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The Tape: Matthew Stafford's Troubling Start

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Once this starts it will have a life of its own.

One report not reputable enough to link to, and likely a leveraged guess, states Detroit will select Jason Smith with the first overall pick. Once this stuff starts leaking, it usually means news is imminent. I never thought Detroit would draft Stafford but I'm not so cocky as to bank on it. Nevertheless, we're only a little more than a month from the draft and if I'm going to do this right, it's time to start. So forgive me if this looks awfully silly awfully soon when Detroit announces the signing of Matthew Stafford, but onward.

If Stafford slips to two he slips to four, and if he slips to four, Seattle must draft him-if there's abundant evidence that Stafford will cut muster as an NFL quarterback. And that's where we start. Not with dry stats, or colorful similes about arm strength, or scouting reports written with upside-tinged glasses, but no-nonsense game reports, and as many as we can cram into the next few weeks.

Capital One Bowl

We'll start where Stafford left off. The Michigan State Spartans ranked 51st in ADE, a drive-based, opponent adjusted defensive metric. The NCAA ranks their pass efficiency defense 37th. PED incorporates totals and rates for yards, touchdowns and interceptions. I don't know exactly how, but it's the best comprehensive metric I could find for Michigan State's pass defense. It seems to be a bit like quarterback rating. Georgia ranks 8th in AOE, the offensive complement of ADE, and 14th in pass efficiency. The goal here is just list as much information as possible, and offer a little opinion as I go.

First Drive

1-10-GA37(12:05) Matthew Stafford passed to Kris Durham for 8 yards.

Georgia aligns 3 WR (left), WR (right), RB (right), Shotgun

Stafford makes one read, locks on, shows a slight hesitation and then delivers a strike Kris Durham on a quick curl.

2-2-GA45(11:43) Matthew Stafford passed to Knowshon Moreno for 13 yards.

Screen pass. Player introductions make spotting the formation of flow of the play impossible.

1-10-MIST42(11:28) Matthew Stafford passed to Michael Moore for 20 yards.

G: 3 WR (right), WR (left), RB (right), Shotgun

Stafford absolutely burns a hole in his primary receiver, staring, triple clutching, having all day in the pocket, finally shambolically scrambling right, turning left, finds Michael Moore crossing the field right to left, nearly in the flat, and drills him an accurate pass. The fixed gaze and panic when his primary read doesn't get open is super-concerning, but the decisiveness, quick release and ability to throw across his body with such velocity is very impressive.

1-10-MIST22(11:10) Matthew Stafford rushed for 11 yards.

G: 3 WR (right), WR (left), RB (left), Shutgun

This plays out like a broken zone read, with Stafford keeping the ball instead of handing off and decoying the weakside linebacker away from the play. Staffrd moves pretty well and the outcome is pretty nice, but slide, young man, slide.

1-10-MIST11(10:48) Knowshon Moreno rushed for 1 yard.

Toss left. You could say a good toss left.

2-9-MIST10(10:05) Matthew Stafford passed incomplete to Kenneth Harris.

G: 2 WR (right), WR (left), TE (left), RB (right) -> Slot (right), Shotgun

Left wide receiver Moore runs a quick curl in the flat, Stafford looks him off, looks up-field, finds Harris coming free on a post route into the end zone, again displays a quick release but overthrows Harris. A lot to like, even the overthrow doesn't much bother me. It does cost Georgia the score.

3-9-MIST10(10:01) Eric Gordon sacked Matthew Stafford for a loss of 5 yards.

The hater title for this play might be: "Your bust is showing." A more merciful take might it's a really bad play indicative of Stafford's inexperience.

G: 3 WR (right), WR (left), RB (left), Shotgun

M: 3-3 Nickel

Michigan State sends a stunting, six man blitz. Stafford has Moreno open in the flat. Open for steps. Moreno, in fact, is farther from the line of scrimmage than the linebacker that eventually sacks Stafford. Stafford is absolutely transfixed by Gordon, attempts to dive forward and is sacked. Stafford, your 20 is showing.

That ends the first drive. Stafford looks more bad than good, but it's seven plays and one went unseen. Obviously, the pocket awareness is the paramount concern, but that Stafford stares down his receivers is also troubling.

Second Drive

1-10-GA16(6:43) Matthew Stafford passed to Knowshon Moreno for 6 yards.

G: 2 WR (right), WR (left), TE (left), RB (right), Shotgun

Stafford looks down field and then passes to Moreno in the flat. Moreno weaves for six.

2-4-GA22(6:23) Matthew Stafford was intercepted. Kendell Davis-Clark returned the interception for 23 yards. GA was penalized 6 yards.

G: 2 WR (left), WR (right), TE (right), RB (right), Shotgun

Moore runs a short square in. Stafford rifles a pass to Moore's back shoulder that ricochets up off his hands and then travels an additional ten yards into the waiting grasp of Davis-Clark. Stafford hustles out and tackles Davis-Clark after a 23 yard return.

Interceptions are phenomenal and we shouldn't read too much into the outcome of this play, but the placement and especially the speed of the pass are indicative of a very unrefined quarterback. Brett Favre and especially Brett Favre's receivers suffered for years Favre's eight yard bullets and the resulting carnage. Arm strength isn't worth a damn without control.

To be continued.