Matt Stafford, the charismatic quarterback of the Detroit Lions was nice enough to give a blog he doesn’t read (this one), 10 minutes. After he worked up a sweat in the Gatorade performance lab and conducted 23 interviews on radio row, we talked to the social media-averse Stafford about the value of stats, dodging camera phones, and of course, Tim Tebow.
Q: How much do you pay attention to stats?
A: I’m aware of some of them. For me, obviously the TD/INT ratio is a big one. We don’t turn the ball over, we win games. We turn the ball over, it’s tough to win. I think that’s important. I think completion percentage is pretty important … but every offense is different. Some guys are going to be in a West Coast offense and throw 5-yard passes all game and have a 72 percent completion rate. Some guys are going to run the ball and do play action and throw the ball down the field and maybe not complete as many.
I think that number needs to be around 60 percent. Obviously I didn’t do that this year, and I’d like to improve on that. Those, to me, are the three main stats …
Q: No passer rating?
A: I don’t even know it … ask any guy in the NFL and they don’t know how to get a perfect passer rating. We don’t even know. My coach, Jim Schwartz is a huge stats guy. I’m a did-we-win-or-did-we-lose kinda guy. There’s a lot of ways to skin a cat – you can win a game running the ball, playing defense …
Q: Which brings me to an interesting comparison that was made by some stat-lovers this year: Mark Sanchez and JaMarcus Russell were statistically similar in a handful of categories and some people drew the conclusion that they had similar rookie years …
A: … ahhh … [eyes widen]
Q: When people are drawing conclusions like that, is there too much of a reliance upon stats?
A: Obviously everybody is in a different situation. You have to take that into consideration, too. I think Mark had an outstanding year … he and Jamarcus were in completely different situations. Where Mark might have been building a lead or holding onto a lead, JaMarcus was maybe down 14-21 in the fourth quarter, trying to make a play.
You see these stats and say everybody should be judged on a level playing field, and in some respects they should, but in others, you have to understand the situation.
Q: In 2006, Rivals ranked you the No. 1 “pro style” QB in high school. Sam Bradford was 12th. How silly are some of these recruiting rankings?
A: Ha! You know … These kids are 15-16 years old. And you’re sitting there and saying one is a 5-star recruit and he’s going to be great … you just don’t know. You grow so much from 18-21, who knows what is going to happen? There are a ton of 3-star recruits getting drafted into the NFL. [Recruiting] is as good a guess as the NFL draft. They’re hit and miss all the time.
Q: Speaking of the draft, Todd McShay is ripping Tim Tebow, almost daily, saying that Tebow is a 3rd round pick, and can’t do this and that, doesn’t have the footwork for the -formation … have you been following this?
A: I really haven’t seen too much. I think [Tebow will be] an interesting story. Obviously he’s an unbelievable college football player and he’s got a great work ethic. Somebody’s going to draft him with the right expectations … Do you want him to be your quarterback? Do you want him to be your red zone guy?
There’s a chess game that goes on with the formations. If you’re in an I-formation, the defense can do tons of different things. If you’re spread out, they kind of have to declare what they’re going to do or else they’re going to leave guys uncovered.
I think Tim’s going to be successful in whatever he does.
Absolutely not. That thing’s taped to your shoulder pad, you’re just playing the game. It was unbelievabe – I’m really happy it happened. I have the DVD for the rest of my career. When I’m 50 I can watch it and reminiss about the good times.
I was sitting in the locker room after the game and our PR guy came up and was like, ‘I can’t believe you were mic’d up for this game!’ and I hadn’t even thought about it. It was pretty cool, I had an awesome time doing it.
Q: When you look back on the rookie year would that be your highlight?
A: Maybe personally, but winning that game against the Redskins and getting the city of Detroit off the 0-19 streak and giving us something to be positive about, was huge. It broke the ice for us and our coaching staff and lifted the weight.
Q: What are your thoughts on your dealings with the media in your first season?
A: This time last year for me is similar to what Bradford and Tebow are going through now. It’s wild to see yourself be talked about on TV or Sportscenter all day, everyday. People can say whatever they want about you even if they’ve never met you in their life. You’re watching, saying, ‘really?’ Sometimes it is difficult. Probably moreso for my family than me. My mom would turn on the TV and someone would say, “Matthew Stafford, he’s not worth a Top 15 pick”… it’s difficult for friends and family to get used to that kind of thing. I tried to say away from it as much as I could, but everytime you turn on the TV – you want to keep up with what is going on in sports – they’re talking about it … it can get difficult.
Q: Any concern this week about getting photographed partying with ladies?
A: (Laughs) With camera phones these days, you’re a target everywhere. but at the same time you can’t let it make you a hermit. It’s part of life. I definitely try to protect myself as much as possible… I’m usually pretty good at policing myself.
Q: What’s on your DVR? Favorite movies?
A: I’m an Entourage and 24 kind of guy. I just started watching Modern Family – that’s a really funny show. Movies? Saw the Hangover, loved that. Haven’t seen Avatar, want to check it out. Oldies but goodies – Gladiator, Departed.