The Lions opened the year with one of the NFL's best receiving corps. Heading into the home stretch, it's now one of the league's thinnest units. Justin Rogers, The Detroit News
Allen Park — In his 10th year, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is having a down season.
Despite completing 67.0 percent of his throws, Stafford’s yards per attempt is the lowest it has been since 2012. His interception rate is a five-year high. And his passer rating, a five-year low.
Not exactly what you’d hope to see from a player in the first season of a five-year, $27 million contract.
But when asked, three times, if he’s getting enough from Stafford, first-year Lions coach Matt Patricia spit out close to 900 words, dancing around the questions without levying any direct criticism toward the franchise quarterback.
“Listen, that’s a tough guy right there,” Patricia said. “He’s a tough quarterback, and like I said before, he’s someone that I’m glad I get to go to work with every single day because he comes in the building and he’s just going out and preparing and trying to go out the next week and win. And really that’s all we can look for.”
Patricia, as he often does, pointed the finger at himself, noting he has to do a better job putting Stafford and the offense in position to make more plays.
“We obviously want to be better,” Patricia said. “It’s going to start with me and we’ll go from there and we’ll try to do everything we can to put ourselves in position to win and compete every single week. There’s certainly, like I said, plays across the board that we would all like to have better. I don’t think there’s any argument on that whatsoever. And whether it’s individually or as a team, we just have to keep working to eliminate those the best we can and put ourselves in a position to go win.”
Patricia went as far as to say Stafford’s work ethic was an inspiration, acting as a constant reminder for the coach to work harder.
“Matthew Stafford is great, he’s a strong guy,” Patricia said. “He’s a guy that puts a lot on his shoulders every single week to go out and help this team win and comes to work every single day ready to go, so that helps drive me. I have to work up to that standard and I want to make sure I’m coming here every single day and that we’re all trying to do everything that we can to win because it’s a collective team sport.”
Patricia is stating the obvious. Stafford’s struggles aren’t fully on him. He’s on pace to match last season’s career-high in sacks, general manager Bob Quinn traded away the quarterback’s favorite receiving target Golden Tate, and offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter has struggled to consistently come up with game plans that maximize the roster’s talent.
But none of that precludes Patricia from saying Stafford needs to play better, as well.
All this comes at a time when national media amps up speculation on the Lions trading Stafford. On Monday, NBC Sports’ Peter King became the latest to join that chorus, dropping a line in his “Football Morning in America” column that the Lions should send Stafford to Jacksonville this offseason.
Those hypothetical pitches remain highly unlikely. The Lions would be on the hook for a $30 million cap hit if they traded Stafford this offseason, $500,000 more than if he was on the roster in 2019.