Matthew Stafford is not a bad quarterback against winning teams

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Updated: June 19, 2013
Is Matthew Stafford to blame for the Detroit Lions' woes against winning teams?  The numbers may surprise you.

Is Matthew Stafford to blame for the Detroit Lions’ woes against winning teams? The numbers may surprise you.

We here at WCSN have spent a great deal of time recently poking fun of Matthew Stafford for this chart, which shows that the Lions have gone 1-23 against teams with a winning record with Stafford as their quarterback. WCSN Lions beat writer Russ Thomas then responded with a well-intentioned (but perhaps over the top) article arguing that many of those losses are not Stafford’s fault.

Curious about the matter, I decided to delve more deeply into the statistics to see what the numbers say (with the help of our fearless leader Rourke Douglas Decker). The results may surprise some of you.

The Numbers

Matthew Stafford has made 46 career starts for the Detroit Lions (including playoffs). These have been split nearly perfectly, with 24 of them coming against teams with winning records (9-7 or better on the season) and 22 against teams with non-winning records (8-8 or worse on the season). Stafford’s basic statistics for those two sets of games are shown below.

OpponentComp %YPATD/INT ratioRating
All59.86.91.582.8
Winning teams58.56.71.278.6
Non-Winning teams61.37.11.887.9

Clearly, Stafford has not performed quite as well against winning teams as he has non-winning teams, but the difference is not really that great (more on this later). After all, it is to be expected that winning teams will generally be better, and therefore statistics against them can be expected to drop a little bit. In fact, a recent article I did on quarterback performance in the playoffs suggested that for a typical quarterback’s passer rating will dip about three to five points in the playoffs. Stafford’s drop-off of 4.2 points from his career average to his performance against winning (roughly speaking, playoff-caliber) teams is right in this expected range.

But more than looking at overall numbers, I wanted to go deeper and view this on a game-by-game basis. After all, when a sample size is only 22 or 24 games, it is fairly easy for one or two outliers to skew the average. Consequently, I went through all 46 of Stafford’s games and looked at his passer rating for each. The graph below shows the percentage of games Stafford has had at various passer ratings against both winning (red) and non-winning (blue) opponents.

Figure 1. Passer ratings broken down by percentage of games for Matthew Stafford against winning and non-winning opponents.

Figure 1. Passer ratings broken down by percentage of games for Matthew Stafford against winning and non-winning opponents.

The number of bad games (passer rating below 70) Matthew Stafford has is very similar in both groups.

The difference in his passer rating between the groups originates in the distinction between solid games (passer rating between 70 and 90), very good games (between 90 and 110), and outstanding games (above 110). Against winning teams, Stafford falls mostly in the solid category, with a healthy number of very good games. Against non-winning teams, Stafford is mostly in the outstanding and very good range.

Conclusion

The logical conclusion to draw here is that Matthew Stafford is not a bad quarterback against winning teams.

Over 75 percent of his games against winning teams feature a passer rating that indicates he played well enough to give his team a chance to win. He may not demolish winning teams like he often does non-winning opponents, but the Lions’ woes against winning teams can certainly not be blamed solely on him.

Rather, Detroit has to figure out what they need to change around Stafford in order to help them—as a team—defeat quality opponents.  They might want to start by looking at their defense, which has given up 28.8 points per game against winning teams when Matthew Stafford is their quarterback.

Coming soon

In the second half of this analysis, we will compare Matthew Stafford’s splits against winning and non-winning opponents to those of NFC North quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

About the author(s)

Johnathan Wood is a passionate fan of the Chicago Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks, Cubs, and Northwestern Wildcats. He enjoys being the beat writer for the Bears at Water Cooler Sports and being obnoxiously unapologetic about how his favorite teams are more awesome than yours. Feel free to email him at [email protected] if you have any comments or suggestions. Connect with .

1753 comments
Preparation_A
Preparation_A

Goddamn google is creepy. I just wrote an email to my bro in law about fishing and a fucking fishing resort ad pops across the top of my gmail window. *shudders*

Johnathan Wood
Johnathan Wood

CSO performs Chelsea Dagger in tribute to the Blackhawks

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@Preparation_A  Won't happen.  He won't have the stats.  Peyton Manning is the QB and his PR to the two top WRs is 120+.