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Pasch Factor: The Talent Of Matthew Stafford

Posted Sep 8, 2017

Cardinals will have their hands full with Lions quarterback

During one of our Cardinals preseason telecasts, Ron Wolfley said something profound.  Yeah, I know it's rare, but when he utters something that sticks with you for a month, you probably should write a column about it.

A strong-armed quarterback threw a touchdown pass in-between two defenders, fitting the football neatly in a tiny throwing window. Room for error was razor-thin, and only pinpoint accuracy would suffice. After the play, Wolf said, "You see David, that's why you need a strong arm to be a successful quarterback in the NFL."

OK, you might be thinking, what's the big deal? After all, we see plenty of NFL quarterbacks who don't have cannons for arms. We also see guys who can make "all the throws,” yet need a disclaimer, reading "all the bad throws too.” For every Aaron Rodgers, there's a Jamarcus Russell, who might be able to throw the ball 70 yards on his knees, but can't throw it 10 yards to an open receiver while standing on two feet. We also see the converse -- guys with limited arm talent who somehow find a way to make it in the NFL. Arm strength isn't a necessity to make it, but it is arguably a necessity to be a star.

When you study Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions, you see a player who has as much arm talent as anyone in the history of the NFL. That's what clearly stands out when you watch him play. Stafford also has great intangibles, like leadership and durability. He has led the Detroit Lions to the playoffs three times in the last six years, winning double-digit games twice, all coming after being hurt for most of 2010, and playing for one of the worst teams in the NFL in 2009 (two wins). That was his rookie season, the year after the Lions were the worst team in the NFL in 2008, going 0-16.

Despite Stafford's success, detractors always seem to try and find his warts. He doesn't win in the playoffs. He throws too many interceptions. But if we look closer at his numbers -- and I get it, numbers aren't always everything -- we will find a quarterback very worthy of the contract extension the Lions just gave him, making him the highest-paid player in the league.

Stafford is everything you would want in a franchise quarterback, and his numbers prove it. Stafford has reached the 30,000-yards-passing mark faster than any other QB. He is on pace to throw the same number of interceptions per game as Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. He threw only 10 picks last year (against 24 touchdowns), and 13 picks in 2015 (with 32 touchdowns). Stafford has 28 game-winning fourth-quarter drives in his career, including eight last season -- an NFL record.

Plus, Stafford has started  96 straight games, often playing behind a poor offensive line. The Lions signed two starting free agent offensive linemen this off-season, and traded for another to address this issue. Yes, Stafford is 0-3 in the playoffs, but all three games were on the road, including games at New Orleans and Seattle. The point I'm making is Stafford is still a franchise quarterback, capable of winning any game, and in any fashion.

He will be one of the best quarterbacks the Cardinals face this season. You could make the argument, unless Andrew Luck suddenly gets healthy in Week 2, Stafford will be the most accomplished QB on the schedule until November. Stafford isn't to be taken lightly. The Cardinals defense will get a major test Sunday. If they succeed in keeping Stafford in check, it will tell us a lot about the Cardinals defense, and what we can expect in 2017.

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