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 Good Article on Stafford 
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Joined: September 11th, 2010, 10:19 pm
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Post Good Article on Stafford ... -the-rise/

Cosell Talks: Newton & Stafford on the Rise

by Greg Cosell

I had a chance last week, as part of a project I am working on this summer, to once again evaluate two quarterbacks who had outstanding seasons in 2011: Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton. I had not carefully looked at their tape since January, and I always find it fascinating to revisit players, especially quarterbacks, with a fresh (and hopefully different) perspective.

With the ability to fine focus, I was more impressed now than I was during the season. I can say, without any qualification, that Stafford, who just finished his third NFL season and first in which he started 16 games, and Newton, the 2011 Offensive Rookie of the Year, are the best young quarterbacks in the league. Fittingly, both were No. 1 overall picks in their respective drafts, Stafford in 2009 and Newton in 2011.

It may seem ridiculously obvious, but in a league driven by the passing game, quarterbacks reach high-level status based on how they throw the ball from the pocket. I’ve written before about the attributes necessary to play the position consistently well in the NFL. Those traits are identifiable and measurable through extensive film study. There’s no question that different players possess these characteristics in varying and distinct degrees. But the relevant point is that elite play at the game’s most important position demands a tangible skill set that can be quantified.

It’s the reason that no one has ever “revolutionized” the position, and no one will. That discussion, which enters the discourse every year at some point, is always more idle noise than realistic evaluation. That kind of talk surrounded Newton last season, given his remarkable early success. In many ways, it was a shame, because it overlooked — and ultimately discounted — what made him so good so quickly.

Newton did not have a record-setting rookie season because he’s a great athlete. Certainly, his touchdown run against the Bucs late in the season was spectacular, and few quarterbacks have that kind of breathtaking running ability. But no one becomes a great quarterback in the NFL because of the way they run.

I watched every Newton snap in 2011, and the reality was he played exceptionally well from the pocket. He was poised and composed, decisive and accurate. He stood tall and delivered the ball in the eye of the storm. He made difficult throws into tight coverage. He did not run unless it was the last and only option or it was a designed play call. What was so extraordinary about Newton’s season was that he transitioned to the NFL in a manner that was unexpected and unforeseen based on his college résumé. He was primarily a run/option quarterback at Auburn. While the big arm and occasional NFL throw were there, Newton was not often asked to display the attributes necessary to thrive on Sundays.

Two early-season plays really stood out last fall, and previewed Newton’s exceptional season. His first NFL touchdown pass, 77 yards to Steve Smith on the opening Sunday, featured a change in protection against a blitz. The ability to recognize and then adjust before the snap is an increasingly necessary attribute to play at a high level in this league, and Newton demonstrated it in Week 1. Three weeks later against the Bears, on a 26-yard completion to Smith, Newton showed the kind of progression reading and pocket toughness that are two hallmarks of top quarterback play. The initial read was to his left, but it was taken away by the Bears coverage. With the pocket collapsing, Newton came backside to Smith on a dig route. It was as good as it gets. And that was his fourth NFL start.

While Newton’s consistently strong pocket play was not anticipated, Stafford has always been comfortable in the cradle. He came out of Georgia an elite arm talent, evident the moment you put on his college tape. He threw with velocity and could challenge the defense at all levels of the field. I viewed him as a better prospect coming out of college in 2009 than either Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III this year.

Arm strength has always been a contentious issue. There are many who believe it’s the most overrated quality when evaluating quarterback play, that it can be compensated for with outstanding anticipation and precise ball location. There is some truth to that, and certainly not every great NFL quarterback has a strong arm, but more often than not that belief is fool’s gold.

Let me bring you back to 2009. As I was preparing for that year’s draft, I remember watching Stafford and then immediately putting in a tape of Mark Sanchez. The difference in the way they delivered the ball was unmistakable from film study. There were throws Stafford could make that Sanchez couldn’t, and more importantly, wouldn’t even attempt because he knew he couldn’t. That’s the element that is always overlooked by those who minimize arm strength: The confidence and willingness of quarterbacks like Stafford to pull the trigger on tight window throws that demand velocity. Those throws are often the difference between winning and losing, but few recognize that because there is no quantifiable means by which to evaluate throws that are not made by quarterbacks with lesser arm strength.

Go back to the second week of the 2011 season, against the Kansas City Chiefs. Stafford threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Tony Scheffler that few quarterbacks would have attempted. It began with his subconscious and intuitive belief that he could make the throw, and then it featured rare velocity and pinpoint accuracy. It was a snapshot of Stafford’s outstanding season, the kind of throw that distinguishes great NFL passers.

When you get a chance to see every throw quarterbacks make, and just as importantly, the ones they don’t make, you get a clearly defined picture of the difference. Stafford is only in the early stages of his career, but there’s no question he’s near the top of the charts when it comes to throwing ability. The more snaps he takes, and the more he learns, the better he will get.

Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton — two young quarterbacks with the attributes to be special passers in the NFL for years to come.

May 17th, 2012, 1:51 pm
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Post Re: Good Article on Stafford
Thanks for posting. We've always known Stafford has the arm strength, it was the accuracy that was in question. He has the physical tools to be a great QB in this league, he has the intelligence and leadership abilities that give him the X factor. The Lions FO continues to surround him with talent as they know the club will only go as far as Staff can take him. The exciting part is the kid is still so young (he'll just be 24 this season, a year older than Newton) - he has so many good years ahead of him.

As for Newton, I was dead wrong on that guy. Actually, I was wrong on most of the QBs who came out last year. I'm really curious to see how they all pan out in their sophomore seasons in the NFL. I fully expect some to struggle as last years lockhout actually played to their advantage by dramatically shortening the playbook. The OCs will want to greatly expand the # of plays they can call this year and we will see which QBs can handle that and which ones cannot.

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May 17th, 2012, 2:10 pm
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Post Re: Good Article on Stafford
This is unrelated to the main article of this thread but I didn't want to start a new one...

The Detroit News wrote:
May 21, 2012 at 1:00 am

Lions QB Matthew Stafford bids $15K on MNF prize, donates it to patient
By Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor— Detroit Lions quarterback Matt Stafford made the winning bid of $15,000 on a Lions-Bears Monday night football package that he actually donated to send a University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital patient and her family to the game in late October.

Stafford and his girlfriend, Kelly Hall, sat with Faith Falzone, who is having surgery this week, and her brother, Will, during the Griese-Hutchinson-Woodson fundraiser gala Saturday night.

Stafford was so moved by their family's story, he got into a bidding war on his own auction gift, including six tickets - two provided by ESPN broadcaster and Ann Arbor resident Mike Tirico.

The game is Oct. 22 at Soldier Field.

"They have been through so much in the past couple years, and to see how much they all supported each other and faith through their tough times was really inspiring," Stafford said in a text message.

"I wanted to give them something they could really be excited about and something I know they deserved."

Former Michigan players Brian Griese, Steve Hutchinson and Charles Woodson back the annual weekend event that included a dinner Saturday night and golf outing featuring a number of former Michigan players Sunday at U-M golf course.

The event raised $1.35 million for the hospital this year and has raised just more than $5.5 million over six years.

Hutchinson said he was touched by the generosity of Stafford, a Georgia alum.

"Let's be honest, the state of Michigan hasn't gone through the greatest times with the economy and the jobs around here," Hutchinson said Sunday at the golf outing.

"To have a guy that's from Georgia get drafted by the Lions and be a very integral part of that team turning their franchise around and then to be able to come to a U-M event that he has no affiliation with and donate $15,000 and buy his own tickets that he donated and then give them to a family whose daughter is going to have surgery in the next couple days here … you couldn't write a better fictional story if you had to."

From The Detroit News: ... z1vVchBJXa

WOW! What a class act Stafford is! We're so lucky to have him in Detroit!

Hutchinson's comments are right on the mark!!


May 21st, 2012, 9:12 am
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Post Re: Good Article on Stafford
Here's the mother's blog with her version of the story:

May 21st, 2012, 11:49 am
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Post Re: Good Article on Stafford
Wow. Great feel good story. Amazing read (the mothers blog). GJ being the type of SuperStar who sees beyond the glitz and $$ Matt.

May 21st, 2012, 4:14 pm
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