Matthew Stafford had the most efficient season of his seven-year NFL career last fall, completing 67.2% of his passes while playing demonstratively better football after a midseason change at offensive coordinator.
But while the Detroit Lions’ new offense stresses quick passes and taking care of the football, coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said he doesn’t want to completely take the gunslinger out of his strong-armed quarterback.
“We’re not going to bury that guy yet,” Cooter told reporters after the Lions wrapped up Organized Team Activities on Thursday. “We had to do what we had to do last year with certain instances, kind of where we were in the season, and some of that showed up in the game tape. I don’t think we’ll put any restraints on our quarterback. So there may be some short passes, there may be some long ones. So we’re not going to restrain him at all.”
Stafford, still just 28, had a penchant for taking big shots downfield early in his career, often at the risk of turnovers.
But he seemed to evolve as a passer after a turnover-filled start to last season, and this year he’ll be operating without his longtime security blanket Calvin Johnson.
Last year, Stafford completed 65% of his passes with 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions in the first seven games with Joe Lombardi as coordinator. In the final nine games, with Cooter calling plays, he had 20 touchdowns, four interceptions and a 69% completion rate.
“We had three days and a bye week to install an offense (last year), so kind of built it piece by piece,” Stafford said. “(Now we’re) building off of some stuff that we’re either going to continue to do or no longer going to do. But this off-season I’ve had time to install it the way he likes it and obviously it’s just the beginning.”
Cooter said he’s changed some verbiage in his play calls this spring – “Sometimes these days on TV you can hear just about everything and see just about everything,” he said – but otherwise the offense should resemble the one Stafford rode to a 6-2 finish last year.
“Efficient and successful,” Cooter said. “That could be throwing the ball, that could be running the ball. That could be fast, slow. Any adjective is whatever, but whatever it takes for our guys to win – that may be scoring a lot of points, some games it’s not. Sometimes you’ve got to play a little slow, you’ve got to help the defense out. At the end of the day, flexible, adaptable, able to do whatever we need to do hopefully to help our team win games.”