COMMENTARY| ESPN's Ron Jaworski named Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford as the 14th-best in the NFL entering 2012.
Jaworski said another full season with similar production as 2011 and Stafford will be a "top 10 quarterback."
Apparently Jaworski didn't factor in that Stafford was only the fourth quarterback to top 5,000 passing yards in a season, finishing 2011 with 5,038. The Lions' franchise signal-caller threw 41 touchdown passes, third-most in the NFL and two more than New England Patriots star Tom Brady. Stafford finished fifth with a 97.2 rating and came in third with an average of 315 yards per game [NFL passing stats].
But there are 13 other quarterbacks in the NFL better than Stafford? Jaworski did cover his opinion by adding the "if" factor. But to say that there are 13 quarterbacks in the league today better than Stafford is a bit of an overstatement. And if that's his opinion, fine. Can't argue against what a guy thinks. Well, in this case you can.
I understand not putting Stafford in the top five right now. He's played just one full season, so waiting to see how he does in 2012 before giving him that title is logical. But come on, Jaws. Even after just one full season, Stafford proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he's capable of being elite. Sure, Stafford will need playoff wins, a ring, to be "Manning elite," but he's certainly a top gun in the NFL.
No debate there. Not one bit.
Does Jaworski have a problem putting a Lions player so high in his rankings? He said on-air that he plans to rank receivers as well. It's a sure bet that Calvin Johnson is ranked higher than 14th. But Johnson benefited from Stafford, and Stafford benefited from Johnson. That's how a tandem works. How can the Johnson-Stafford duo be considered one of the best in the league when the quarterback is ranked in the middle? According to Jaworski, Stafford is floating around Tampa Bay Buccanners quarterback Josh Freeman and the Oakland Raiders' Carson Palmer territory. He didn't specifically mention Freeman or Palmer, but those are guys I'd rank somewhere in the middle, bottom-middle.
I haven't seen Jaworski's previous rankings. If Carolina's Cam Newton is ranked higher than Stafford, then I'll just turn off the TV next time Jaworski talks football. I respect his opinion. He's a football guy for crying out loud. But he's way off-base by placing Stafford in the middle of the pack.
New Orleans' Drew Brees, Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, New York Giants' Eli Manning, Brady -- sure, those guys are in a league of their own. They're the best of the best. But minus the rings, is Manning really that much better than Stafford? No disrespect to Manning, but his numbers were neck-and-neck with Stafford's. The biggest difference, other than last year's Super Bowl title, of course, is the fact that Manning threw for 29 touchdowns compared to Stafford's 41. While that's not the most accurate way to measure players, it does show that Stafford -- who is just the 14th-best quarterback in the league -- can compete with the best in the NFL.
What next, Jaws? Is Dallas' Tony Romo a top-fiver?
Stafford helped the Lions reach the postseason last year for the first time since 1999. Give him the respect that he's earned. There is no reason for anyone to rank Stafford outside the top 10.
Adam Biggers has followed the NFL for over 20 years, specifically the Detroit Lions. He can be found on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.