Joe Lombardi: 'Matt Stafford is a very good quarterback'

ALLEN PARK, Mich. – When Joe Lombardi was hired as the Detroit Lions offensive coordinator, he told Yahoo! Sports that quarterback Matthew Stafford was not broken.

After over a year working with him, Lombardi continues to believe in his quarterback.

“He’s done a lot better protecting the football, all right,” Lombardi said. “And just for the record, someone said, ‘How are you going to fix Matt Stafford?’ I said ‘He’s not broken’ so the headline was a little ... but I still don’t think he’s broken.

“I think he’s a good player.”

Lombardi said his biggest concerns are fixing the worst rushing offense in the NFL and trying to find ways to get more “chunks” in the passing game. The Lions attempted more downfield passes against Seattle, but none of them connected.

Lombardi also said the Lions have to eliminate some of the penalties and mental mistakes that were costly on drives in the second half of Detroit’s 13-10 loss to Seattle on Monday that dropped the Lions to 0-4.

Like his boss, Jim Caldwell, Lombardi expressed confidence and faith in Stafford running Detroit’s offense.

“I think Matt Stafford is a very good quarterback that we’re happy to have,” Lombardi said. “Of all my concerns, Matt is not the biggest one. So we’ve got to protect him and we’ve got to run the ball better and it’s going to take care of itself.”

The Lions express this faith in Stafford because of his rising completion percentage, which is up to the highest rate of his career at 65 percent – 16th in the NFL. He ranks in the top 10 in three major passing categories: completions (first, 106), attempts (second, 163) and yards (ninth, 1,017).

In other categories, though, Stafford is near the bottom of the NFL, including QBR (26th, 50.0) and passer rating (27th, 79.7).

He is on pace for throwing for 4,068 yards, 20 touchdowns, 20 interceptions and is currently at 6.2 yards per attempt. All would either beat or tie his worst marks since the 2010 season, when he played in only three games.

When asked about the numbers, Caldwell said “the season’s not over yet.” And it’s not, as Stafford still has 12 games – and more porous pass defenses – to face after he has seen three of the top 10 pass defenses in the league in the first month of the season.

So despite the stats, Caldwell believes Stafford is improving, even if most of the stats and the team’s record are not showing that at the moment. Besides the completion percentage, he cited how Stafford handled the raucous crowd noise at Centurylink Field in Seattle on Monday night and how well he communicated there as a sign of his growth.

“You know, almost in every area he’s getting better,” Caldwell said. “His percentage of completion is better. To me, that’s a big one because of the fact that it gets the ball in the hands of guys that can do something with it. It limits the number of times, it equals advances for us.

“Runs plus completions are those things that control the clock and he’s been steadily improving in that area.”

The Lions, though, have still struggled on offense, and while Stafford shouldn’t get all of the blame for that, Detroit needs to show offensive improvement if it is going to right itself in 2015.