Is Matthew Stafford worth the richest contract in NFL history?


Welcome to the Wednesday War Room, where Yahoo Sports’ football minds kick around the topics of the day. Want in? Email us with your questions. Today, we’re talking Matthew Stafford and fast food. Onward!

1. Very simple: Is Matthew Stafford worth the most valuable NFL contract in the history of recorded time?

Frank Schwab:
Of course he was. Let’s get this out of the way: There’s no option in which you can offer Stafford half of what he got and he accepts it. The price tag was $135 million over five years. Pay or let him go. Don’t bring some fantasy-land third option where Stafford accepts less to me. And there’s no chance the Lions are better off without Stafford.

Stafford isn’t great, but it’s really, really, really hard to find a quarterback better than Stafford if you don’t have one. Ask the Jacksonville Jaguars or Denver Broncos or Houston Texans or … you get the point. What the Lions need to do is help Stafford out. I’ll grant you Calvin Johnson, but who is the best offensive lineman, running back and tight end Stafford has ever played with? (Sad but true: The Lions have not had one Pro Bowl player at any of those positions over Stafford’s eight seasons … not one!) The one time the Lions gave Stafford two competent offensive teammates – Johnson and Golden Tate – they went 11-5 in 2014. The next year Johnson broke down and then retired. There’s no way you can look at the Lions and ascertain that Stafford is the problem. He’s practically the only reason they have any hope at all. And the price tag to keep him was $135 million. Not paying it and then praying to find a replacement as good as Stafford would have been the most Lions thing ever.

Zach Pereles:
Yes, Matthew Stafford is worth it. First you have to look at the stability: Between 2000 and 2010, the Lions started 12 different quarterbacks. Since, only Stafford has started. To further this point of ineptitude, remember 2008? The Lions went 0-16, which led to their top overall pick of Stafford. Three years later — Stafford’s first fully healthy year — they were in the playoffs, and they’ve been to the postseason twice more since. Sure, you can point to his sub-.500 record as a starter, but the systematic failures around him are undoubtedly the leading cause of his underwhelming win-to-loss ratio. Case-in-point: In the five years when Stafford was fully healthy and had Calvin Johnson, only once did the team’s defense finish higher than 15th in the league in points allowed.

If you thought Stafford was simply a byproduct of Johnson’s greatness, 2016 proved you wrong. He posted the second-best completion percentage of his career and the second-best interceptions percentage of his career, and he led a league-leading eight game-winning drives. In Stafford’s six healthy years, he’s 48-48. The Lions needed the entire 11 seasons previous to Stafford’s starting streak to hit 48 wins. No, he’s never won a playoff game, and no, he’s not the best quarterback in the NFL. But the turnaround that franchise has experienced with a healthy Stafford, his age (29) and his ability to win with what little around him makes this contract worth it. Detroit has its quarterback locked up, and that is invaluable.

Jay Busbee:
This is one of those moments where I wish I’d paid more attention in Econ class. There’s a term for this, sunk cost or opportunity cost or cost-benefit analysis or something involving cost—whatever, this is Shutdown Corner, not the freaking London School of Economics. Point being: the Lions couldn’t afford NOT to overpay Stafford, at least not without expecting to consign themselves to years of hopelessness (as opposed to now, where they have flickers of hope). There are 32 starting quarterback slots in the NFL and only about 10 decent quarterbacks; supply-and-demand being what it is, if you’ve got one in your barn, you’re gonna have to pay up to keep him there. Sorry, Detroit. And start saving those pennies, Green Bay and Atlanta.

Shalise Manza-Young:
Can I just say no? Just, no.

Look, quarterbacks get a disproportionate amount of the glory and the blame in the game these days, but they also get absolutely the biggest salaries. And I get it; it’s harder to find a standout quarterback these days than it is to find nuance on Twitter. Stafford isn’t terrible – but “isn’t terrible” should not equate to “highest-paid in NFL history.” The Shutdown Corner Superfriends discussed this virtually this week, and it was noted that Stafford has never had a top running back to help take the pressure off him, which certainly would help at times. But he did have Calvin Johnson on his side for the first seven years of his career, and how many other quarterbacks can say that?

Anthony Sulla-Heffinger:
Yes*. Is Matthew Stafford capable of winning a Super Bowl? Yes, so that alone makes him worth $27 million a year, but there’s one big catch. The Lions aren’t close to hoisting the Lombardi trophy. If a team like the Broncos or Texans (sorry to open old wounds Houston), would have signed Stafford to this huge contract, it would have made perfect sense because they’re a quarterback away from being a perennial contender. Does anyone outside of Detroit believe the Lions with Stafford are better than Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers, who will surpass Stafford’s deal eventually? No. This kind of deal will make it difficult for the Lions to build a true contender around Stafford – just look at Baltimore’s struggles in recent years – but unfortunately, Detroit’s front office really had no other choice.

Jordan Schultz:
It is hard to justify such a rich contract for a player who has yet to win a playoff game and one who boasts a 5-46 all-time record against winning teams. Make no mistake though: This is a deal that had to get done. Matthew Stafford is a fine quarterback and certainly one that you can build a winning team around. Last year alone, he captained an NFL-record eight come-from-behind wins in the fourth quarter. Detroit started its entire rebuilding project around Stafford in 2009, and the Lions can’t run the risk of one day losing their franchise quarterback to free agency. Remember too that last season, the 29-year-old posted career bests in both interception percentage (1.7) and QBR (70.5). The NFL salary cap will ensure that Stafford won’t be the owner of the highest paid contract in league history for long. In the past, that title has belonged to Joe Flacco, then Derek Carr and will soon perhaps belong to Jameis Winston. For now, though it seems like a crazy move by Detroit, it is actually a sound business decision.

Podcast: The ultimate fantasy football guide with Yahoo’s Andy Behrens

2. If NFL quarterbacks were a fast-food restaurant, which restaurant would they be?

Matthew Stafford: Chipotle
Constantly hated on but typically good enough and often comes through in the clutch. -Schwab

Matt Ryan: Wendy’s
Of the three biggest burger chains, Wendy’s to me has the best burgers. But their fries, meh. That’s Matt Ryan: in many ways, very good. In some ways, he’s missing just a little something. -Young

Aaron Rodgers: Waffle House
You can debate whether Waffle House counts as fast food because of the presence of waitresses, but I defy you to find faster food than here. Similarly, I defy you to find a better quarterback in the NFL on a week-to-week basis. Sure, every so often you’re going to get a dud Rodgers game, just like you’ll get a pile of hashbrowns that augurs its way through your gut, but even in those worst moments, you’ll come away with a hell of a story for later. And at 3 a.m., a Waffle House meal is every bit as transcendent as a Rodgers Hail Mary with three seconds remaining. -Busbee

Russell Wilson: Subway
Like the world’s biggest fast food chain, Wilson is incredibly versatile. He runs. He throws. Heck, he even has three career receptions to his name. And like choosing all the toppings at Subway can be overwhelming, the multitude of formations in which Wilson can function — out of the shotgun, under center, off play-action and even in the option — overwhelms defense. Along those lines, Wilson improvises incredibly well, often turning a snap over his head or a botched exchange into a positive play or at least a throwaway. With Subway, you can pile the toppings high and things may get a little hectic, but no matter what the odds look like halfway through creating your meal, you’ll usually come out with something solid. –Pereles

Blake Bortles: White Castle
Think about the only time you really eat White Castle, when nothing else is open late at night and you’re either inebriated or are feeling nostalgic about the one time it really hit the spot. That’s Jacksonville with Bortles right now. It’s 2 a.m. (end of the preseason), Doug Marrone may or may not be drunk, Chad Henne isn’t the answer, and the Jaguars are reminding themselves of that one season where Bortles threw 35 TDs and more than 4,400 yards. Sure, since it’s the only option, it seems like a good idea to start him, but once you digest his play and wake up in the morning (0-3 heading into October) you’re probably going to be sick to your stomach, too. -Sulla

Joe Flacco: Dairy Queen
Both have one really good product. For Flacco, it’s his 2013 Super Bowl ring. For Dairy Queen it’s the Blizzard — seriously, has anyone ever ordered something other than the Blizzard from Dairy Queen? Fans of Flacco and DQ cling to that one product, but most people see that outside of that one ELITE offering, it’s just another run-of-the-mill option on the whole. -Pereles

Tom Brady: Five Guys
Five Guys is consistent, and consistently darn tasty. Their burgers are great, their fries are great (even cold, which is a flat-out miracle), their employees are usually great. When you’re allowing yourself a cheat day and searching for something to nosh, Five Guys is clutch. Just like Brady. -Young

Brian Hoyer, Captain D’s
I don’t know that I’ve ever eaten in a Captain D’s, and I don’t know that I’ve ever actually seen Brian Hoyer play. Yet somehow both have hung around for years, so there’s got to be something useful they bring to the table, right? Right … ? -Busbee

Dak Prescott: Burger King
Sure, there are pricier, fancier burger joints out there (Five Guys, Shake Shack) but you can get a sandwich that is just as good for half the price from BK. After being picked in the fourth round, Prescott helped lead the Cowboys to the NFC’s top seed with as impressive a rookie campaign as we’ve ever seen and it cost Dallas less than $550K, more than can be said for top picks Jared Goff and Carson Wentz. If the Cowboys are America’s team, Prescott is the Whopper. –Sulla

Drew Brees: Chick-Fil-A
Not only is his product on the field great, but he is well liked, both by players and fans. He possesses a world class ability to make those around him better – like how the fried chicken sandwich complements the waffle potato fries. Brees’ rare versatility is what really separates him though. He can tuck it and run when need be, or he can drop back and throw the long ball. Chick-fil-A meanwhile, offers up a wide range of products, like their “superfood” side and yogurt parfait. Whatever your palate desires, they will make sure you’re satisfied. –Schultz

Eli Manning: Whataburger
Sure you probably remember some great moments with Whataburger, but when you really look at the full body of work, is it really that good? Still, some people think it belongs in the Hall of Fame. –Schwab

Matthew Stafford in action. (AP)

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

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