Stafford deserved to get paid

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford deserved to get paid this season.

When I mean “paid,” I mean every bit of the contract extension that he received a few weeks ago to make him the NFL’s highest-paid player in league history. That was $135 million over five years.

He showed why last Sunday.

There has been a debate for decades, probably even longer than that, over how much money athletes should receive for their athletic achievements. The NCAA has to deal with that problem every year as support for paying college athletes grows among fans.

I understand why people get upset over this issue. There’s people in just about every profession that should be paid significantly more than what they get, like nurses, teachers, police officers, soldiers, journalists (only slightly kidding with that one).

However, that’s just how the world works and player salaries will continue to rise whether we like it or not.

Getting back to Stafford and the Lions, let’s look back at last Sunday’s game against Arizona. Detroit fell behind early — naturally — and Stafford threw a pick-six on his first pass of the season.

That wasn’t exactly what Detroit fans were expecting, or maybe they were because these are the Lions. Detroit also battled special teams issues and after the first quarter, it looked as if they were going to be rolled over in their season opener.

Not so fast, though. Stafford got into a rhythm and started connecting with rookie wide receiver Kenny Golladay. He also started to show what got him that massive contract extension. He finished with four touchdown passes and some eye-popping stats that should make even the most cynical Lions’ fan start paying attention.

Stafford had an adjusted completion percentage (total completions and drops divided by combined attempts, throwaways, spikes, batted passes and interceptions) of 89.5, which was second in the league last weekend.

Without any pressure, Stafford had a passer rating of 117.2 and a completion percentage of 75 percent. When he was under pressure, he had a rating of 98.4 and a percentage of 55.6, and on his first touchdown, he rolled right and hit Marvin Jones in front of the end zone.

In the past, Stafford might have tried to scramble out of it or fire the ball into double coverage, but he played it smart. He also had to carry most of the load offensively as the Lions running game was stagnant, which it has been since Barry Sanders retired.

After all was said and done, Stafford completed another Lions comeback after doing so an NFL record eight times last season. Granted, he didn’t do it all himself as Detroit’s defense stepped up, too, but if Stafford had struggled further, there would’ve been no chance of a Lions rally even if the Cardinals’ Carson Palmer played like he should’ve retired after the postgame conference.

Right now, I’d put Stafford right up there with Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and the now-retired Peyton Manning in the list of quarterbacks that you can never count out.

Stafford can handle pass rushes, connects with his receivers and knows how to get out of a rough situation. More importantly, he gets the job done. What more can you ask for from a quarterback?

There’s still a long way to go this year and there are games looming against defending NFC champion Atlanta and a Minnesota team that looked impressive last week.

However, Stafford looked sharp overall and he has a chance to look even better this week against a weak New York Giants secondary. If he continues playing at this level, this could be a big year for him and the Lions.

By this point, if you still think Stafford didn’t deserve that kind of deal, ask yourself this question — would you rather your team have an MVP-caliber quarterback or a disaster like the New York Jets?

Trust me, if he hadn’t gotten it, you’d find your answer quickly.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.