What to Make of Stafford, Lions Struggles

The Lions had high expectations for their quarterback and offense this year. At 3-6, things haven't gone as planned.

The Detroit Lions are 3-6 and there is plenty of blame to go around.

The defense has allowed 27 points against per game and has - for the most part - looked overmatched under first year head coach Matt Patricia.

Although it would have been reasonable to expect more from the defensive side of the ball with Patricia calling the shots, the personnel to have an elite unit simply isn't there.

It's a bit harder to say that about the offense.

The Matthew Stafford led unit entered the season as the team's strength and - despite flashing on occasion - has regressed. Entering this week they ranked 23rd, well down from last year's No. 13 overall finish.

While the offense has failed to produce, Stafford has drawn the loudest criticisms - many of which have merit.

The highest-paid player in franchise history, and perhaps the most pressure-burdened player in franchise history as well, Stafford is on pace to throw for a good, not great, 4,200 yards with 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

Those numbers are all below where he finished last season. What's more, Stafford hasn't delivered in the clutch moments as consistently this year like he has in years past.

There's no doubt that the man under center for the Lions deserves to be among those front and center when discussing the root cause of this year's seemingly lost season.

With that said, I'm reminded of something former general manager Martin Mayhew once said.

This was years ago, at a time when a young Stafford seemed to be regressing and was asked about working with a quarterback coach during the off-season. Stafford brushed off the question, which drew a largely negative reaction from many outside of the organization.

Mayhew's response:

"If you work at McDonald's, you don't go to the fry factory to learn how to make fries," Mayhew said. "We're in the football business. We teach football in Allen Park. We should have everything at Allen Park that he needs to be a great quarterback."

Although not at all in the same context, those comments inspire the question; what are the Lions doing to support their franchise quarterback?

Mayhew, who was ultimately undone by some personnel mistakes, worked to build around Stafford by bringing in Jim Caldwell as head coach. Caldwell's presence shouldn't be overlooked when assessing Stafford's on-field strides over the last few years.

When Bob Quinn took over as general manager, he opted to keep Caldwell and spent three off-seasons attempting to surround his quarterback with as stable ground game.

This pass off-season, he swapped the offensive-oriented Caldwell for the defensive-minded Matt Patricia while retaining offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter in an effort not to disturb the development of Stafford.

Well, the running game has been inconsistent and, even with it's moments of brilliance, may have hurt the offense by taking the ball out of Stafford's hands, limiting the team's best player opportunity to impact the game.

All while Cooter hasn't been able to demonstrate the same synergy with Stafford as he did during his tenure under Caldwell.

Complicating matters the team traded away Stafford's security blanket, wide receiver Golden Tate. Granted it may have been a forward-looking move, as Tate was slated for free agency and the team was intimately familiar with the price tag it would have taken to bring him back.

Still, the trade wasn't a good right-now move for your in-his-prime quarterback. The offensive line struggles have been real but it's not coincidence that the Lions went 47 games not allowing more than six sacks in a contest - while averaging 2.5 sacks allowed per game during that period - before surrendering 16 in the last two weeks.

Look, Stafford needs to elevate his play if the Lions ever hope to achieve true success. With that, it's fair to question how well the current brain trust has positioned him for success.

In a league where the majority of the top passers are paired with offensive-oriented head coaches, the Lions went in a different direction while also removing the offense's most reliable pass-catcher.

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