The Detroit Lions ran into the most unfortunate situation possible in 2019 when they watched quarterback Matthew Stafford get dinged up, then get forced to miss significant time on the football field.
Stafford’s back injury, while not season ending in scope, is still long term enough that it should be taken seriously by the Lions and their decision makers. With the team slumping in the standings and playoff hopes essentially dead in the water, the Lions need to be responsible with Stafford down the stretch in order to give the quarterback the best possible chance for health in the future.
So why should the Lions make a hard decision with Stafford, and one he would likely fight to the bitter end and disagree with? Here’s a look at why the team must make the move to effectively end Stafford’s year as soon as possible.
Matthew Stafford’s Importance to Lions in 2020
The Lions are essentially playing out the string in what has become a lost season. There’s simply no way they can recover in time to make the playoffs given their record and the relative strength of the other NFC contenders. Next year, however, might be a different story. The team needs Stafford to be his best version of himself in 2020, and the only way that is happening is if the quarterback is completely healthy and ready to go. If Stafford rushes back to the field and hurts himself again, he might jeopardize the team’s shot at having a good season next year. Right now, as frustrating as it may be, next year is all the Lions have to hang their hats on. As everyone has seen, the team won’t have a shot at doing anything of note without a healthy, engaged Stafford.
Lions NFL Draft Standing
Detroit is climbing the draft ranks steadily, and if they keep losing, might be able to climb into the top five. They can probably forget about netting the top overall pick, but if the team were able to get into the top five, they could give themselves a shot at grabbing a defensive impact maker for their line. Higher draft picks would give Bob Quinn a better shot at finding better players who could help a very needy team immediately. Sitting Stafford would give the Lions a decent chance at picking up ground in the draft race for 2020, where a true defensive prize could exist near the top in Ohio State’s Chase Young.
Development of a True Lions Backup Quarterback
In Stafford’s absence, the team has been able to learn a ton about Jeff Driskel already. While Driskel hasn’t yet won a game, he has played consistent enough to do so if the Detroit defense would have met him halfway. That’s a problem not unlike Stafford was having in 2019 before injury. If the Lions get more games with Driskel win or lose, they can figure out if they want to keep the youngster around for the future to be Stafford’s primary backup. They can also decide if they need to draft a quarterback in the future to develop or not waste their time with such a move. That understanding will only come with additional evaluation of Driskel. Getting Driskel more snaps might only help his confidence while allowing the Lions to understand if they truly have a competent backup who can lead the offense. That would be a blessing in disguise for a team which has seen this be a roster hole for far too long.
Matthew Stafford’s Overall Health
Stafford has been a picture of health during his time in the NFL since an injury riddled first two seasons, but dating back to 2018, there has now been a common theme with him and back injuries. For two straight years, Stafford has suffered something stressful in the back. While neither injury looks to be chronic, the team needs to be careful with Stafford in order to not let it get to that point. Stafford is still a younger man, and has a family to think about. The Lions want to see him continue to grind things out in Detroit well into the future on the football field, and also want to see him remain healthy in the future as well. They must take his health seriously as a result.