The Lions took a well deserved victory lap around Ford Field after clinching their first playoff berth since 1999.
“You need a great quarterback to win in this league,” Raiola told John Niyo of the Detroit News. “And we’ve got a great one. He’s the real deal.”
Stafford’s season has been overshadowed by Detroit’s fast start and the Lions’ subsequent reputation as league bad boys. The third year player has started 15 games after only playing 13 games in the previous two years.
While there have been ups and downs, you can’t argue with the numbers. Stafford has thrown for more than 4,500 yards, with 36 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. There have been far more ups than downs.
“All I can say is, that boy ballin’,” said wide receiver Calvin Johnson.
Megatron isn’t kidding. Stafford has thrown for over 370 yards in three of his last four games. He’s tossed 10 touchdowns with one interception over that span.
Stafford has room to grow. He can be more accurate and make better decisions, but he’s also only 23 years old. He has taken a huge step forward this year.
It’s enough to make a head coach giddy.
“We’ve got a good quarterback, and we put it on him,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “I’m sorry for all the people that want us to run the ball 40 times a game, but we’re going to put the ball in No. 9′s hands and he’s going to make plays for us like he did today.”
Ndamukong Suh and Schwartz get the headlines. Johnson is the generational talent.
But this Lions team is going to go as far as Stafford takes them — this year and beyond.