Detroit Lions: Is Matthew Stafford ready to take the next step?
The Lions remain a team in absolute shambles, the only team for which a 2-14 season would not be deemed a disappointment. The Lions have massive problems on defense -- they've been the league's worst unit the past two seasons, according to Football Outsiders' DVOA -- so most of the offseason attention will likely be on that side of the ball. Still, any chance at respectability (which for Detroit might be six wins), is dependent on last year's first overall pick, Matthew Stafford, to emerge as a quality quarterback.
Stafford flashed serious potential at times in his rookie season, but his overall stats were extremely poor. According to Football Outsiders DYAR rankings, only JaMarcus Russell had a lower value than Stafford. DYAR is not really telling us something that conventional stats could not. Stafford completed only 53 percent of his passes and had a 13-to-20 TD-INT ratio. He played only one game all season in which he completed 60 percent of his passes and threw more touchdowns than interceptions, his signature game against Cleveland.
Stafford was only a rookie, but the odds against him to emerge next season are long. Since 1994 (the first year for which DYAR has been calculated), only one rookie has had a worse season and emerged as a very good player: Donovan McNabb. McNabb improved radically his second season, but he is definitely the exception to the rule. Among the current top quarterbacks in the league, only McNabb and Eli Manning had debut seasons even in the same ballpark as Stafford.
Quite simply, nothing about Stafford's rookie season suggests that he will play at a high level in 2010. Obviously, if the Lions get a great second receiver to pair with Calvin Johnson, it would help Stafford immensely. Still, any hope for the Lions to have a successful season next year is predicated on an assumption that Stafford will become a competent quarterback. In general, quarterbacks as bad as Stafford was as a rookie simply do not suddenly emerge as competent. He may develop into a star, but it will take more than one season for it to happen.
The question is not "Who will let me?" Rather, the question is "Who will stop me?"