Matthew Stafford's completion percentage dropped from 63.5 in 2011 to 59.8 in 2012 to 58.5 in 2013. (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)
Detroit – Lions general manager Martin Mayhew doesn’t have a problem with Matthew Stafford’s lack of desire to see a so-called quarterback guru.
In advance of the Lions’ Week 17 game, the fifth-year quarterback said seeking a guru to help his game isn’t “my style.” That comment made national headlines and enraged the local fan base, but Mayhew said Stafford will have everything he needs -- right in Allen Park -- to be great under new head coach Jim Caldwell.
“Well, if I worked at McDonald’s, I wouldn’t need to go to the fry factory to learn how to make fries, right?” Mayhew said Wednesday. “He works in a football place where football is taught, so I don’t know why he would need to do that either, you know what I mean?
“We should have everything that he needs in Allen Park for him to be a great player, and he was a great player in 2011. He’s shown that he can do that, so everything he needs to be great, we should have on campus for him.”
Stafford, 25, was indeed great during the 10-6 finish in 2011 when he threw for 5,038 yards, 41 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, and completed 63.5 percent of his passes. But his yardage and completion percentage have decreased each of the past two years while his interceptions have increased.
In 2013, Stafford completed just 58.5 percent of his passes, ranking 30th in the NFL, and he threw 19 interceptions, sixth-most in the league. And the timing of those interceptions couldn’t have been worse with 12 coming in the final seven games -- including eight in the second halves -- and the Lions went 1-6.
Stafford’s regression played a key role in the front office’s decision to fire coach Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan on Dec. 30. Mayhew and Lions president Tom Lewand made clear with their coaching search that finding someone to help Stafford return to his 2011 form was a top priority.
Caldwell spent seven years as Peyton Manning’s quarterbacks coach in Indianapolis and three more as the Colts’ head coach, and he spent the last two years tutoring Joe Flacco as the Ravens’ quarterbacks coach or offensive coordinator. Before hiring Caldwell Tuesday, the Lions interviewed new Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt and former Texans head coach Gary Kubiak, both of whom have worked extensively with quarterbacks.
“He’s the franchise quarterback,” Mayhew said. “He’s a first overall pick. He has that skill level. He does some things that other guys in the league can’t do, so he has that kind of talent level. We’ve got to get that consistently out of him every single year, and that’s why it was that important.”
During Caldwell’s interview on Jan. 3, Stafford was still in Metro Detroit, so he went to Allen Park to meet with Caldwell. Contrary to reports of the meeting, the two only spoke for about 10 minutes and didn’t watch film together, but Lewand said Stafford likes the hire.
“He wants to be good. He wants to win championships,” Lewand said of Stafford. “The idea of coming in and working with a guy like Jim, who comes so highly recommended from guys like Peyton Manning and other quarterbacks that he’s worked with, is exciting to Matthew, and he shared that with me. He’s excited about the idea of getting himself better and about doing those things to take the next step.”
Although Caldwell will bring in an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, he’ll work hands-on with Stafford, and Mayhew said he’s glad the new coach won’t completely delegate that task.
Caldwell said he’s excited to work with Stafford, whom he called a willing and capable quarterback with immense talent.
“I’ve got to look at him further. I’ve got to dig down a little bit deeper. I’ve got to get a real good sense of things,” Caldwell said. “But, for the most part, here’s what we know: We do have a set of parameters which we use in terms of teaching and coaching quarterbacks that we know works, and I’m anxious and excited about giving him an opportunity to kind of work within those parameters. And I think you’re going to see improvement from the onset.”