This season will mark the first in
He’s now gone through a head coaching change for the first time in his career. He’s also got a new offensive coordinator, and will more than likely have a new quarterbacks coach.
It’s new schemes, new concepts and a new direction, which could be a good thing for a young veteran like Stafford, who turned 26 years old Friday.
Stafford will be learning a new system under new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, who comes over from New Orleans where he was Drew Brees’ quarterback coach the last four years.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Lombardi said he, head coach Jim Caldwell and whoever is named the quarterbacks coach, should they bring one in, will have a very detailed plan for how Stafford can succeed when he returns April 7 for the offseason training program.
“We’re going to have a process that’s going to start on Day 1 and work through the end of the season that is going to help him learn this system, learn defenses, how we want to attack the defense and that’s going to make him into a better quarterback,” Lombardi said.
Brees thrived under Lombardi's guidance the last four seasons, completing 68.1 percent of his passes for 19,661 yards with 156 touchdowns with a 101.4 passer rating. He’s been selected to the Pro Bowl each of those seasons.
Caldwell hired Lombardi hoping he can have a similar effect of Stafford.
Stafford, like Brees, has a 5,000-yard season (2011) under his belt, but he’s failed to reach 30 touchdown passes the past two seasons and his 19 interceptions in 2013 were the most since his rookie year.
“Listen, every quarterback could tighten up some of his footwork issues,” Lombardi said of what’s he’s seen on tape from Stafford. “Matthew’s got such a talented arm that I think there were times where he’s making throws that you say, ‘Well, maybe you shouldn’t have thrown that because of the position of your feet or whatnot,’ but I looked at every single one of his interceptions in depth and not every single one is something Matthew did wrong.
“There are interceptions that happen because a receiver breaks his route off too early, or goes through a receivers hands. Get’s tipped at the line of scrimmage. So, I was a little encouraged after watching that. This was not an interception machine.”
Lombardi did admit that Stafford, like every other quarterback in the NFL at this time of year, “needs to get better.” And that's where he comes in.
"Peyton Manning is sitting right now thinking, 'How am I going to play better next year?' he said. "I guarantee you Drew Brees is thinking about how he’s going to play better. So, by no means am I saying that he’s the perfect quarterback, but like I said, he’s smart, he works hard and he’s talented."
Over the past couple weeks, Lombardi has worked to get to know his personnel and start to formulate a playbook. He said Detroit’s offense will have a lot of the same concepts as the Saints' offense and he will call the plays on Sunday’s.
It’s Lombardi’s job to get Stafford and everyone else up to speed and on the same page.
“He’s clearly a bright young man,” Lomardi said of Stafford. “Football is very important to him. He’s a hard worker. I knew before I ever met him how talented he was. He seems like he has all those characteristics that make up a good quarterback."