Allen Park — You might imagine Matthew Stafford has seen it all during his 10 years as the Detroit Lions quarterback. He suggested as much last week, when he was asked about the similarities of the team's new offensive scheme, the fourth he'll have played in during his career, compared to system's he's run in the past.
"As far as schematically, sure, I feel like I’ve run quite a few plays over my career and run most of them, I would think," Stafford said.
But first-year coordinator Darrell Bevell plans to ask his old dog under center to learn some new tricks heading into his 11th season.
"I think I'm going to ask Matthew to do things that he hasn't done before," Bevell said. "I'm going to try to challenge him in a way that I think can push him to get better, but then obviously I need to tailor things for him, to make sure that what he feels like he does well, we're able to do as well. He's been real receptive to do that."
Understandably, Bevell wasn't willing to elaborate on the specifics the team was asking of Stafford, but both he and quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan have a wealth of experience working with a wide variety of passers to draw inspiration from.
Bevell spent several years working with Brett Favre, one of the strongest arms and most creative passers the game has ever seen. More recently, Bevell coached the mobile and highly efficient Russell Wilson in Seattle. Ryan's background includes stints with Eli Manning and Deshaun Watson, who are on opposite ends of the spectrum, stylistically.
No one expects Stafford to suddenly start playing the position like Watson or Wilson. The Lions quarterback simply doesn't have that kind of speed, but Bevell believes there's deceptive athleticism that can be utilized.
"I think you see that," Bevell said. "He’s been good at moving out of the pocket, making plays and those type of things. Is he a 4.4 guy? No, he’s not that. He’s not going to be a runner, but being able to ask him to be creative in the pocket, I think he can definitely do that."
But the one thing about Stafford that has stood out to his new coaches, not surprisingly, is his arm.
"Obviously, he's well-known," Ryan said. "His arm talent is rare. Watching him throw, to me, I describe it as effortless. He's a natural passer of the ball and he's very accurate. All things I knew, but it's even different when you see it live. I've been very impressed with him."
Ryan used the term rare to describe both the velocity with which Stafford throws the ball, and his ability to throw into tight windows and the knowledge of when to attempt those throws.
Bevell echoed Ryan's praise for Stafford's arm.
"It’s so effortless, so easy for him to throw the football all over the yard," Bevell said. "Any type of throw that we’re asking him to make, he’s got the arm strength to do it."
Bevell and Ryan will be looking to cultivate a environment where Stafford can successfully rebound from one of the most disappointing seasons of his career.
Fueled by a number of hits to his arsenal in 2018, including the release of Eric Ebron, a midseason trade that shipped out Golden Tate and a season-ending injuries for Marvin Jones and Kerryon Johnson, Stafford threw for just 3,777, his fewest in a full season. His 6.8 yards per attempt were a seven-year low and his 89.9 passer rating was his worst since 2014.