Justin Rogers and John Niyo discuss the Lions' three-game losing streak and the team's chances of snapping it at home against Carolina. Justin Rogers, The Detroit News
Allen Park — When the losses begin to stack on top of one another, and fan frustration mounts, there's going to be a search for a scapegoat.
And in the NFL, it's not unusual for a lot of fingers to end up pointing at the quarterback. Doubly so when that quarterback is the franchise's highest-paid player.
While opinions of Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford always will land all over the spectrum, there's little debate his critics grow louder when the Lions are slumping. And during the past three games, all double-digit loses, Stafford production has mirrored the team's overall play.
Maybe that shouldn't surprise anyone, given how many times Stafford has been hit during the stretch. The past two games alone he's been sacked 16 times, thrusting him ahead of last season's pace, when he was dropped behind the line a career-high 47 times.
But as former players such as Boomer Esiason and Rich Gannon lob harsh criticism, and sports talk radio and national writers once again ponder the possibility of the Lions trading Stafford, Lions coach Matt Patricia was quick express gratitude for his quarterback.
"The good thing for us is we just focus on inside the building on what we’re doing here," Patricia said. "Matt Stafford, we’re blessed to have him as our quarterback. We’re lucky to have him as our quarterback. This is a guy that’s extremely tough, he’s extremely competitive, a guy that works harder than anybody in the building every single day to get better."
Patricia acknowledged Stafford has battled some adversity as of late, but the coach heaped praise on the way the adversity has been handled.
"When you have the defenses that we’ve seen here the last couple weeks, coming at you from those different directions, and playing in stadiums that are not easy to play in under conditions that are not easy to play under, I would say, it’s part of the game," Patricia said. "But his toughness that he portrays through all those situations and his ability to come back and just go right back at it with that tenacious attitude and effort, I’ll take that every single day. So, he’s a great quarterback, he works extremely hard. He’s our leader on offense, we’re going to keep pushing and he’s going to keep leading, which is great for us.”
Overall, Stafford's numbers are down just slightly from recent years, with the most notable slide being his interception rate. Through nine games, he's completing 66.8 percent of his throws and is on pace for 4,240 yards, 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions this season.
Stafford, 30, has four years remaining on his contract after this year. Even if the Lions wanted to trade him, the financial ramifications would be significant and impractical. His contract carries $30 million in dead money next offseason, stemming from the $50 million signing bonus he received when he signed a five-year extension in 2017.
That dead money is slightly more than his scheduled $29.5 million cap hit for 2019.