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If 2018 is an audition, does Matthew Stafford pass?

Matt Patricia isn’t going anywhere as the head coach of the Detroit Lions. And if he’s using 2018 as an audition for next year, where does Matthew Stafford stand?

The Detroit Lions are committed to Matt Patricia. That was clear the moment they agreed to a reported deal that will last through 2022. And general manager Bob Quinn’s fate was tied to Patricia’s success as his contract was extended to match.

Season one of the Patricia era has been a rocky one. And honestly, no one expected it to be a clean transition. Bringing a championship mentality to a franchise that’s never participated in a Super Bowl and hasn’t won a single playoff game since 1992 is no small feat.

But understandably it was thought Patricia’s presence would at least boost their defense as the former mad genius as the former defensive coordinator for the New England Patriots. Combined with the passing offense remaining virtually untouched, due most notably the decision to keep offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter on staff, should have given this team some stability through the transition.

And the addition of an actual running game was supposed to be the key to unlocking the Lions’ offensive potential. Certainly the presence of running backs Kerryon Johnson and LeGarrette Blount have exceeded expectations in that area.

The one caveat being that the offensive line continues to struggle in Detroit. And that may be at the very heart of the problem. But it was not been for a lack of trying. Two first round selections in the past three years prove that. And Quinn also went out and signed free agents like right guard T.J. Lang and right tackle Ricky Wagner to pricey contracts in 2017.

Yet, despite all these changes and additions, we sit here today and the Lions have a 4-7 record. They’re dead last in the NFC North standings, having just been beaten by a Chicago Bears team with backup quarterback Chase Daniels under center.

At this point it appears 2018 is a wash. A tough transition year that Patricia and company will use as an audition for next season. Which players passed the mustard and which ones will this new regime decide to part ways with in 2019? The biggest question mark has to be quarterback Matthew Stafford.

At only 30-years old, it’s amazing to think that Stafford is playing in his 10th NFL season. That’s a lot of mileage for a player his age. He’s also massively underachieved as the top selection in the 2009 NFL Draft. For all the accolades and the monster contract, Stafford is yet to win a single playoff game for the Motor City.

And this season has been a below average one for a player who should be in his prime. Stafford currently has a quarterback rating of 90.8, his lowest since 2014. And his 10 interceptions through 11 games matches his totals from both 2016 and 2017. Two of which cost Detroit a Thanksgiving day victory.

Clearly, the Patricia transition period has impacted Stafford as well. And one has to begin to wonder if this new coaching staff will consider a change under center at some point. Since franchise quarterbacks are such a rarity in the NFL, I fully expect Detroit to stick with Stafford for as long as their isn’t a better immediate option.

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The first change to happen will probably be at offensive coordinator. Giving Matthew Stafford a new voice and direction to follow could be the key to reviving his career. But if that fails to produce, you’ve got to believe the clock is ticking for the veteran passer under a new head coach looking to change the losing culture in Motown.

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