Exactly what is a franchise QB? After doing some research, it turns out their really isn't a clear and concise definition for that particular label. There are numerous adjectives used repetitively in seemingly every attempted description: consistency, reliability, talent, leadership, and football IQ. While I wholeheartedly agree that any franchise QB needs all those outstanding attributes, my definition has always included the one quality impossible to know for certain about any QB until he gets the opportunity to prove it; can he win the Super Bowl after leading his team to the highest pinnacle in the NFL.
There have been obvious anomalies to my definition over the years. QB's like Nick Foles, Jeff Hostetler, and Doug Williams took over for injured starters in the playoffs and lead their respected teams to victory on the biggest stage. Guys like Jim McMahon, Joe Flacco, and Trent Dilfer were no more than glorified game managers who relied on their dominating defenses to carry them to blowout victories in the Super Bowl. All these men won a single championship. Some rose to the occasion by playing the game of their lives, while others were merely along for the ride. In the right place at the right time so to speak. They were able to accomplish the one thing that Hall of Fame players like Dan Marino, Dan Fouts, and Phillip Rivers never could. Shoot, even Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers have only won one each.
Anybody familiar with my writing already knows my opinion and admiration for franchise quarterbacks. Either you have one, or you don't. If you don't have that level of QB leading your franchise you have precious little chance of lifting a Lombardi Trophy until you acquire one. You might have one and not even know it, or you might think you do and find out the hard way that you don't. Nobody truly knows one way or the other until they get the chance to prove their mettle in the heat of battle.
That brings us to the inspiration for this particular article. A few days ago the Detroit Lions and the Los Angeles Rams worked out a blockbuster trade to send longtime Lions QB Matthew Stafford to the Rams for QB Jared Goff and a couple of first round draft picks, plus a third round selection this year. While the intentions of this article isn't to confirm or condemn the validity and rationality of the trade, there is little doubt that is an incredible return for a 32 year old QB who has thus far in his NFL career had precious little opportunity to show what he is truly capable of when the stakes are the highest.
Stafford appeared in three playoff games for the Lions after being the first overall selection in the 2009 NFL Draft by Detroit. The Lions were never able to build a championship caliber roster around Stafford due to poor personnel and management decisions. This is the type of trade that actually benefits all parties involved at first glance, and the situation appears to have been handled professionally by both Stafford and the Lions organization. It was time, time for Stafford to go somewhere he has a realistic chance of competing for a championship, and a chance for the Lions to hopefully rebuild their franchise the right way.
So what kind of player did the Rams just gamble the next four or five year window of their future success on? To be honest, there really isn't much not to like. Matthew Stafford was the number one overall selection of his draft class for good reason. His superior arm talent rivals the best in the league, both in accuracy and velocity. He has some of the best overall numbers statistically in NFL history at this point in his career, without the benefit of having been surrounded by Pro Bowl caliber teammates. WR Calvin Johnson was the exception to the rule obviously, but Stafford hasn't had him around for years.
The Lions were regularly ranked near the bottom in league rushing stats during Stafford's tenure. Despite that fact, all while taking a fairly good beating behind multiple mediocre offensive lines over the years, Stafford actually still has good mobility that belies his age and experience. He is tough and determined on the field, thoughtful and consciousness off the field. Stafford and his wife are impactful and active in the community. This level of stability makes the decision to invest such a large portion of your future potential for success in one player a much easier proposition. There are few if any glaring red flags.
Honestly, Stafford is exactly the type of player and person I would love to see take over at QB once Ben Roethlisberger retires, but the timing wasn't optimal at the moment and the price paid for his services would have been too great for the Steelers. The Steelers should have a single priority this off season; to reload the offensive line and running back position with the young talent necessary to quickly improve the worst rushing attack in the NFL. That statement is hard to fathom even as I sit here typing it.
If Stafford would have been brought to Pittsburgh he would have found himself once again behind a porous offensive line and supported by an anemic running game. That is not the case in LA. He now has the championship caliber defense that he has always lacked, plus a solid running game thanks to a functional offensive line, talented young RB, and a offensive guru in talented young HC Sean McVay.
Now that he finally has the talent surrounding him that has alluded him for so long, hopefully the NFL will get a chance to see what he is capable of. Players with the caliber of character like Matthew Stafford are easy to root for, as long as they aren't lined up across the field from our beloved Pittsburgh Steelers.