“Yes he’s a [future Hall of Famer], absolutely,” said Michael Robinson on Good Morning Football. “The ultimate team goal, to win a Lombardi [Trophy], Matthew Stafford actually has, and he was a huge part of winning this Super Bowl.”
Since the buildup to the now cemented Super Bowl-winning run from quarterback Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams, sports fans have been debating whether the 12-year veteran is now a Hall of Famer or if more work needs to be done. While some like Robinson are in support of Stafford, people like Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Richard Sherman are not.
“The HOF bar is incredibly low now. Like a participation trophy,” Sherman tweeted out. “No all-decade team. No All-Pro. No MVP. One Pro Bowl. Not even MVP of the Super Bowl. Never considered the best in any year he played. At least [Matt] Ryan had an MVP.”
It’s actually a very interesting debate, and after looking at the numbers, I can honestly say that if Stafford ended his career right now, he would find himself among the greats in Canton five years down the road. Let’s dive in.
Let’s look at the case against him first. Sherman raises some quality points, namely the accolades (or lack thereof) that Stafford has acquired in his career. The single Pro Bowl nomination is probably the most damning, as he has as many trips to the contest as Mitchell Trubisky. They name three players from each conference every year, and that’s not including those who were named but declined to play for personal reasons.
But here’s the reality of it. Pro Bowl voting is not an end-all, be-all measure of success. Fans comprise a third of “the voting base”, while players and coaches take up the other two thirds. Being on a historically bad franchise like Detroit for 11 years doesn’t exactly reel in the votes. He’s never finished the year the best (or even the second best, hence the lack of All-Pro nominations), but Stafford has had plenty of years with Pro Bowl-caliber numbers. For example, let’s take this year. The new Rams quarterback finished the season third in passing yards, second in passing touchdowns, third in yards per attempt and sixth in passer rating among qualifying QBs. His team also had a 12-5 record and won its division, but no Pro Bowl nod.
Sherman was also right that Stafford was never really the best player during any year he’s been active. This is more of a tricky subject, but let me ask you this: would you vote for someone who has been consistently good to great his entire career, or a one season wonder like Cam Newton? I would take the consistent guy every day.
Here’s something else to consider, as these are the guys winning All-Pro bids for most of Stafford’s career: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers – all Hall of Fame guys. Should Stafford be knocked for playing among the game’s best quarterbacks of all time? I personally don’t think so.
And look, I get it, theoretically you would want your guy to get into that conversation for All-Pro, because to be a Hall of Famer you need to be at the top of the game. But I honestly think that his successes would’ve been greater had he not been the signal-caller for the Detroit Lions for most of his career. See the success Stafford’s had in just one year away on a halfway decent franchise. He put up MVP-caliber stats and won the Super Bowl, beating the defending champion Bucs along the way.
In that playoff run, Stafford didn’t win Super Bowl MVP, and deservedly so, as Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald were both more worthy of the honor. But that doesn’t mean Stafford didn’t lead the game winning drive, completing six consecutive passes, some of them in tight windows to a double or triple-teamed Kupp. For Pete’s sake, he didn’t even look for one of them. That’s the stuff of legends.
How about his career stats? In the regular season, Stafford ranks No. 12 of all-time in passing yards with 49,995, better than Canton members Warren Moon and Carson Palmer. He was No. 12 in passing touchdowns with 323, ahead of Broncos legend John Elway. He is No. 11 in completions with 4,302, ahead of all three of those already-mentioned Hall of Famers. The only guys ahead of him on those lists, save for maybe Eli Manning and Matt Ryan (who could also get in), are in the Hall.
Here’s something that isn’t a defining stat, but won’t hurt his case. In terms of receiving yards, here are the two greatest receiving seasons of all time: Calvin Johnson and Cooper Kupp with 1,964 and 1,947 yards in 16 and 17 game seasons, respectively. The quarterback for both of these receivers was none other than Matthew Stafford. While Johnson did not play often before Stafford was selected first overall, Kupp crushed personal records in yardage and touchdowns in his first year away from Lions’ quarterback Jared Goff.
If I haven’t made it clear enough, Stafford is a passing machine. Including the postseason, the 12-year quarterback is now the fastest person to reach 50,000 passing yards (in terms of games played). That’s even more impressive considering he’s only been to three playoff games outside of this run. Not Brady, not Rodgers, not Manning, but Stafford.
I’ll leave you with this: there’s a major difference between Canton and the Baseball Hall of Fame. While Cooperstown let in one player in the last two years, Canton inducts a minimum of four every year, with a maximum of eight. A Hall of Fame quarterback like Carson Palmer has similar stats to Stafford, but he doesn’t have that coveted Super Bowl ring. I’m not saying he is or will ever be Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, but he doesn’t need to be. Matthew Stafford, ring and all, has done enough to enshrine himself forever in Canton.