Have at it: Stafford vs. Cutler

Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford were tops in the league in interceptions last season; how will they fare in 2010? US Presswire

Well done. You mounted a (mostly) reasoned and largely robust defense this week of Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, who I suggested would finish 2010 with more interceptions than the Chicago Bears' Jay Cutler.

As you recall, Cutler led the NFL with 26 interceptions last season. Stafford threw 20 in the 10 games he started, which projects to 32 over a full 16-game season. My first-blush reaction was to think Cutler had a more opportune chance for the better season in 2010, but many of you -- Lions fans and those inclined to root against Cutler -- thought otherwise.

I thought ScubaSteve884 offered the most succinct analysis of that position: "Stafford was a rookie. What's Cutler's excuse?"

Throberts expanded on that point:

Jay Cutler is a seasoned vet and continues to make "rookie" mistakes. Cutler threw 26 picks during his fourth season as a starting quarterback. Matthew Stafford was a rookie quarterback enduring his first (injury-plagued) season. Admittedly, Stafford did have his fair share of interceptions. However, I find it difficult to compare a rookie with a four year vet regardless of talent level. In my opinion, Stafford will make huge leaps this year.

It's fair to project significant progress from a quarterback between his first and second years, although the example many of you cited -- Peyton Manning cutting his interceptions from 28 to 15 -- is an extreme case. But Stafford generally protected the ball during his three college seasons, throwing 33 interceptions in 987 career attempts. It's not as if anyone can mount a case that he has a long history of them.

Meanwhile, booneshinn was among those who suggested Stafford's interceptions were more excusable because of game situations.

I seem to remember two separate conversations last year. Both of them spoke to the 'type' of interceptions being thrown. [Lions coach Jim ] Schwartz said many times that Stafford's interceptions were the result of trying to make plays (which was often because they were always behind)...not because of misreading the defense. I seem to remember another conversation which showed frustration with Cutler simply making bad reads. IF that's true (and that's a big IF), I would give Stafford the upper hand in this conversation, given that he would be in a better position to dictate when he will and won't be throwing an INT.

Some of you who might have been inclined to support Cutler were concerned that his scheme and supporting cast don't give him a fair chance. Indeed, as we noted in the original post, quarterbacks in Mike Martz's offense have tended to ring up high interception totals.

Superman49311 wrote: Cutler will have more ints this year because he doesn't have the weapons Stafford has. You also have to consider that Stafford is in the same system he was in last year, whereas Cutler is in not only a new system, but one that is proven to be pass-happy. I think he will attempt a lot more passes than Stafford so he will in turn throw more ints."

What you've just read is a weighted representation based on those who think Stafford will leapfrog Cutler. My take? I'm agreeing with those of you who aren't ready to give quite that much credit to Stafford, and those who believe Cutler will be a better fit for Martz's scheme than he was in the Bears' offense last year.

First, let's take a look at the facts behind the supposition that most of Stafford's interceptions came when he was trying to make plays to bring the Lions back from big deficits. According to STATS Inc., Stafford threw seven interceptions when the Lions were down by more than one touchdown. That means about two-thirds of his interceptions came when the Lions were leading, tied or trailing by a touchdown or less.

The significance of those numbers can be debated, but personally I can't conclude that it means he'll throw significantly less this year if the Lions are more competitive.

(If anything, the Lions will be more competitive if he throws fewer interceptions. There's a chicken-and-egg difference.)

I also think, as does AChicagoFanStuckinIndiana, that Cutler will get better pass protection than Stafford. There is usually a direct relationship between pass rush and interceptions. So that's where I'm coming from. Thanks for playing, and let's be sure to monitor this dynamic throughout the season. (Man, I'm going to have to come up with a list of everything we're going to be tracking. We'll be tracking fools when it's all said and done.)