In our quest to decipher the Patriots' plans at quarterback, we’re just like dogs chasing cars. We hear one in the distance, our ears perk up. When it comes into sight, we’re off like a shot, right there at the back bumper. After a few hundred feet of breathing exhaust, we give it up and head back to the stoop to wait for the next one.
Laugh if you want to at the fruitlessness of the pursuit. But know that, a couple streets over, there’s a little old bulldog in a hoodie who’s doing the exact same thing. That hound’s a legend. He caught a car. Kept it 20 years. Drove it places no dog had ever been. Car’s gone now. The chase is back on.
The quarry this week? Matthew Stafford’s car. (We heard the Aaron Rodgers whip, but it turned before our house).
But the old hound in the hoodie -- Bill Belichick -- is really the only one whose opinion matters. And we don’t want what he said about Stafford in 2018 to slip through the cracks before we move on to the next would-be quarterback.
“He does an excellent job of seeing down the field in all situations,” Belichick said prior to a Week 3 meeting between Stafford’s Lions and the Patriots. “No matter how much pressure he’s under, he seems to find guys down there. Sometimes it appears that they’re covered, but he can put the ball where (Marvin) Jones in particular, but also (Kenny) Golladay, can go up and make plays on the ball.
“He’s very accurate and he’s got a strong arm. He can stand in there and make those throws, with or without a rush, in or out of the pocket, stationary or on the run. He’s extremely dangerous -- one of the very best in the league for sure.”
The Lions -- in their third game under rookie head coach Matt Patricia -- won that game 26-10. Stafford went 27 for 36 for 262 yards, the Lions abused the Patriots defense on the ground and Tom Brady went 14 for 26 for 133.
Stafford’s only other meeting with the Patriots was at Gillette Stadium in 2014. The Patriots smacked Detroit 34-9 as Stafford went 18 for 46. And that was with Golden Tate and Calvin Johnson playing for the Lions.
How does Belichick feel about Stafford more than two years later? You’d presume he has to be at least intrigued enough to do due diligence and check the Lions’ price tag.
As for Stafford’s disposition toward the Patriots? We had Lions beat reporter Justin Rogers from The Detroit News on Early Edition the other night.
“Matthew wants out and what he really wants more than anything right now is to win," Rogers offered. "It’s a matter of getting the team accolades that have eluded him for years and years. Bill Belichick offers that."
As for Stafford’s relationship with Patricia, who flamed out in Detroit after three seasons and has now returned to the Patriots warm embrace?
"Those two sides got off to a rocky start in year one," said Rogers. "In New England, Tom Brady was treated like any other player and Matt Patricia came in and tried to do something similar in Detroit, criticized Stafford in a meeting using some adult language and it was not appreciated. Years two and three, Patricia came in and tried to reset the relationship. For those last two seasons, the big boy pants were put on and I cannot see that being a hang-up to preventing Stafford from coming to New England.”
Will Stafford be the car Belichick catches? He’ll be harder to track than Cam Newton was, that’s for sure. And there are other dogs alongside. Am I mixing metaphors? Maybe I am.