Lions OC: Matthew Stafford a better QB without Calvin Johnson
It would have seemed counterintuitive at best, outright foolish at worst, to believe heading into the season that Matthew Stafford would prove to be a better quarterback without the retired Calvin Johnson.
But according to Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, that appears to be the case.
“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 Thursday, via ESPN. “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.”
The notion that the absence of Johnson would help Stafford evolve as a quarterback seems plausible when looked at from a certain perspective. After all, Johnson often served as a security blanket for Stafford and the onus was on him to get the ball into the hands of Detroit’s best offensive weapon as often as possible, even feeling the need to force it at times.
That’s how Cooter sees it, saying Stafford is doing “a good job” of going through his progressions and getting the ball to the open receiver.
Stafford tends to agree, crediting the entire receiving corps, not only Marvin Jones, the NFL’s leading receiver.
“You get out there on the field, and you throw to the guys you have, and whoever is open gets the ball,” Stafford said. “That’s kind of how I’ve always been. Obviously losing a Hall of Fame talent affects some things, but our guys have stepped up and have done a really nice job of getting open and making plays.”
Stafford’s statistical performance so far this season is trending in the right direction. He stands to have his best completion percentage (68.0) and passer rating (99.6) of his career if things continue.
Again, it would have seemed ridiculous before the season to believe losing a generational receiver like Megatron would actually help improve Stafford as a quarterback. But so far, that appears to be the case.