During his 2009 job interview with the Detroit Lions, coach Jim Schwartz famously said it was time to find a replacement for quarterback Bobby Layne. The best quarterback in team history last donned a Lions uniform in 1958.
Matthew Stafford has a long way to go before overtaking Layne on that scale. But while the nation has fixated on the Lions' behavior here in 2011, Stafford has put himself on pace for the most prolific passing season in franchise history.
Granted, there isn't a long list of elite quarterbacks in the team's record books. And there is no doubt that raw passing numbers have risen steadily during the NFL's past two decades. But facts are facts, and if Stafford continues at anywhere close to his current pace, he'll set new team records for completions, attempts, yards and touchdowns. He's got a shot at the top completion percentage and isn't that far off the team record for passer rating.
The chart shows the details of records set mostly by Jon Kitna and Scott Mitchell, along with Stafford's current 12-game statistics. At this rate, Stafford is on pace to throw for 4,702 yards and 36 touchdowns, and he might get there Sunday against the injury-depleted Minnesota Vikings pass defense. (Mild sarcasm intended.)
I think we should save a full evaluation of Stafford's 2011 performance for after the season. But has there been a time since 1958 when the Lions felt as good about their long-term quarterback prospects as they do now? I would say not. Don't forget that Stafford entered the 2009 draft early and won't turn 24 until February. Some things are worth waiting for, I guess.