By Will Burchfield
DETROIT (CBS DETROIT) – Prior to the Lions Week 7 game against the Washington Redskins, a prominent football writer suggested Matthew Stafford was possibly the best quarterback in the NFL.
Golden Tate was quickly one to agree.
“It’s about time that Stafford gets some respect, man. He’s a heck of a quarterback,” Tate said last Friday.
Then Stafford went out and led the Lions on yet another fourth quarter game-wining drive on Sunday, the 24th of his career in just 100 total games. Accordingly, the hype has risen.
In many peoples’ eyes, Stafford is now a legitimate MVP candidate. Good for them, he says.
“My job is to play well for this team, not for anybody else out there. I prepare and play for the coaches and the players in that locker room. That’s all I really care about,” Stafford said on Wednesday.
According to the sports gambling website Bovada, Stafford has 40-to-1 odds of winning the MVP award. He’s situated behind 15 other players, but he continues to climb the ladder. With another strong performance this Sunday against the Houston Texans, coupled with a Lions win, Stafford could be a legitimate top-ten MVP candidate at the midway point of the season.
“It’s not on my mind. I don’t pay too much attention to it,” he said. “I’ve had 5,000-yard seasons and 40 touchdowns, and haven’t sniffed the Pro Powl for it, so I don’t really care.”
In 2011, Stafford finished third in the NFL in both yards (5,038) and touchdowns (41) while leading the Lions to their first playoff appearance in 11 seasons. But he was left off the NFC Pro Bowl roster in favor of Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Cam Newton and Eli Manning.
So one can forgive him for not putting any stock in the league’s voting system when it comes to postseason awards. Not that the personal accolades matter to him, anyway.
“As far as the MVP talk, I’m sure Stafford’s not even listening to that,” Tate said on Monday. “He’s just showing up to work every week. He’d much rather have a Super Bowl MVP.”
It’s a sentiment shared throughout the Lions locker room.
“We don’t really pay attention to the ESPNs and the FOXs and all that stuff on TV, we just show up and work every day,” said Tate. “When you pay a lot of attention to those types of things, it can get you in trouble quick. A lot of people start reading their own press clippings and they stop working, or sometimes when they’re not playing so well and they read them it kind of just kills their confidence. So we try to stay even keel.”
Stafford said his indifference to the praise is likely a product of living in the media limelight since high school, when he was the top-ranked quarterback recruit in the country.
“I don’t know any other way because I’ve only lived my life. But I’ve learned a long time ago to not really pay attention to that stuff. If I get worried about that, then I’m doing a disservice to my teammates. The only thing I can do is prepare as hard as I can to help us win,” he said.
With the Lions on a three-game win streak and Stafford leading the way, it seems his list of critics is shrinking.
“I think in this business it has a lot to do with what you’ve done lately, and I understand that,” he said.
Whether or not fans think of him any differently, the 28-year-old feels he he hasn’t changed.
“I’m just trying to be the same old guy I’ve always been,” Stafford said. “Just trying to play as good as I can as often as I can.”