Football.com - everything football

Fourth Quarter Performance Should Be Coaches' Focus With Stafford

By



New coaches Jim Caldwell and Joe Lombardi will try to turn Matthew Stafford into a top-tier fourth quarter leader. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images.
New coaches Jim Caldwell and Joe Lombardi will try to turn Matthew Stafford into a top-tier fourth quarter leader. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images.

There were a lot of fingers to point for the Lions’ late season collapse in 2013, but there was nothing as drastic as Matthew Stafford’s performance from the first half of the season to the last. After eight games and a 5-3 Lions start, there was no doubt in my mind that Stafford belonged in the MVP discussion—Stafford had a 62.4% completion percentage, 16 touchdowns, six interceptions, a 94.8 passer rating, and was on pace for more than 5,200 yards through the air.

Whatever happened after that will remain a mystery, but as well all know, Stafford struggled mightily down the stretch and the Lions ultimately missed the playoffs.

A couple of months and a new coaching staff later, the focus has moved forward to 2014, and realizing the team’s playoff potential with the weapons that they have. This has included a full-out blitz—no pun intended—on improving Stafford’s performance through the hires of quarterback-experienced coaches Jim Caldwell and Joe Lombardi. Most notably, the new coaching staff will zero in on Stafford’s ability to finish a game and secure a Lions victory.

As I wrote last week, the Lions front office has gone all-out to help Stafford improve, as they should have. Since Stafford entered the league in 2009, both Lombardi and Caldwell (not counting 2011) have worked with some of the best quarterbacks in the league—and some of the best fourth quarter performers in recent seasons. Caldwell served as Peyton Manning’s head coach in 2009 and 2010, and worked with Joe Flacco as the Ravens’ quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator the last two seasons. Lombardi was promoted to the Saints’ quarterbacks coach in 2009, and held the position until coming to Detroit this month.

Matthew Stafford
Total (5 seasons): 421-747 (56.4%), 4,921 yards, 34 TD, 22 INT
Average season: 84-149, 984 yards, 7 TD, 4. INT
Joe Flacco
Total (2 seasons under Caldwell): 183-295 (62%), 2,079 yards, 17 TD, 8 INT
Average season: 92-147, 1,039 yards, 8.5 TD, 4 INT
Peyton Manning
Total (2 seasons under Caldwell): 216-321 (67.3%), 2,509 yards, 16 TD, 6 INT
Average season: 108-160, 1,254 yards, 8 TD, 3 INT
Drew Brees
Total (5 seasons under Lombardi): 553-866 (63.9%), 6,610 yards, 48 TD, 20 INT
Average season:110-173, 1,322 yards, 9 TD, 4 INT

To put these statistics in a more comparable light, imagine that Stafford, Flacco, Manning, and Brees had their numbers condensed to just 100 fourth quarter passes.

Stafford
56-100, 654 yards, 4.55 TD, 2.95 INT
Flacco
62-100, 704 yards, 5.76 TD, 2.71 INT
Manning
67-100, 778 yards, 4.98 TD, 1.87 INT
Brees
63-100, 753 yards, 5.54 TD, 2.31 INT

Of course the biggest statistic involving these four quarterbacks is Super Bowl rings. Under Caldwell and Lombardi since 2009, Manning, Flacco, and Brees reached a combined three Super Bowls, with Brees and Flacco taking home the trophy named for Lombardi's grandfather.

The hope of the front office is obviously that Caldwell and Lombardi’s experience coaching guys like Manning, Flacco, and Brees will rub off onto Stafford. It is important, though, to keep in mind that elite passers that Manning and Brees have an incredible “it” factor that cannot be taught. However, if Caldwell and Lombardi have learned anything from the quarterbacks that they have been around the last five years, then hopefully they can teach Stafford to be a true winner.