Stafford Joins Calvin Johnson in Record Books
This Sunday, Stafford set the single-season record for passing attempts, eclipsing the record of 691 set by Drew Bledsoe for New England in 1994. The new record is 727 passing attempts, now held by Matthew Stafford from 2012 (obscure bit of trivia for you to remember).
Stafford’s record-setter is important to note for a number of reasons, and looking into the numbers of the Lions 4-12 season, you’ll find that the number 727 points to a lot of warning signs that the team needs to be aware of going into next season.
Stafford ranked 2nd in the league in passing yards, his 4,967 only trailing Brees’s 5,177, but amongst the 15 Quarterbacks that threw for over 3,500 yards, only Cam Newton threw fewer touchdown passes (19) than Stafford (20) – as a side note, Newton also rushed in 8 on his own compared with Stafford’s 4. And of the 5 Quarterbacks that topped 4,500 yards, Stafford was the only one with under 28 touchdown passes.
To make things more simplified, here are some extremely telling numbers for you. These are the league leaders in Touchdown percentage, basically the percentage of passing attempts that are converted for touchdowns. As you can guess, 5% is a pretty solid number, and here are the league leaders for 2012:
1. Rodgers – 6.84%
2. Brees – 6.42%
3. Peyton Manning – 6.14%
4. Brady – 5.32%
5. Ryan – 5.20%
Stafford’s touchdown percentage this year was 2.75%, a significant drop-off from his 6.18% from 2011, when he threw for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns.
Now before we go any further, allow me to just outright declare the main purpose of examining Stafford’s numbers on the season. The lack of production from the Lions offense this year could be partially blamed on receivers not bringing in catches they normally should (even Calvin had some key drops in the endzone) or Stafford not making the right decisions or best passes, but the bottom line is that the play-calling and overall game plan of the Lions offense this year was terrible and big adjustments need to be made in the offseason, which quite likely means some big personnel changes.
In the team’s first 6 games of the year, they were only able to score 1 first half touchdown. This is an offense that has ranked amongst the league’s best in terms of yards for the past two years now, yet their end of the year numbers are simply staggering. The Lions ranked 3rd in the NFL in total yards, but were only 14th in scoring and 18th in Touchdowns.
So what’s the next step? Apart from likely personnel changes that could include firing Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan and possibly even Head Coach Jim Schwartz, the Lions absolutely need to find a steady Running Back they can count on. Mikel Leshoure was a solid contributor in his rookie campaign and could be on the verge of being a feature back, but the Lions need for him to greatly improve on his 3.7 yards per carry first. If they don’t believe he’s the guy, they’ll need to either use the top 5 pick they’re about to have or some money in free agency to secure a possible featured runner so that the pressure can be taken off of Stafford’s arm.
All in all, 727 passes for 4,967 yards should equal more than 20 Touchdown passes, especially when you have a Wide Receiver setting the single-season record for receiving yards. Johnson’s record is the one we’ll all remember, but Stafford’s record is the one that Lions management needs to focus on more this offseason.