Ex-QB Simms: Lions’ Stafford ‘can be my quarterback’

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
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San Francisco — Longtime New York Giants quarterback and current CBS analyst Phil Simms is a huge fan of Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.

“If I own a football team, I’ll take him in a heartbeat,” Simms said Monday during a CBS Sports media availability session at the Moscone Center. “He can be my quarterback right away.”

Asked to explain further, Simms said he’d want Stafford on his team because of his “undeniable talent.”

“He was put on Earth to throw,” Simms said. “I don’t know what it was going to be; it could’ve been a Frisbee, a baseball, whatever. But he was put on Earth to throw something, and he is a phenomenal, gifted thrower of the ball.”

Stafford just completed his seventh season as Lions quarterback. He finished the season ranked ninth in the NFL in passer rating, but his early-season struggles contributed to the Lions’ derailing 1-7 start.

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“I think it’s just up to the Lions organization to get this thing in order to take advantage of a talent that — you could draft for the next 20 years and not find a guy that can throw the ball like him,” Simms said. “I don’t make alibis for the quarterbacks, but a lot of times a quarterback fails because the organization fails. A quarterback can’t overcome the coaching, the general manager and the owner, so when things don’t work, start from the top and work your way down.”

The Lions made significant changes this offseason, hiring Bob Quinn as GM to replace Martin Mayhew, whom the team fired after Week 8.

Stafford showed growth in the second half of the season under new offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, who replaced Joe Lombardi after Week 7.

Early in the season, Stafford struggled with protection calls, and former quarterback Boomer Esiason, who also works for CBS, said he noted those issues in a radio interview in Detroit early during the 2015 season.

“I said he looked like a quarterback that doesn’t have the answers to the questions that are being posed to him every game on the field,” Esiason said. “What I meant by that was, it was a lack of coordinator. Whether it be Lombardi, whether it be their offensive line coach; whoever the guy that was responsible for the communication, it looked like Matthew was getting hit in the ear when he shouldn’t have been being hit in the ear.

“He should know whether or not to throw the ball, or that guy’s being blocked. And when your quarterback becomes exposed like that, then all of a sudden, everybody starts questioning whether he’s any good.”

Then, Esiason said, Cooter took over and pared things down, making it easier for Stafford to be on the same page as his teammates. Now, Stafford needs some stability, Esiason said.

In Esiason’s opinion, there are only seven or eight legitimate franchise quarterbacks. Stafford isn’t in that group, but he’s close.

“You can definitely build around him,” Esiason said.

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com

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