Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

December 27, 2018 at 1:43 am.

QB Stafford set to finish subpar season

For the first time in a decade, the Detroit Lions will enter the offseason with a question mark at quarterback.

Matthew Stafford is under contract for another four seasons and should return as the Lions’ starter in 2019, but he’s had a disappointing year under first-year head coach Matt Patricia and outlets like ESPN and NBC Sports have speculated about the Lions potentially trading the quarterback they took No. 1 overall way back in 2009.

If the Lions were to move on from Stafford, they’d need to be willing to eat a $30 million cap hit in a trade and then have to find a replacement, something that’s easier said than done, even with a potential top-five draft pick.

Statistically, Stafford is having his worst season since he missed most of 2010 with shoulder injuries. He’s thrown just 19 touchdown passes this year, has 15 turnovers and almost certainly will finish with fewer than 4,000 yards passing – he has 3,511 entering Sunday’s season finale against the Green Bay Packers – for the first time since his second NFL season.

Some of Stafford’s struggles can be attributed to injuries – he’s played through a back injury the last three weeks that’s limited his effectiveness, but was a full participant in practice Wednesday – and a lack of weapons at receiver, but he also hasn’t seemed comfortable in an offense that’s come to rely more on the running game and less on his big arm.

The Lions have scored 17 or fewer points in five straight games, but they struggled to sustain drives even when Golden Tate, Marvin Jones Jr. and Kerryon Johnson were all in the lineup early in the year.

Stafford championed the Lions keeping Jim Bob Cooter as offensive coordinator last winter, before Patricia was hired as head coach, and Cooter is now on the hot seat as play-caller.

Patricia, likewise, has publicly supported Stafford, routinely praising his toughness and football acumen. But he also pulled Stafford in the fourth quarter of last week’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings and has watched public sentiment turn against the quarterback.

Stafford, whose removal from the game incited cheers from the Ford Field crowd last week, said he doesn’t pay attention to external noise and is only focused on playing football.

“Coach makes those decisions,” Stafford said of being pulled from the game. “I always want to be out there. I understand where he’s coming from with it. He knows what I’m dealing with and going through, so as far as fans’ reaction, it doesn’t make any difference to me.”

SERIES HISTORY: 177th regular-season meeting. Packers lead series, 98-71-7. The Lions beat the Packers in Week 5 this year when LeGarrette Blount ran for two touchdowns. One memorable meeting in this series came in 2011, when the Packers beat the Lions in the season finale at Lambeau Field as Matthew Stafford threw for 520 yards and five touchdowns but Matt Flynn had 480 yards passing and six TDs for the Packers.