Turns out Matthew Stafford does have a heart. Fooled me

Matthew Stafford is being hailed as a folk hero across the NFL for, of all things, a display of heart. I have to confess: As someone who saw Stafford’s first collegiate pass against Western Kentucky and his last against Michigan State, “heart” wasn’t the commodity I felt he had in abundance.

Arm strength, yes. That he threw for 422 yards against Cleveland on Sunday didn’t surprise me all that much — Joe Cox could throw for 442 yards against Cleveland, which hasn’t had a team in any sport do much of anything since the self-appointed mayor of that city threatened me on live TV — but the already-legendary endgame tableau did.

To recap: With Detroit down by six, Stafford runs around looking for a receiver and, after much hurly-burly, slings the ball into the end zone as time expires. (Did I mention he has a big arm?) Alas, it’s intercepted. But wait.

The Browns’ defensive backs, making the Falcons’ DBs look good by comparison, manage to interfere with two different Lions. The foul on Bryant Johnson by Hank Poteat is called. The one on Calvin Johnson, of whom you’ve heard, is not. No matter. It’s pass interference. Ball on the 1. Untimed down. (Game can’t end on a defensive penalty, unless it benefits Florida or Alabama, in which case it’s OK.) But wait.

Stafford has been flattened by defensive tackle C.J. Mosley and is, as they say, in a world of hurt. The Lions send backup quarterback Daunte Culpepper on the field while the medical staff tends to Stafford. But wait.

Cleveland coach Eric Mangini calls timeout to yell at the refs about the interference call — has there ever been a nickname less apt than ManGenius? — and Stafford re-inserts himself into the game. And throws the winning touchdown pass after the game has technically ended.

Miracle comeback. Five touchdown passes by a rookie, the fifth coming after a hit so violent Stafford was left with a bad left shoulder and might not be able to play Thursday, when the Lions stage their annual Thanksgiving gala. Guts, glory and a really big arm.

And I have to admit: The guy showed me something new. My take on Stafford at Georgia was that he was a great talent but not necessarily a leader. I’m not saying he didn’t want to win. (Clearly he did.) I’m just saying I never considered him a particularly inspirational player. He did his job but didn’t necessarily elevate his team, which was a key reason I wouldn’t have taken Stafford No. 1 overall were I the Lions.

Courtesy of YouTube, here’s the whole wild game in miniature. You’ll notice Calvin Johnson doing the usual nice work, and you’ll also notice Mohamed Massaquoi, who used to play with Stafford and now plays for Cleveland, catching a touchdown pass. But mostly you’ll notice Stafford, doing something I  wouldn’t have expected him to do. Consider me re-educated.

114 comments Add your comment

"Chef" Tim Dix

November 23rd, 2009
8:11 pm

Enter your comments here

"Chef" Tim Dix

November 23rd, 2009
8:12 pm

kinda first.

Gawdfather

November 23rd, 2009
8:13 pm

Hey Mark, you ready to eat some crow regarding Brett Favre?

tim

November 23rd, 2009
8:13 pm

Why don’t we see this out of any player wearing red and black anymore?

"Chef" Tim Dix

November 23rd, 2009
8:13 pm

Yeah Mark, he stood in till they broke his arm off. I’d say thats heart.

Dr. Phil

November 23rd, 2009
8:20 pm

Stafford is, indeed, a tough cookie. It is a shame that he went to such a bad team.

grid_Fe

November 24th, 2009
1:43 am

I think many are now realizing that the whole aloof and non-inspiring appearance that Stafford showed at UGA had more to do with being at UGA and less to do with Stafford. It’s obvious now that the UGA coaching staff held Stafford back. The heart and leadership were always there. It’s plain for everyone to see now that he’s with the Lions, who trust him and let him lead. The UGA coaching staff just didn’t take advantage of it. On the contrary, it looks like they hindered it.

Meanwhile...an apt, if unsettling comparison

November 24th, 2009
1:52 am

At the risk that someone may be eating when they read this, it has to be said that the moniker ManGenius fits Mangini about as smoothly as a mankini would fit Mangini at this point.

Pepto Bismol anyone?

Ted Striker

November 24th, 2009
2:28 am

Nice article, as is your custom.

JSS

November 24th, 2009
2:56 am

I gave “Corky” credit on Sunday’s blog for channeling Staubach and Tarkenton and at least giving his team a chance… Now stay away from Party Boats and NASCAR events and he’ll possibly make ‘em forget Bobby Layne..

Halsey

November 24th, 2009
3:07 am

Stafford was nitpicked to all heck leading up to the Draft because guys like Ryan Leaf and JaMarcus Russell have made people afraid of top rated QB’s. It’s gotten to where people look for reasons to not like a QB prospect and ignore the positives. Stafford had ‘quality NFL QB’ written all over him. Like many good NFL QB’s, he will be even better in the pros than he was in college. He’s made for the NFL.

DirtyDawg

November 24th, 2009
3:10 am

Hey grid…up yours. I suppose that when you’re down you have to expect the naysayers to come out of the woodwork, but to claim that Mark Richt and Bobo and others didn’t give Matt Stafford the opportunity to demonstrate his leadership and heart is asinine. The kid played every down, had the talent around him to exploit and he showed enough of his own talent to make himself a ga-zillion dollars in the pros. If he and Knowshon had hung around for another run at it, this season would have had a lot different outcome for Georgia.

Singletary

November 24th, 2009
4:35 am

Totally agree with you, Mark. I was not on any sort of Stafford bandwagon, but he more than “manned up.” Listening to the field announcements and realizing he could come back it is very strategic, particularly when he was in pain. My spouse, a Cleveland fan, was screaming about the failure to run 10 seconds off the clock for the injury time out.

John DUIberry

November 24th, 2009
4:40 am

Snapshot: November 1985 GT Head Coach Bill Curry says, “We’ll bring the cheaters to their knees!’, meaning teams like the bullmutts.

willie martinez

November 24th, 2009
5:17 am

i hear he wants me to come to detroit to coach that moribund defense.

Florida Dawg

November 24th, 2009
5:17 am

Stafford is what he is…and his performance didn’t surprise me at all. In Stafford, the Lions drafted the best college prospect this year. The lowest paid NFL football player should be motivated.
If I made millions of dollars a year…I would be motivated.

BIRDDAWGONE

November 24th, 2009
6:14 am

not the first time you have been fooled

MR

November 24th, 2009
6:17 am

UGA was not paying him enough to be a leader. He could not take a chance on getting hurt at UGA, it would have spoiled his NFL chances. He went to UGA to go to the pros, no other reason.

Va. Beach Dog

November 24th, 2009
6:31 am

I don’t get all you Stafford haters. The kid has always shown heart. Just because he didn’t strut around after a two-yard gain like Tebow and make rabid animal noises doesn’t mean he didn’t care. I’ve been a Stafford fan from the first time I saw him play and could never understand why guys like Mark were always bashing him. He and Knowshon did take us to #2 in the country a few years back. To read the comments, you would have thought we were 6-6 during the Stafford years (oh wait, that’s this year).

SickandTired

November 24th, 2009
6:41 am

Incredible that he’s doing really well. But wait, he threw 5 picks last week didn’t he. The biggest problem and he just wasn’t thinking when he didn’t avoid that hit is that he can’t press kegs of beer over his head and will be on the Disabled List in the drunk competition at the Michigan state fair.

IKnowEveryrthing

November 24th, 2009
6:51 am

Except the thing about the self appointed mayor threatening you on live TV. Fill me in , Mark!

TJH

November 24th, 2009
6:56 am

I guess I’ve never paid any more attention to Stafford than any other Tech fan would, but after seeing his play from Sunday, I have a TREMENDOUS amount of respect for him. As much as I’ll let any athlete be a “hero” in my view, he is.

david willis

November 24th, 2009
7:02 am

Now we know why your a sports writer and not a coach!

F-105 Thunderchief

November 24th, 2009
7:09 am

Mangoober is more like it. And, what does that make the Cleveland owner for so eagerly lapping up the Jets’ leavings?

IKnowEveryrthing

November 24th, 2009
7:13 am

Your link to the story on the threatening mayor won’t work.

AltamahaDawg

November 24th, 2009
7:16 am

It’s kind of like when you read a sport commentary in the AJC every now and then that wasn’t phoned in just to have something to print.

Inhale, please?

November 24th, 2009
7:37 am

You watch games from a different perspective I guess, but I always felt like Stafford was a leader. He put the team on his shoulders as a freshman against Auburn and led us to an unexpected victory. He led us to several wins over his time there when the defense had collapsed and had not held up their end of the deal. Hopefully he will be able to lead Detroit out of the doldrums – if a city ever needed something to feel good about, it’s Detroit!!!

Rod

November 24th, 2009
7:44 am

As of now, your link to the self-appointed mayor isn’t working.

Teacher

November 24th, 2009
7:48 am

Mark, you wrote: “has their ever been…” Honey, that should be: “has there ever been…” You’re a professional writer. please use the proper form of their/there.

John

November 24th, 2009
7:57 am

Can beat an NFL team but can’t beat GT!!

todd

November 24th, 2009
8:03 am

Bradley is just telling the truth.

Thanks Staff for alot at Ga, but Dude will never be in the MoMass, DJ Shock, Pollack, T Davis, Hersch of course, Old school Zier, Mitch Davis, G Hearse…. you got to throw Moreno in, he was always giving 100%,

The memory I’ll always have about Stafford is that he quit in the Florida game his Sr. yr.

Dude is actually a very talented “knucklehead”.

Recovering Jock

November 24th, 2009
8:05 am

…and for $1.75 I can take MARTA to Perimeter Mall or the Airport. while I do not dispute the toughness Stafford demonstrated on Sunday, let’s not go nominating him for the Medal of Honor just yet. and let us not forget, this is a man who will earn a guaranteed $40 million over the next 5 years, with the opportunity to add another $20-$25 million. “sucking it up” is as important to the NFL – especially at QB – as “arm strength” and “leadership”. and shame on the fair-weather UGA types who were no doubt slamming Stafford last year, but now try to use one (impressive) 2-play sequence in the NFL to illustrate all that is wrong with UGA Football (Mark Richt). as I said, Stafford is a tough – well compensated – kid and plays like the one we saw last Sunday give cause for hope, but NFL careers are measured over time, and only time will tell if Matthew Stafford is the next Manning/Marino or Leaf/Russell.

Dawg 94

November 24th, 2009
8:11 am

UGA will DESTROY GT 49-7.

Go Dawgs.

RedPantsDawg

November 24th, 2009
8:12 am

John-
Staffard was 2-1 against GT. I blame last year’s loss on Willie Martinez not Stafford. 42 points should be enough to beat anyone.

Dawg

November 24th, 2009
8:17 am

John – You have to be kidding me! He went 2 and 1 against your beloved Nerds from North Ave. How short memories you nerds have. I can’t figure out how you can even graduate from a good school like TECH!

SickandTired

November 24th, 2009
8:23 am

Hey red pants, it would have been enough if your boy Stafford hadn’t throw a pick 6 to a Tech guy when there wasn’t a red jersey in the same zip code. Stafford is worshiped by Dawg Fans and perceived to be this great Dawg when he never was. He was there to get his ticket punched and that same Stafford folks think that David Greene just hindered DJ Shockley and would have won a national championship. The Dawgs are so delusional they border on insanity. Paul Johnson has more coaching flowing through his veins than Mark Richt could ever hope to have. Mr. Cool will look calm and collected on the sidelines Saturday while the team he put together, the team he leads, the team he coaches and the program that pays him $3 million a year burns down around him. The over under on penalty yards has been set at 77. True Georgia believers, tell me, would you bet this weeks pay check on the under?

James

November 24th, 2009
8:25 am

This from a huge Tech fan- Stafford was the real thing at UGA and is the real deal at Detroit. A very bright, hard working, talented quarterback. I was, of course, happy to see him graduate but wish him nothing but the best. My guess is that he was a quiet but effective leader at UGA.

AdMan

November 24th, 2009
8:26 am

Mark, If anyone doesn’t have heart its you. Your columns are a bunch of dribble that you churn out only to get hits on your blog. Your abiliy(or lack of there of) as a writer becomes more clear with each column you post. You’ve obviously never played a team sport in your life and it amazes me that you think you are an expert on everything. You always seem to have all the answers (or so you think you do) and rarely do you discuss when you are wrong.(which is more times than not)Why don’t you make a new years resolution,start stating the facts in your columns, quit trying to tell us what you think is happening. Believe it or not the readers of this blog probably know far more than you do about the subjects you write about. Grow up….You are quickly losing more of your readership than you know because of you sophmoric approach to the subjects you write about.

SuperB

November 24th, 2009
8:32 am

Your headline pretty much describes you. “Fool.” You wouldn’t have taken Stafford first because you really don’t know CFB. What do you know anything about?

Techman

November 24th, 2009
8:33 am

Sick and Tired you need to grow up….one good season by CPJ doesn’t mean he’s the second coming of Bobby Dodd. It just means we have a good team this year..that could change quickly next year…just look at Georgia…I’ll bet that they are back in winning form quicker than you’ll ever want to admit. Then you’ll have to eat your words. Try to have a little class..it goes a lot farther than than coming off like a second grade school boy like you do.

Lois Pewterschmidt

November 24th, 2009
8:33 am

dawg 94 – now I see why you think that. You are 94 years old and senile. I think it would be closer to 94-0 for Tech than your prediction.

Recovering Jock

November 24th, 2009
8:35 am

ad man, I’m not defending MB as a columnist, and I know we all fall victim to typos, but I believe the word you are looking for is is “drivel” (senseless talk), as opposed to “dribble” (spittle/saliva). the only chance you have to save yourself is to flag MB for a “double dribble”. I will defer to you writing chops to complete the metaphor.

techie on the coast

November 24th, 2009
8:36 am

lmao…..Ga fans kill me….”he should have went to a better team”….he was drafted you inbred swine…oh and this one too…. I can’t figure out how you can even graduate from a good school like TECH! Dawg has no clue ..lol….85% of UGA fans can’t even find Athens on the map….but think their outfits look cool….lol

Tom

November 24th, 2009
8:36 am

I realize it was tongue-in-cheek and trying to make a humorous point about Cleveland’s ineptitude, but Joe Cox ain’t throwing for 442 on nobody. To be truly effective, a humorous comparison like that has to at least have a toehold in reality, but Cox putting up 442 is like Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.

AdMan

November 24th, 2009
8:43 am

Recovering Jock… Point well taken…I should have used the word “puke” buts its close to Thanksgiving.

Ramguy

November 24th, 2009
8:45 am

Frist of all the Cox could throw for 442 yds against the Browns statement wasn’t funny, it was just plain dumb.Cox couldn’t hit his receivers unless he’s throwing deep and then it’s a rainbow. BTW where is all the accuracy the Dawg coaches told us about? I remember two years ago debating a Fla fan who was saying that Tebow would be drafted ahead of Stafford. I told him not only would Stafford be the 1st QB taken, he would be much better in the Pros than he was at UGA. Looking back at the past two years, I’m inclined to think he wasn’t coached up while he was in College.

Dooley's Cardiologist

November 24th, 2009
8:52 am

If Stafford can stay healthy, then I think he and CJ will make a lethal pair for years to come. Oh, I forgot they have 20 other players on the field that are horrible. CJ, Please don’t sign a new deal with the Lions when the time comes!!! Free Agency!!

PMC

November 24th, 2009
8:52 am

5 TD’s as a rookie. Brandon Pettigrew and Calvin Johnson… They need to improve their OL and thier defense but things are looking up in the D.

Mark Bradley

November 24th, 2009
8:52 am

Didn’t Joe Cox throw for 375 yards in an SEC game this season? (Hint: Hogs.)

Dooley's Cardiologist

November 24th, 2009
8:56 am

Dawg94,

What you been smokin?? GT puts up at least 50, Cox throws at least 2 int. and Uga rolls over in his grave. Oh yeah, almost forgot, Dawgs get the most honorable bid to Shreveport.