By: Eric Thomas
There’s a curious anger directed at Matt Stafford, difficult for many of us to understand who’ve spent every Sunday of our natural lives watching the Lions, clutched in the kind of tension and nausea that’s normally associated with Montezuma’s Revenge. Those of us who live and die on every snap, who scream at the television and hold our heads in overwhelming sadness for hours after the game—Matt Stafford has been a revolution. The Lions have a quarterback. Yes, he struggles sometimes, but so does every QB. He’s good more times than he’s bad, and for a long-suffering that’s the Lions-fan equivalent of the 1944 Liberation of Paris.
Yet we hear the criticism. Stafford came into the league with impossible expectations, the first overall pick out of an SEC school who eschewed his senior season. There is a faction of Lions fans who want to keep looking until they find perfection. Dropped pass? Bench him. Interception? Cut him. A small but vocal percentage of Lions fans dog Stafford at every turn, uninterested in any new evidence on the field. He had a bad year in 2012, and some fans are ready to throw away all of 2011 and the games so far this year because of a few bad performances. There have been social media messages and phone calls for Shaun Hill to start.
Let’s settle this: If a person says Shaun Hill should start over Matt Stafford, if they even think it, dismiss them. They are not your friends. If it’s a person in your family, politely steer the conversation away from football. You don’t need to know anything else. You’re talking to a person who doesn’t watch the Lions with the same intensity you do. Whoever said that apparently wasn’t watching in 2010, when Shaun Hill won three games as the Lions starter, and Matt Stafford won ten with nearly the exact same team in 2011. In fact, Hill has never won more than five games as the starting quarterback in a season. People who want to start Hill over Stafford are to be shunned—it’s the nonsensical rantings of a syphilitic mind.
Matt Stafford should be the Lions quarterback as long as he’s physically able to perform the task. His good snaps far outnumber the bad. The same people who spent the last few years screaming for Jim Leyland to leave scream now for Stafford with the same motivation—attention. There isn’t a tactic behind their volume; just a primal, guttural call for someone somewhere to listen. They say ridiculous and illogical things so that you’ll listen. Just like Leyland, the problem with these trolls is that some otherwise sane people are listening.
An odd phenomenon has emerged among otherwise level headed Lion-related discussion, and it’s difficult to describe or quantify. There’s this tendency to talk about the “bravery” involved in criticizing Stafford, as if downgrading Stafford is some kind of fire-waking test that must be taken by people who seek to be taken seriously while talking about the Lions.
“You just don’t want to go after Stafford because you’re a fan.”
“No, I just think—”
“Whatever dude. You just love Stafford.”
“He threw for 5,000 yards in consecutive years and was a Pro Bowl alternate in 2011.”
“See? You’re a Stafford apologist.”
“No I’m not. He’s just a good quarterback.”
“Whatever. You’re a Stafford guy.”
The true Lions fan usually shrinks at this exchange, because the ad hominem argument has done its job. You’ve heard something like this in every bar and Thanksgiving table, probably peppered with expletives and requests for beer. The informed fans will compare Stafford to names like Rodgers, Brees and (new and more often) Andrew Luck because Stafford was a number one overall pick. Funny how people never compare Stafford to Jamarcus Russel, David Carr, Tim Couch, Sam Bradford or Jeff George.
Matt Stafford has won games for the Lions. He’s amassed an impressive array of statistics. He stayed in Michigan last year during the offseason. He’s led the Lions to the playoffs. He’s done everything you’ve ever asked of him and more.
He went to Pistons games.
What’s with all the hate?