After calling Stafford the best he’s played with at the position recently, Tate expanded on that more by saying that he believes if Stafford played elsewhere, he’d already have some championship rings to his credit, because he is that talented on the field.
In a piece by Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Tate, now a wideout with the New York Giants, explained why he thinks Stafford would be decorated if he didn’t play in Detroit, a place that’s been rankled by football inconsistency for over 58 years:
He said he considers Stafford the best quarterback he’s played with because of his natural ability and statistical dominance.
“Look at his stats and then look at the record of the teams,” Tate said. “Like, you look at the stats that he’s had with him and Calvin (Johnson), even before I came along, or what we’ve achieved. This dude has performed at a playoff-type of level year in and year out, in my mind. I believe in his career he didn’t have enough weapons, or other people were the problem. I don’t want to sell anyone out, but I just think if you throw Stafford into New Orleans right now or Green Bay right now, or back when they had all those incredible players, I think this guy has a couple rings, for one. That’s my opinion.
“That’s nothing against Russell Wilson, cause Russell Wilson’s also a great quarterback and makes plays and he’s good for that organization. But you’re talking about pure passer, I’m taking Stafford all day. There’s not a throw that he cannot make, for one, and the guy just (throws) you open. His ball placement is incredible. There’s been times where I’m like, ‘Ah (shoot), I’m covered,’ and he throws it to me and it’s like low and outside where only I can make that play. That’s pretty incredible as you have 10 other guys chasing you down, trying to knock the (crap) out of you.”
In spite of the talent which Tate talks about in Birkett’s piece, Stafford doesn’t have the big game success. He’s never won the NFC North, has not won a playoff game and has not competed for a Super Bowl. It’s also not as if he has enjoyed the consistent help around him that some other elite quarterbacks who have won titles have, in terms of a bevy of offensive playmakers and an elite defense. He’s also had to withstand multiple coaching changes through the years and seemingly constantly reinvent himself and how he plays the game.
Stafford has been known as a gunslinger, which can lead itself to turnovers and mistakes on the field in big moments. He’s made plenty of those through the years, but he’s also made plenty of highlight reel plays that showcase how insanely talented he is.
Simply, the Stafford situation seems like a paradox. It’s possible Tate is right and Stafford, in a different environment, would have been better supported and found winning easier thus far during his career. It’s also impossible to know that for sure without the benefit of seeing it happen.
Doing his best to try and shift the narrative, Stafford has been on a tear so far this season, firing 13 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions while also tossing for 1,751 yards. He’s played consistent and looks the part of a guy who is ready to make the 30s the best years of his career. The Lions also have a better offense under Stafford now, as they are being led by Darrell Bevell, a guy who has worked with elite quarterbacks and elite offenses before.
This season, Stafford’s play has been a breath of fresh air for the team, and they’ve needed him playing well to have the respectable start they have had thus far. It seems the team’s new offense, which is putting up numbers and popular in the locker room, is suiting its quarterback well. Mistakes have been limited and the big plays have come more freely and frequently.
Perhaps the only question about this situation with Stafford is what’s next. He signed a massive contract extension a few years back and continues to love Detroit. His family has also made the city a home and been embraced by Lions fans. The hope is the team can build around him properly so that the quarterback spot isn’t the lightning rod for criticism it has been through the years in Detroit.
The bet is the Lions will remain committed to Stafford, because as Tate aptly points out, he’s got plenty of talent to work with, even if he doesn’t yet have the jewelry needed to prove it.
Detroit hopes they can soon find enough success to fit him with some in the near future.
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