When you set franchise records for passing yards (5,038), touchdowns (41), completions (421), attempts (663), and quarterback rating (97.2), you are bound to attract fans.
When you do that a year after playing just three games and suffering two injuries to your throwing shoulder before undergoing surgery, you are liable to turn even the media into your fan.
Matthew Stafford did just that today, as he was named the Pro Football Weekly/Professional Writers Association 2011 Comeback Player of the Year.
Needless to say, Lions general manager Martin Mayhew is also a fan:
"I see him as one of the top quarterbacks in the league," said Lions general manager Martin Mayhew. "I don’t think anybody’s holding out and still evaluating that. Five thousand yards, 41 touchdowns – he’s a great, young player. He’s 23 years old and he’s a franchise quarterback, so I was really thrilled to see what he did."
And that is what it really comes back to: Being thrilled to see what he did. For the first time since running back Barry Sanders, the Lions have a player that will make you regret missing a play, any play.
The Lions started the 2011 season 5-0 after winning just six games altogether the year before, and just like that, he had elevated expectations among everyone. But Stafford still managed to live up to those new expectations, proving to be a true comeback kid, becoming the first quarterback since 1950 to win three regular season games in a season after trailing by 17 points or more, according to STATS, INC. Indeed, there could not be a more fitting honor for Stafford than Comeback Player of the Year, and for so many reasons.
Stafford became the second youngest player behind Hall-of-Famer Dan Marino to throw for 5,000 yards in a season and was at his best when the season was on the line. Stafford threw for 1,511 yards and 14 touchdowns over the final four games of the regular season when the Lions were fighting for a playoff spot.
What will Stafford do for an encore to his Comeback Player of the Year season? I can't say for certain now, but I can say that I will not be alone in watching.