Monday, January 9, 2017

Of Mach and Matthew

Of course, the title of this post is not to be confused with "Of Mice and Men", which I think was a book written by John Steinbeck back during the Great Depression. Not sure, because yours truly never read it. However, I HAVE read all of John Grisham's books and been over a 40 year subscriber to MAD magazine. So that should count for something.

By and large, all but a handful of things I have ranted on are topics which come to me by observing the world of sports. See or hear something on TV, in a venue, or maybe even a sports bar by one of the other patrons, and it gives me an idea I run with.

To be sure, yours truly would be the first to admit (lord knows I've been told enough by others) that the quality contained within these posts is hardly Pulitzer worthy. Rather, more the ravings of a semi-literate lunatic. But I really do try and, hey, the boss man (editor) already knew I was an idiot when he approached me about signing on for such an endeavor in the first place. And I got a free lunch out of the deal. Who could turn that down? Over 1800 articles later, here we are, still alive, kicking, and blathering on, though the content probably hasn't improved much. Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, Mach and Matthew. Right.

Every once in a while, a topic will be suggested by another for me to expound on. Most will be declined for various reasons. It's already been covered 100 different ways, could get me in trouble with the aforementioned boss man, or perhaps I just draw a -- surprise -- blank. Surprisingly, or maybe not, are the times when somebody gives me an idea for a post, and they probably don't even realize it. This would be one of those times.

There's this person out there somewhere named Mach. I don't know him -- or her. Or where they live. It could be anybody from anywhere. I have no means of finding this out and don't want to. Evidently, Mach reads my articles at least occasionally, and sometimes even hits me up with a comment here and there. For both I am grateful, though I sometimes question the very sanity of said Mach. After all, logic would seem to dictate that anybody that would continue to read this tripe can't be wrapped too tight.

But after my previous article, which was not exactly kind to the Detroit Lions, Mach weighed in again. It appears he/she is a Lions fan. Did I mention something about the elevator and the top floor?

One of Mach's comments suggested that quarterback Matthew Stafford, a hero in Detroit, might be better served if he took his talents elsewhere when he becomes a free agent after next season. And that struck a chord with yours truly. Let's look at that possibility a little closer.

Stafford will have put in roughly a decade's worth of service to the Lions after next year. To date, his win/loss record is 51-61, for a percentage of a paltry .455. True, Stafford has put up some amazing personal passing statistics along the way, most notably with the help of the recently retired Calvin "Megatron" Johnson, but he's never won a single playoff game. Chances are, he won't next year either. The Lions, as a team, and given their, shall we say, "challenged" philosophies and coaching staff, don't appear headed for greatness any year soon. The very notion of them being anywhere near Super Bowl worthy is somewhere between sad and flat out laughable.

So put yourself in Matthew Stafford's shoes when he becomes a free agent, unless he's foolish enough to sign on for even more years of frustration with the Lions in the next year.

When the opportunity arises, he'll be 30 years old. Still in his "prime" with likely the best grasp of the game he's ever going to have. At the peak of his bell curve, as it were. Where might he want to go, given choices and, most importantly, where would be a good fit? Money shouldn't be a problem. Stafford's already made upwards of $100 million and will continue to make big bucks no matter where he might land. He's pretty well set for life already in the finances department. Of course, this all assumes a disastrous injury doesn't befall him in the next year, but the possibility always looms in the NFL. As they say, each and every play can be a player's last. It happens frighteningly often.

A couple seemingly ideal possibilities can probably be ruled out. Stafford grew up in Dallas, but pulling a Lebron James and going home appears off the table with young Dak Prescott lighting it up for the Cowboys. Though he went to college at Georgia, about an hour's drive from Atlanta, the Falcons don't seem a likely destination as well. Their current QB, Matt Ryan, is about three years older than Stafford, but will still be quite serviceable if and when Stafford hits the market. Plus he knows their playbook inside and out. Talent wise between Stafford and Ryan is too close to call for the Falcons to bench Ryan (and his big contract) in favor of the Georgia peach.

Yet other possibilities are intriguing. Consider the Denver Broncos, reigning Super Bowl champions, no less. Since Peyton Manning retired, they're in desperate need of a talented veteran presence that Stafford could bring them. Elsewhere, the core of the team remains solid -- just no decent quarterback.

Could we dare mention -- gasp -- the New England Patriots? Tom Brady might want to play for another 5 or 10 years, but that's not going to happen. When his fall comes, and it will be soon (he'll be 40 in August), it's likely to be precipitous. Somebody will have to take his place. Sure, they've groomed Jimmy Garoppolo for the job, and he's done a fine job when given the rare chance to play. Yet one has to think a guy like Bill Bellichick would take a hard look if somebody like Stafford was out there for the taking. And what quarterback wouldn't want to play for such an elite organization? They can make the playoffs on autopilot. Could Stafford lead them back to another Super Bowl or three? Entirely possible. It would be a win-win, no pun intended.

Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh is now 35. How much longer does he have? Head coach Mike Tomlin and the Steelers organization would no doubt love to plug in a guy like Stafford if Big Ben calls it a career.

The above three, Denver, New England, and Pittsburgh are proud franchises with a history and expectation of winning. This sets them at a polar opposite from what Stafford has endured in Detroit. Depending on how things play out after next season, any would be a good fit for Stafford.

Of course, on the flip side, there would be any number of not-so good destinations. Teams like the Bears, Chargers, and certainly the woeful Browns might want to throw big bucks at Stafford, but he'd be crazy to go there. Even if Drew Brees hangs it up in New Orleans, the rest of the team has deteriorated badly since they won the Super Bowl several years back. Why would Stafford be interested in any of them if he has no shot at the ultimate prize? And when he's at the peak of his career with lifetime dough already in the bank, one would think his main objective would be playing in and winning a Super Bowl. Isn't that what it's supposed to be all about?

You can bet that behind the scenes the Detroit Lions will be trying to lock up Stafford for more years during the 2017-2018 campaign. And who knows? After so many seasons toiling away for the dysfunctional from top to bottom Lions, maybe he doesn't think so straight anymore and could be coaxed into it. A decade in that town, playing for that team, is just about enough to land anybody in the proverbial cuckoo's nest.

It should also be noted that, by most all accounts, Matthew Stafford is a good guy, an upright dude. Always has been. Man works hard and keeps his nose clean.

So for his sake, here's hoping he takes a good long hard look around when free agency becomes a possibility, and turns it into a reality. He deserves it.

Besides, even with him, the Lions haven't come anywhere close to playing in the Super Bowl, let alone winning it. Stafford hanging around for a few more years wasting his considerable talent isn't likely to change that. Put another way, the Lions are going to lose anyway. It's just their nature. Always has been as well.

So, with apologies to Bogey, here's looking at you kid, or at least Mach, whoever and wherever you are. Thanks for the idea and I hope I didn't botch it too badly. I'm still not going to read Steinbeck's tome, but I've only got halfway through the latest edition of MAD. Time to go put in some more quality throne time and get a few yuks. The Lions, mercifully, are done this year, so no more humor to be found there, though I must admit it's been a rich source over the years.


  1. Lol. To me, it all boils down to whether or not the Lions are willing to build a complete team. If they are, then Stafford will extend. If not, he will walk.

    If Stafford walks, he'll either end up like either Drew Brees or Carson Palmer. Either way, he'll eventually win a playoff game.

    As much as I love the Lions and hope that Stafford stays, I wouldn't blame Stafford if he walks. He deserves better. Much better.

    Come to think of it, I wish Megatron came out of retirement and signed with the Pats for one year just so he could win a ring.


    1. Pretty much agree, Mach. And yeah, if Gronk can stay healthy, add Megatron to the mix with Brady throwing to him and the genius of Bellichick, and the Pats would be formidable indeed. Johnson with a ring. Helluva nice thought.