Matthew Stafford’s Point of View

>> 9.21.2010

This morning, Tom Kowalski wrote a piece on about Matthew Stafford watching the game from the coaches’ box, something I didn’t catch during the game itself.  It struck me as a flatly brilliant idea: let your field general sit in the war room.

Remember, it’s only this season that Stafford’s been given the freedom to check out of the play sent in from the sidelines.  All last season, the play came in through the headset, and Stafford had to run it.  Even this season, it seems as though his audibles are limited to a Maddenesque handful: mostly “run it,” and variations on “throw it up to Calvin.”  For the most part, Linehan and Stafford work hand-in-glove.

Of course, Stafford—and all the other quarterbacks—spend hours and hours and hours with Linehan during film sessions and position meetings and on the field; he knows what the offense is trying to accomplish.  It’s not a surprise to Stafford what the gameplan is, so when the play comes in through the headset he knows exactly why Linehan is calling what he’s calling . . . or, so he thinks.

I’ve said before that sitting in the end zone seats gives you a whole different perspective on what the quarterbacks are doing:

We as fans are so used to the “TV angle”, the down-the-line-of-scrimmage-cam, that we lose appreciation for how wide the field is. It’s 160 feet---that’s fifty three and one-third yards. That’s right, folks--no matter what Tecmo Bowl taught us, the field of play is over half as wide as it is long. A “30-yard-out” is really a 40-plus-yard throw, assuming the QB’s standing in the middle of the field. When people say that arm strength “doesn’t matter”, to an extent, they’re right—the 50-yard sideline bomb is only deployed once or twice a game. But where arm strength DOES matter is getting the rock to the receiver while he’s still open.

The angles, the spaces, the distances all change when you switch seats from the sideline to the end zone.  I can only imagine how wildly different things must seem from up in the box, after a lifetime of seeing things from the field of play.  For the first time, Matthew Stafford got to physically see the Xs and Os come to life—and I have to believe that gives him a better understanding of not just the offense, but the why of the offense, of the things the coaches see that lead them to design the offense as they design it.  Just as seeing game film breakdowns change a fan’s understanding of the game, I have to believe time in the coaches’ box changes a player’s understanding of the game.  On Sunday, Stafford may have taken the red pill.

The other reason this was a brilliant move is because of who Matthew Stafford is: hope.  He’s hope, personified.  He’s the franchise quarterback, the icon, the avatar of everything that is good and right and getting better about the Lions.  If he’s wandering around the sidelines in a ballcap and T-shirt, how can his teammates feel like they have a chance?  Putting Stafford up in the box puts him out of sight and out of mind.  The team on the field is the the whole team, and the quarterback on the field is the quarterback.  No constant reminders that their best player isn’t playing, no reducing the team leader to being the team cheerleader—psychologically, removing Stafford from the situation entirely was a great move.

Above all that, though, the best thing about this move is knowing that the Lions are being coached by a staff that thinks about things like this.  Rod Marinelli never would have put Stafford in the box; the thought would never have occurred to him.  This staff thinks about football in an intelligent way, and they coach football in an intelligent way, and their players have a better understanding of the game because of it.  That can only bode well for the future of the franchise.

Technorati Tags: nfl,detroit lions,matthew stafford,jim schwartz,scott linehan


Jimmerz,  September 21, 2010 at 8:44 PM  

Meh...cute the end it won't make a bit of difference.

Matt,  September 21, 2010 at 9:27 PM  

I have to agree with Jimmerz a bit. Stafford should have already seen this at least 17 times (25, including pre-season games), if not more. Coaches film might seem all "ooo" and "aaa" to the layman, but to a 1.1 overall QB?!? He's seen this stuff. When those calls come in from the headset, he already knows why they are being called. He doesn't need to see it from a "new" angle.

Now, I DO agree on the points about removing Stafford from the sideline. I think getting his injury (which is a 6-weeker, if you ask me) off the minds of his teammates by removing him from their view is a good idea. But let's not act like it will somehow make Stafford a better QB for it. At this point, playing games (i.e. not getting injured) is the only thing that will make him better.

Ty,  September 21, 2010 at 11:51 PM  

Jimmerz, Matt--

You might well be right . . . but maybe I wasn't clear.

I'm not just meaning the coaches' "All-22" and end-zone film angles--of course, they see those all the time. But in the same box, seeing what the coaches are seeing as it happens, watching and listening to everything they do and say *before* the call comes through on the headset? I can't imagine many players have had that experience, and I bet it'd be helpful.


Big Al ... the Bundy experience,  September 22, 2010 at 7:04 AM  

Let's establish a fact from the getgo, regardless of the widely varying opinions about Stafford's abilities, Stafford knows more about football than we all will ever know. Being up in the booth was/is a huge plus and I hope it continues until Stafford is under center once again.

There is at least one huge difference from seeing coaches tape and seeing the game live from the coaches box perspective. That being the spontaneity of the game, its a different sense(s), who has momentum, etc.

If the Lions are ever going to give Stafford the keys to the car, why not have him know what goes into the process of calling a play. Sure Linehan calls the play, but is it really called up in the booth and Linehan relays it in or overrides it with another play? And then should the opposing defense shift, Stafford may/may not be able to audible into an effective play on the fly, now having both field level and coaches box experience.

Its a win/win from my perspective.

Weston Corbitt,  September 22, 2010 at 7:21 AM  

There is no way this could hurt, and at least he is being more productive than drinking gatorade on the sidelines. I would bet you a lot of other teams wouldn't do this, and I have heard Stafford even helps make personnel decisions.

I agree Marinelli wouldn't let him do this, unless his shovel was sharp and his pad level was superb.

Matt,  September 22, 2010 at 9:26 PM  

Okay, I will grant the points that having Stafford in the booth can't hurt and is a different perspective than most quarterbacks get (which also can't hurt). My issue is more with HOW MUCH Ty and some of the commenters think it will help.

Seeing the game unfold as it happens (momentum and all that) from the box is no where near as good as being on the field when it unfolds and watching it on tape later. And I'm not sure it's all that much better than just watching it on tape (somewhat better, but not a "difference-maker").

Ty, you argued very strongly for Stafford to start Week 1 last year from the perspective that, if I may put it briefly, this dude already knows it all and only playing will help him improve at that/this point. You can't now turn around and argue that watching from the booth is some great shakes (and, again, I think it's value compared to simply watching tape after the fact is fairly minimal). At this point, the only things that will help Stafford are playing and proving he can stand up to an NFL beating (I love the kid, but he's dangerously close to the "injury prone" tag already). I know I'm kinda' contradicting myself here (the booth is better than the sideline, but only playing will really help), but I think y'all take my point.

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