves to the hot and cold serenity of the “bottom line,” will probably count the porous secondary as the chief concern in the waning games of 2012. That Lions fan might admit that the problem wasn’t Stafford but the coverages he was forced to throw into. Teams (broken record alert) played ten yards off the ball last year, acknowledging that the Lions were so one dimensional that my dog could predict their playbook because of basic personnel—

Whatever. Bottom line: Quit whining about Stafford’s contract.


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