Cooter: Matthew Stafford may be even better without Calvin Johnson

AP

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is still getting used to life without Calvin Johnson.

And the guy calling the plays for him thinks he’s even better because of it.

Via Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com, Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said he sees Stafford developing, even without one of the best receivers of a generation.

“I think he’s a growing and developing quarterback, so yes, I do think he was better than he was the last year, two years ago, three years ago,” Cooter said. “Hopefully we’re all getting better every year. I think he falls into that category too. But I think he’s doing a really good job with what we’re asking him to do and so are the receivers, tight ends and backs.”

Stafford’s on pace to throw for 4,410 yards, and for the best completion percentage (68.0) and passer rating (99.6) of his career. And while the temptation to throw it to Johnson is great and justifiable, Cooter said it often made things harder than they had to be.

“He’s really just trying to throw it to the open guy. It’s as simple as that. It sounds overly simple, but it’s a really big deal,” Cooter said. “You know, when you have Calvin Johnson out there, one of the all-time great receivers, going to the Hall of Fame as soon as you can get him in there, it makes a lot of sense to try and throw that guy the ball. Sometimes you might override your read to do that.

“Sometimes it’s easier for a quarterback, you have your reads, you have your progressions, you have your thought processes, and you just go around throwing it to who gets open. He’s doing a good job of doing that.”

Of course, when Stafford’s in a tight situation late in a game or some other key spot, he’s also going to be throwing to a far less-talented receiver. But so far, it’s working for him.