There's a lot to criticize about Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford's game. He is careless with the ball, he doesn't seem particularly fond of fundamentals and also doesn't appear too eager to improve what's holding him back.
One thing that never really seemed too important was which direction he wore his hat on the sideline, but it hasn't escaped Mike Ditka's notice.
The former Bears tight end and coach turned ESPN analyst sounded all of his 74 years when he talked about Stafford, via the Detroit Free Press.
“I think he can make all the throws. He’s a smart kid," Ditka said. "I wish he’d put the baseball cap on frontwards instead of backwards all the time.”
We hadn't noticed, Mike. Tell us more.
“If you’re the leader of the football team, I think you’ve got to stand up and be that leader, assume that role,” Ditka said, according to the Free Press. “A lot of it is what you do on the field, certainly. But I think a little of it has to do with appearance, too. You know, respect the game, respect your team. That’s all.
“I’m not knocking him. I’m just saying that’s the first thing I would tell him if I inherited him. When you’re going to go do an interview, put it on like it’s supposed to be on, not backwards, sidewards, whatever way they put them on anymore.”
There is probably a legitimate point in there. The quarterback is on display all the time, and having an appearance of professionalism is not the worst thing. Does it trickle down to the rest of the Lions – who, under Jim Schwartz, were perhaps the most undisciplined and underachieving team in the NFL – that Stafford's appearance seems to indicate it's spring break? Who knows. Maybe a little bit.
More likely, the cause and the effect is mixed up. Stafford isn't a sloppy quarterback because he wears his hat backwards, he is a sloppy quarterback and some like Ditka notice he wears his hat backwards and equate the two. Stafford needs to listen to a quarterbacks coach explaining footwork and arm angles way more than he needs a fashion consultant. And, really, Stafford wears his hat forward pretty often too, if you search through photos of him from the season (and no, I can't believe I'm breaking down this point).
While there's plenty to nitpick Stafford over, this doesn't appear to be one of them. But if the Lions quarterback happens to meet "Da Coach" soon, he should probably have his hat on with the brim facing ahead, just to be sure.
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- Mike Ditka