Matthew Stafford threw 12 picks in his final seven games of last season, and was culpable for 14 turnovers overall during that stretch. That was more than anybody else in professional football. And the Detroit Lions' brass -- namely coach Jim Schwartz and coordinator Scott Linehan -- refused to acknowledge publicly that something was wrong with their franchise quarterback. That is no longer the case. "I think there certainly has to be some work done," general manager Martin Mayhew said last week. "I couldn't really quantify that." Seven games does not make or break a career. But Stafford's backslide into mediocrity really stretches 32 games. He completed 63.5 percent of his passes while throwing for 5,038 yards in 2011, but that flagged to 59.8 percent in 2012 and 58.5 percent in 2013, which was 30th in the league. Stafford was one of just five quarterbacks to complete fewer than 60 percent of his passes while playing at least 75 percent of his team's snaps last year. He was one of just two quarterbacks who did that each of the past two years. He threw for 41 touchdowns in 2011. He's thrown for 49 in the past two years combined. Stafford's turnover binges are perhaps the most vexing component of his game. He had only seven in the first nine games last year, when Detroit surged to a 6-3 start. But he had 12 in the final seven games, and the Lions finished 1-6. Mayhew, though, insists Stafford is not damaged goods. "I don't think his confidence has fallen very far," he said. "I mean, think about it. In Week 9, his numbers were outstanding. We were winning games. We were playing really well. "Didn't finish up the second half of the season the way we expected to, do the things that we wanted to do. But there are a lot of moving pieces to that. It's not all on Matthew. I've been in contact with him several times since the end of the season and he sounds pretty confident to me." Mayhew said Stafford can still be salvaged. That belief was a guiding principle during the Lions' two-week coaching search, and the subsequent week-long search for a staff. It could be said that Stafford's development, or lack thereof, shaped the look of the new staff profoundly. Detroit eventually tabbed a head coach (Jim Caldwell) that worked for a decade with Peyton Manning, and an offensive coordinator (Joe Lombardi) who spent the past five years as Drew Brees' personal quarterback coach with the New Orleans Saints. That's no accident. Stafford will have at least two quarterback coaches on staff, and could have a third if the Lions hire an actual quarterback coach. Their exact plan remains unknown, but the moves are being hailed around the league as a perfect match for the talented yet middling quarterback. "I have no doubt (Lombardi will fix Stafford)," Saints tailbacks coach Dan Roushar said. "I have complete confidence. Joe is a phenomenal football coach, and it's a great hire for Matthew." Roushar said it's the perfect match: Lombardi was renowned around the Saints' facility for his attention to the smallest of details. And what Stafford needs most is to work on the small things which can procure consistency.
Lions say 'there certainly has to be some work done' to Stafford's game
Michigan Live | Jan 26