Consider this The Tale of Two Matts. With a recent quote from the Detroit Lions' quarterback Matt Stafford saying he's ready and wanting to "play 16 games or more" this season, it displays once again the difference between the team constructed on paper versus the one on the field week after week. Certainly, the Lions didn't predict that Matt Stafford would miss 19 of the first 32 regular season games when taking the talented signal caller No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft. Yet that's the reality that Lions staff and fans have had to face these last two years.
When your starting quarterback misses significant time, everything is on hold. Team officials never know what to make of the roster and just how good they really are. Fans are constantly asking questions that begin with, "What if...?" The conjecture never ends about just how many wins a team like the Lions could have really had last season if only their quarterback were healthy. After a few seasons, a team must face the facts and ask whether they should live among the hypothetical scenarios or move on altogether.
The Kansas City Chiefs have been the recipient of the other side -- a quarterback who's started 30 of 32 games in his Chiefs career. Cassel held up well in his season as Tom Brady's substitute in New England and that same endurance has held up in his Chiefs career. To that end, the Chiefs have never had to ask the same questions because they know what they have with Cassel. Some point to a rotating door of offensive coordinators and get frustrated, but that's nothing that fans of a team like the Lions have to deal with. Mixed results is one thing. No results is yet another.
The endurance of Cassel is one under-appreciated reason why the Chiefs have enjoyed a resurgence to playoff contender, giving the front office a clear vision for what they have in their quarterback and surrounding him with the pieces to make it work. Some of this is a dramatic decrease in sacks from 42 his first season with the team to just 26 last season, yet he still made 15 starts in both seasons. Cassel was even sacked a league-high 47 times with New England and made every start possible. Thus, the Chiefs didn't even address a back-up quarterback in the draft until this off-season (with Ricky Stanzi) after other issues were taken care of -- a luxury that some teams just don't enjoy.
The Lions may turn the corner this year, as many expect them to do, and the signs of life are there with or without Matt Stafford at quarterback. However, it's clear that stability at the game's most important position is vital for a team wanting to make as much noise as the Lions are predicted to. The Chiefs have a luxury they most likely take for granted in their consistent quarterback, while the Lions are hoping that Matt Stafford can exhibit the same trait.