When you’re the only winless starting quarterback in the NFL and you’ve thrown more interceptions than touchdowns, you might soon be out of a job. It’s just surprising when that “you” is 27-year-old Matthew Stafford, who is coming off a Pro Bowl campaign and is one of just five quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards in a single season.
But it is.
Yes, after signing an extension in 2013 that included $41.5 million in guaranteed money, Stafford has performed below expectations. Jim Caldwell benched Stafford during a three-pick performance in a 42-17 loss to the Cardinals last Sunday, a move that suggests the Lions are nearing a fork in the road.
Will this benching be a blip on the Stafford radar, or does it foreshadow the end of an era in Detroit?
“It just depends on how he responds to it,” CBS Sports NFL analyst Trent Green said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “You guys had a great point: It is a fork in the road. Anytime you get benched, no matter what position you are, your career is going to go one of two ways. Either people are starting to lose confidence in you (and) lose faith in you, or do you, for lack of a better phrase, grab the bull by the horns and all of a sudden start performing the way you’re capable of performing? So this could be a very interesting time for Matthew Stafford.
“It’s interesting talking about guys getting paid,” Green continued. “The way the salary cap was set up before – when you had your high draft picks getting the big salaries – they were pressured into playing sooner than when they were ready because they were getting paid. The owners were like, ‘If I’m paying this guy the money, we got to get him on the field.’ Now with the way the collective bargaining agreement is set up with the rookie pay scale, the guys aren’t getting the same kind of contracts. So that pressure to play right away isn’t nearly as much as it was before.
“But now all of a sudden you have these guys (who reach a point where) either you’re going to get the $100 million contract or you’re not. There’s a lot of overpaid quarterbacks right now. But when you start talking that kind of figure, the expectations (come) along with those types of contracts. So it’s really a dilemma for the way the league is set up right now from a pay-scale standpoint. There’s a lot of quarterbacks getting a lot of money, and if you’re not performing to that high level, that’s when the pressure is going to come.”
Stafford isn’t the only highly paid NFC quarterback on the hot seat. There’s also the curious case of Colin Kaepernick, whose 49ers have lost four straight games.
Kaepernick, who last year signed a $126 million extension, has just five touchdowns (four pass, one rush) in five games this season and hasn’t progressed as many thought he would.
Luckily for the 49ers, the contract is extremely team-friendly with little guaranteed money.
“When the contract was signed, there was a lot of backlash for Kaepernick doing a deal like that – and now you know why the deal was done like that,” Green said. “So I think from a team standpoint, it was great to try and see and wait. I don’t imagine too many players or agents are going to agree to a deal like that if Colin Kaepernick is ultimately released from that deal. But it was a good setup by the team. You give him that contract. He had some early success. But you give him that contract and it’s a way to say, ‘Hey, you know what? It’s a work in progress. We want to see more.’ I have a hard time believing if he ultimately is released that too many agents or players would want to do deals like that.”
The Lions will try to get in the win column this Sunday at home against Chicago (2-3), while the 49ers (1-4) will try snap their four-game skid at home against Baltimore (1-4).