Lions’ Stafford a Hall of Famer? Caldwell raises eyebrows

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Matthew Stafford

Allen Park – A slip of the tongue? Perhaps. But Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell raised some eyebrows during his Monday press conference when he implied quarterback Matthew Stafford was well on his way to a Hall of Fame career.

Offering a comparison between the Lions and the 2009 Indianapolis Colts team he also coached, Caldwell noted the benefits of having quality play from the quarterback position. Those Colts, who went 14-2 and made it to the Super Bowl, were led by Peyton Manning, who won his fourth MVP award that year.

“One who will be certainly donning a Hall of Fame jacket, and another one who’s well on his way,” Caldwell said. “Those two guys are very, very unusual cats.”

There aren’t many ways to interpret that sentence. Everyone knows Manning is a lock for the Hall of Fame when he’s eligible in 2021, but Stafford? Caldwell was asked for clarification on the statement and he did his best to walk the comment back.

“I said, well on his way, I didn’t finish it off,” Caldwell said. “I’m just talking about he’s on his way to really having a prolific career, there’s no question, but we’ll see what happens down the road. Just look at his numbers, look at what he’s doing, he’s well on his way and what the end of that is, that’s up to him.”

In an era of prolific passing numbers, there are few who can rival Stafford’s numbers. He took the fewest games to reach 25,000 passing yards and 2,500 completions. At 28 years old, he’s already 50th all-time in passing yards and 52nd and touchdowns and will conceivably finish top 10 in both.

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But team success has eluded Stafford, to this point. Eight seasons into his career, he’s still looking for his first division title and first playoff win, droughts that could come to an end if the Lions can maintain control of the NFC North and win the home postseason game that comes along with it.

But as Caldwell accurately points out, there’s still much of Stafford’s story left to be written.

“I did not say (he’s on his way to the Hall of Fame), but I’m discounting it either,” Caldwell said. “You know, be careful how you think, your life is shaped by your thoughts. He’s getting better.”