By Ashley Dunkak
Known in his playing days as the Polish Cannon for his throwing accuracy, Ron Jaworski is no Monday morning quarterback. He played 10 years in the NFL – no shabby resume – before becoming an analyst for ESPN.
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford knows all that, but that does not mean he takes Jaworski’s criticism of his mechanics to heart. Several times Jaworski has talked about Stafford’s great arm and aggressive mentality, which Jaworski appreciates, but he maintains that Stafford has to make some changes to become an elite quarterback.
Most recently, Jaworski ranked Stafford 16th in his annual quarterback countdown. Matt Schaub, Jay Cutler and Tony Romo all came in before Stafford on Jaworski’s list.
“What stood out studying Stafford was he was not as efficient under center as he was in the shotgun,” Jaworski said in justification for his rating of Stafford. “He seemed to struggle to read coverage as effectively. Too many forced throws. Overall, he just threw too many passes with poor balance and bad footwork, with a tendency to fall away from the throws.”
What would Stafford say to Jaworski if he could talk to him right now?
“What’s up Jaws? What’d I ever do to you?” Stafford cracked, then backed off. “No, I don’t know. He’s a great guy. I actually do like listening to him. He was a really great player and knows what he’s talking about.”
That aside, Stafford is not concerned about what people say. He evaluates his mechanics all the time, he said, and he realizes that people will talk because, well, that is what they are paid to do.
“I critique myself. I’m my own worst critic – except for some of those guys are pretty bad,” Stafford joked again. “No, I’m just kidding. I understand those guys, they have a job to do. They have to talk. In the off-season there’s not a whole lot to talk about. I understand that. Don’t get me wrong. I take a close look at my game at all times and try to make sure I’m playing my best.”
Stafford certainly has not played his best this preseason, although evaluating a veteran player in preseason is something akin to measuring with a warped yardstick. In his limited time, Stafford threw 310 yards while completing 49.1 percent of his passes. He threw one touchdown pass and one interception and was sacked once.
Again, he put up those numbers in some rather unrealistic situations – no Calvin Johnson, for one – but the mediocrity of the statistics has still been a little unnerving to some. Stafford does not fit in that category.
“We had guys coming into new roles and playing roles that frankly they’re probably not going to play once certain guys on our team are back in the game,” Stafford said. “It’s nice being out there at practice having the full complement today, and just guys in their roles that they’re comfortable with ready to go play, and I think it’s going to help as an offense play to our potential.”
All in all, Stafford said he is optimistic about the offense. Even the inexperience on the offensive line does not have him worried, particularly because of the addition of more playmakers.
“For one, it’s another year in the system,” Stafford said. “We’ve got tweaks and things that we’ve done to try and make this offense better. We’ve added players, guys that are talented players like Reggie [Bush], and Joique [Bell]’s coming along and playing really well this preseason. We’re young up front, no question, but we’re athletic too. We have guys that can move people, can anchor down the passing game, and it’s fun to watch.”
Head coach Jim Schwartz is similarly confident.
“We have all the confidence in the world in Matt,” Schwartz said. “Matt played a lot of games last year, and Calvin set an all-time NFL record and Calvin missed quite a bit of practice last year. Matt has good command over what we’re going to do, and all those pieces will fit together very well.”