Written by Nick “The Nate” Cooper
In a 2021 Super Bowl year for the Los Angeles Rams, Cooper Kupp had one of the great wide receiver seasons of all time. His 1,947 yards are the second most single-season yards gained by any receiver in NFL history. This is a major jump in production for a player that did not enter the conversation as an elite, can’t miss prospect, was as unexpected as anything that we had seen in the NFL, or in all of sports for that matter.
While this type of production may have been destined to come for Kupp, he certainly would need help in jumping his production to a historic level. The prospect from Eastern Washington had great production in his college career yet was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2017 NFL Draft. In an impressive draft class that included Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, and Myles Garrett, Cooper Kupp flew under the radar with hope that his previous production could translate to the NFL.
2012 was a 4-12 season for the Detroit Lions who continued to swim through a never-ending river of mediocrity. 2012 was different though. Lion’s fans had a reason to care about their bottom dwelling team. Calvin Johnson was approaching the record held my Jerry Rice for most receiving yards in a single NFL season. The race to the record was tracked closely in Detroit and on a national level not seen since Barry Sanders. Calvin Johnson had very little help within his own receiving group. His talent outmatched the lack of depth. Amazing catch after amazing catch, Calvin Johnson finally obtained the all-time record with elegant fluency as Jerry Rice himself did and became a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Nine years separate these amazing individual seasons. They are historically connected by one chronically underrated Quarterback, Matthew Stafford. Stafford was the number 1 pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, selected by the Detroit Lions. A savior appeared to have arrived for the Lion’s who were hungry for some sort of success and excitement. Stafford produced excitement for fans immediately. His amazing arm talent and fearlessness connected him to the city. Stafford has 1 of just 13 seasons in NFL history in which a Quarterback has thrown for 5,000 yards.
The trade for Matthew Stafford undoubtedly forced Kupp’s destiny to be realized in the 2021 season much the way that Stafford helped to guide Calvin Johnson to history. Stafford’s success with Kupp and the rest of the Rams highly talented team was easy to see from the very start of the season. After 12 seasons of battling superior North divisional foes and while also battling his team’s roster inefficiency, Stafford saw an opportunity to move on to a better situation. His effort and ability were never questioned.
36 game winning drives for a team in Detroit that had been consistently starved of victories speaks to his shear will to win. In 2009 in a game against the Cleveland Browns, Stafford was being repeatedly battered and after a devastating hit his shoulder was separated. Most quarterbacks in the situation that he was in, considering record, would have left that game gladly. Stafford stayed in that game and played through pain like a warrior. That injury was one of many for him due in part to the anemic offensive line repeatedly put in front of him.
While you may think of Stafford’s time in Detroit as a disappointment, there are plenty of moments to reflect upon with positivity. In addition, Stafford has forced people to respect not only his time in Detroit but his impact on the city. Stafford and his wife Kelly have contributed to the city of Detroit in amazing ways as well. The Stafford’s contributed great amounts of money to many causes affecting Detroit including $220,000 to help aid the community effort during the early stages of the Coronavirus pandemic. As Stafford left Detroit for his greater success, he and his wife donated $1,000,000 to the SAY foundation to help fund the building of multiple valuable resources for the underserved people of Detroit.
Skill, durability, and class separate Matthew Stafford from a long line of quarterbacks that have played before him. His talent for the sport and his humanity makes Matthew Stafford one of the most impactful sports figures to wear any Detroit uniform.