Lions GM Bob Quinn talks about his QB Matthew Stafford. Quinn believes Stafford can lead the Lions to the Super Bowl. Clarence Tabb Jr., Detroit News, The Detroit News
Allen Park — If there was any doubt before, Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn made it clear: Quarterback Matthew Stafford is going nowhere anytime soon.
“Matthew Stafford is our quarterback,” Quinn said at his end of the season press conference on Friday. “He will be our quarterback here. Listen, this guy is a really talented player. Myself, the coaches need to put him in better situations to allow him to use his skill set. Matt is extremely tough. He’s extremely diligent in his work ethic. He sets a great example for all our players and really all our staff about how to go about his job.”
There had been growing speculation the Lions would consider trading Stafford this offseason, most recently fueled by comments of two anonymous league executives in a piece published by ESPN. But Quinn reiterated he had no interest in fielding offers.
“No, Matthew Stafford is our quarterback,” he said.
Stafford is coming off one of the worst seasons of his career. Not only were his yards and touchdowns significantly down, but it was the way he produced those numbers — forced to rely on shorter, quicker throws than any other passer — that was equally troubling.
According to Quinn, part of the statistical dip was Detroit’s commitment to being more balanced on offense. The general manager touted the improvements the team made in the running game in 2018, while acknowledging the passing game fell short of expectations.
Then there were Stafford’s struggles in key moments, uncharacteristic of player who has built a reputation for his late-game heroics. It started with a four-interception game during the primetime season opener against the Jets, wasted a game-winning drive opportunity in San Francisco and late-game turnovers against Seattle and Chicago.
But Quinn said to put the blame on Stafford for any game or the season is too narrow of a view.
“It’s not just Matthew Stafford,” Quinn said “That’s not what this is. We have 53 players on the team every week, we have 46 that dress. Just because he’s the quarterback and touches the ball every play on offense, doesn’t mean he gets all the blame. The blame can be passed around. It starts with me, it starts with the coaches and it starts with everybody on the team. It’s not his fault.”
Justin Rogers, Bob Wojnowski and John Niyo discuss Bob Quinn's end-of-the-year news conference. Justin Rogers, The Detroit News
Those comments feed into a perception there’s always an excuse to be made for Stafford’s play, one that changes each season. The quarterback’s supporters always have pointed to a lack of a running game, while other years it might be his lack of passing weapons, a coaching staff holding him back or a defense not good enough to complement his play.
Quinn is aware of those outside perceptions, but said fans and media don’t get to see the guy Stafford is behind closed doors.
“I think Matthew Stafford holds himself accountable at a really high level,” Quinn said. “Matthew, he’s kind of a reserved guy with you guys, I think in the locker room, in the meeting rooms and on the practice field, this guy holds himself to a very high standard. That resonates with his teammates, that resonates with the staff.
“What I know on the inside is working with this quarterback every day, seeing his car in the parking lot early in the morning late at night,” Quin said. “I know what he does when he gets home. He puts the girls to bed and he works. I see that every day. I see what he does to get his body ready to play. I see what he does on the practice field.”
As the Lions battled through injuries this season, which left the team’s receiving corps depleted, Quinn said Stafford regularly put in extra time with midseason roster additions such as Bruce Ellington and Andy Jones, to make sure they were ready to go on Sunday.
“I understand what you’re saying, I really do,” Quinn said. “But when you live in this building, when you live with this guy, there’s things that go very unnoticed with him that are very, very valuable.”
After spending much of his first two years focused on building up Detroit's trenches, Quinn emphasized his need to find more playmakers this offseason. He’ll look to put the talent around Stafford that can help the quarterback get back to the level he was performing at the past three years.
And despite 10 years without a playoff victory to Stafford’s name, does Quinn still believe Stafford is a guy that can lead him the Lions to a Super Bowl? His answer was no less definitive than acknowledging Stafford was here to stay.
“I do,” Quinn said.