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STATS & ANALYSIS

The Case for (and Against) Matthew Stafford Making the Hall of Fame

Is Matthew Stafford a Hall of Famer now that he’s added a Super Bowl to his CV? Richard Sherman sure doesn’t think so — but let’s unpack things further here.

Have you checked in on Richard Sherman lately? The former lockdown corner took issue with former fullback and current NFL Network host Michael Robinson’s proclamation that Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford, newly crowned champion of Super Bowl LVI, has a resume befitting enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Sherm was absolutely not having it.

That raised an absolutely fascinating series of follow-up questions that so many of us raged on about across the Twitterverse and television and radio’s various daytime chat shows: More than a dozen years into his career, is Stafford now suddenly in the Hall of Fame conversation since winning a Lombardi Trophy?

Or rather, let’s take a step back — what does a Canton resume look like for a modern quarterback considering that every last team in the league has become pass-happier than just about any previous NFL generation could have imagined?

Are yesterday’s milestones based around stats and awards long past due for reevaluation?

Are there just more really, really good quarterbacks than there used to be?

No one likes a journalist who talks out of both sides of their mouth. But here goes.

Matthew Stafford’s Hall of Fame Case

Let’s keep this simple. Matthew Stafford has several key accolades to his name. Let’s start with the fact that he’s:

  • The fastest QB ever to reach 20,000 career regular season passing yards
  • The fastest to reach 30,000
  • And 40,000
  • And 45,000
  • (And 50,000 — surpassing Tom Brady — as soon as he gets literally five more yards)

Additionally, despite not winning Sunday’s Super Bowl MVP trophy, he’s got the sort of clutch credentials that even the Eli Mannings of the world have to admire:

That’s absolutely immaculate.

No, he doesn’t have the regular season awards. He wallowed in Detroit for over a decade and rarely made the playoffs. But when he finally had his chance to perform on the big stage, he absolutely owned it.

And like anyone hoping to be remembered forever, he even has a signature moment that capped everything off: His no-look pass over the middle to Cooper Kupp that gets more eye-popping and otherworldly each time you watch it:

It speaks for itself. Go ahead, watch it again.

And once you’re done marveling, we can finish off with where Stafford ranks all-time in key passing categories:

  • No. 13 in passing yards (49,995) ahead of Hall of Famers like Joe Montana, Johnny Unitas, Steve Young, and Troy Aikman
  • No. 11 in completions (4,302) ahead of all four Hall of Famers listed above, plus John Elway
  • No. 12 in passing TDs (323) ahead of all of the above and trailing just Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan among active players

Think on that while the man is waving around the Lombardi Trophy at the Rams’ victory parade like it’s a state fair turkey leg.

The Case Against Stafford Making the Hall of Fame

Folks, Canton is professional football’s holy land. It’s not some hangout; it’s a hallowed meritocracy.

For that reason, there’s no way the voters could or should grant entry to a man whose resume reads thus:

  • 1 Pro Bowl selection that came way back in 2014
  • Zero All-Pro selections
  • 2 seasons above a 100 passer rating (fewer than Tony Romo and Kirk Cousins and tied with Carson Palmer, Alex Smith, Ryan Tannehill, and Derek Carr)

Pro Bowl nods are far from an exact science, so let’s be charitable and set those aside. Still, ZERO All-Pro appearances for a guy who first arrived on an NFL field in 2009?

There’s just no defense for that. Not without a whole lot of other accolades to make up for it.

Forget about abstracted, dreamy conceptions of who “should” get in; if you want to get a sense of how stingy the Hall can be, consider the case of legendary Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas, a seven-time Pro Bower, FIVE-TIME First Team All-Pro, and a member of the 2000s All-Decade Team. He last played an NFL game in 2008 and he’s still waiting for his Canton call.

Or how about Torry Holt, a super-consistent wideout who made seven Pro Bowls, one All-Pro, won a Super Bowl with the Rams, and led the league in receiving yards two different times? He’s not even considered a Hall of Fame dark horse since becoming eligible in 2015. There’s a decent chance he will get in — but he won’t be a young man if and when he does.

Matthew Stafford is far from done playing football, but Holt’s outlook may very well end up being his own best-case scenario.

Finally, let’s look at Pro Football Reference’s “Hall of Fame Monitor” formula, which compiles past Hall of Fame resumes from similar players at the same position and converts them into a numerical benchmark.

Stafford’s score in this metric is 58.44. That’s 41st all-time among quarterbacks.

The average score for a Hall of Fame quarterback? 104.14.

No single data point can ever tell a whole story by itself. But take from that what you will.

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