Posted: 7:01 pm Monday, February 17th, 2014

Mike Ditka: Matthew Stafford has a hat problem 

By Mark Bradley

This would meet Iron Mike's standards of hat placement. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

This would seem to meet Iron Mike’s standards of hat placement. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Well, now we know why Matthew Stafford, who left Georgia in 2009 to become the Detroit Lions’ (and the entire NFL’s) No. 1 draftee, has gone from being a Hot Young Quarterback to being a Flawed Young Quarterback. According to Mike Ditka, it’s the hat.

In an interview with Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press, Ditka – who played for the Chicago Bears hundreds of years ago and who coached them only slightly more recently – said of Stafford:

I think when you look at him you see all the touches of greatness, in my opinion. Then you see some plays and go, ‘”Wow! Why’d he do that?” I think he can make all the throws. He’s a smart kid. I wish he’d put the baseball cap on frontwards instead of backwards all the time.

At last check, none of Stafford’s howlingly awful interceptions – and he has delivered more than his share – were authored while wearing a baseball cap, be it frontwards or backwards. NFL rules call for players to wear these things called helmets while actually playing.

But if we look beyond headgear, Ditka does have something of a point. Even at Georgia, Stafford came across as more carefree – or careless, depending on your point of view – that you’d like your quarterback to be. Ask Georgia coaches about Aaron Murray, who wasn’t as talented as Stafford, and they’ll rave about his attention to detail. Nobody has ever raved about Stafford’s attention to detail.

Stafford is the anti-Peyton Manning. He doesn’t over-analyze. He grips the ball and lets ’er rip. Sometimes he does it sidearm. Sometimes he does it to spectacular effect. Sometimes he throws it to the wrong team. Sometimes you wonder how a team with Stafford and Calvin Johnson, once of Georgia Tech, can ever be stopped. Then you note that the Lions just fired their coach because they got stopped way too often. Some of that has to fall on the quarterback.

June Jones asks Jeff George to flip his cap. (AP)

June Jones asks Jeff George to flip his lid. (AP)

Ditka again, via Monarrez:

If you’re the leader of the football team, I think you’ve got to stand up and be that leader, assume that role … I’m not knocking him. I’m just saying that’s the first thing I would tell him if I inherited him. When you’re going to go do an interview, put it on like it’s supposed to be on, not backwards, sidewards, whatever way they put them on anymore.

As someone who witnessed Stafford’s first collegiate pass (against Western Kentucky) and his last (against Michigan State), I can’t say I’m terribly surprised by his career trajectory. On the April night Detroit took him No. 1, I wrote that I wouldn’t have. I thought he was a great talent; I wondered if he’d ever be a great quarterback. I likened him, for both better and worse, to Jeff George, another guy with a big arm who went No. 1 overall but who never panned out, least of all as an Atlanta Falcon.

And, if memory serves, Jeff George wore his cap backward, too.

93 comments
JaySly
JaySly

stafford, romo and cutler---most overrated nfl QBs in 10 years

reckingball
reckingball

I don't think that is fair to put Stafford in the same category as Jipp George, as Bradley has done in this writeup.

seminoleking
seminoleking

but why arent people saying he cant read defense like they say about vick?????????

Realisticfan
Realisticfan

Seems to me all Ditka is saying that if you are the leader, act like one. Wearing your hat backwards is not the image of the guy who people look up to and who is your leader.  I.E. Mike Vick in Atlanta.  Just being realistic here. 

reckingball
reckingball

quote,--Back in my day, we didn't wear our baseball caps unless we were playing baseball, and then we never wore them backwards, heck we wore fedoras on the street, and another thing, blah, blah, blah, blahedy, blah.......Hey you kids get off of my lawn, and stay off, you doggone hooligans.--unquote......Mike Ditka.

Peachs
Peachs

Quarterback sometime take a little longer to mature, we’ve had a few in Atlanta like that.Georgia could have done a better job with him too.I always wonder how much of this is coaching and how much is the player.

dawgfacedboy
dawgfacedboy

Is his career destined to be lackluster because of him or because he was drafted by the first winless franchise in NFL history? You think Tom Brady would do much better in Detroit? Other than SUh and Johnson who do they have on that time that is worth anything? "Suprised an offense with Stafford and Johnson can be stopped"??? If there is nobody to block and nobody else to get the ball too what is he supposed to do?

Look at Andrew Luck and Matthew Stafford's careers to this point. Stafford has all of the physical tools but look at the franchise's history and who is around him. Luck, while a good QB, was drafted by a perennial playoff team who lost their HOF qb and subsequently got the 1st pick.

I think people are too quick to simply dismiss talented guys as failures when you have to look at the supporting cast and staff. You think Manning would do much in Jacksonville? What would Stafford do in Seattle?

BCB
BCB

Mark, This article is just sad. I cant believe that you want to take shots at Stafford. The guy made a 38 on the wonderlic test and has never been in trouble. How many Qbs in the NFl could be more successful at Detroit than Stafford has been? LOOK UP HIS YARDAGE NUMBERS IN HIS FIRST 5 YEARS!

ATL89
ATL89

Maybe, if he can grow one, maybe he should grow out that "Old School" Ditka mustache, now that would be cool. Yeah, real cool.


BCB
BCB

Ditka is old and who really cares what he has to say? Stafford needs more help starting with a good oline and ending with some more playmakers around him besides Calvin.

michaeltheamerican
michaeltheamerican

I'd also like to point out that Stafford has won more NFL games than both of his college rivals combined- Tim Tebow and Greg McElroy (just another Alabama bench warmer hero) 

Kirsten4999
Kirsten4999

Maybe Matt Stafford's role model is Justin Bieber.  Bieber is a high character, disciplined person who wears his hat backwards.

michaeltheamerican
michaeltheamerican

Great piece, Mark. Love the Jeff George angle and the photo. The AJC is mostly full of trashy writers that we all despise, but I'm glad they've been able to keep you around You're A+.

Louiemart
Louiemart

Like I always say, if you're going to wear a hat, where it properly.  And it's also good manners to take your hat off when you walk indoors and you never, never wear a hat to the dinner table as I've seen people do in restaurants.

Classof98
Classof98

As a UGA fan, it left a bad taste in my mouth that Stafford and Moreno held a joint news conference at Butts Mehre to announce they were leaving.  They should have only had a press conference if they were staying.  Leaving school should have been announced by a mere press release.  That press conference was incredibly selfish of them.


I also suspect Stafford made too many risky throws while at UGA for the sole purpose of showing off his arm strength.  In certain instances I felt he was too concerned with displaying his talent than with winning the ballgame.


I don't wish him any ill will.  I hope he enjoys his boatloads of money.  Some sort of championship at UGA from the all-world talent would have been nice.

ThomasD
ThomasD

SomewhereinGa:

You're finally catching on to the machine that is NCAA Factory Football and ugag is just another cog in the machine.

gtcaryd
gtcaryd

MB, Jeff George couldnt carry Staffords clip board on his best day, its not so much how the hat is worn as whats under it.

ShovelPlease
ShovelPlease

Ditka tellin' it like it is.  And Bradley writing a decent article.  Doesn't get any better than that.

graphite
graphite

@MoistDawg ..... Since you are older,maybe you still have time to enroll in a spelling class.Punctuation would be nice too. Must have gone to a Georgia public school.     RollOn

graphite
graphite

Everyone knows that you lose 10 points off your I.Q. wearing a cap backwards.Just check around the hood.

NASCARJeff
NASCARJeff

As someone from the Detroit, Nichigan area who lives in Georgie plus still a Lions fan I must say. I don't care how Stafford wears hit hat he should have been benched then traded. For telling the sports media that he; "wasn't much of a leader at times."

Any quarterback who says that should be thrown out of the league!

96JB
96JB

Colleges use players all the time. Stafford turned the tables and used UGA. No rings or championships, just a lot of thrown balls to build stats.And a guy named AJ to catch them to create lots of highlight film.

SomewhereinGA
SomewhereinGA

I too question why we never made the SECC with Stafford, KM and AJ....then I remember the article that qoted an unnamed player(after the 08 season)  that said they were "drunk as pissants" on Thursday nights before important games, KM could not stay out of the strip joints, and it goes on and on....

I got the feeling that they were just biding their time till NFL draft day..and I'm not alone in that opinion.

steelchair
steelchair

While I agree with Ditka on wearing the hat correctly, I'd like to know his thoughts on colin kaepernick? He makes Stafford look smart.

Nice bait job though Mark! Thought you had gotten past those?

DaltonbywayofBickley
DaltonbywayofBickley

And in the picture Jeff George has his arms crossed while June Jones is talking to him, the classic sign of resistance to the message being conveyed. In other words he's hearing, but not listening.

DaltonbywayofBickley
DaltonbywayofBickley

Murray's not as physically gifted, but is actually a more talented quarterback than Stafford. Talent encompasses what's in between the ears, beyond just strength, speed, etc.

GT71
GT71

As long as he removes the hat when: eating, getting on an elevator when a lady is present, entering a room or when the National Anthem is played,  who cares how it's worn.

It's called 'hat ettiquete'.

As for the story, it's mid-week filler and uses up a bit of the weekly quota of words slapped onto print by MB.

Nothing to see here, folks...move along.

Dawggie
Dawggie

" Sometimes you wonder how a team with Stafford and Calvin Johnson, once of Georgia Tech, can ever be stopped."

**************************

I guess the same way a team with Stafford, Knowshon, and AJ Green was stopped n '08, MB.

Most programs that acquire that kind of talent straight to a National Title.  UGA went 10-3.

Delusionaldog
Delusionaldog

He look's foolish.


Bad as Roethlisbure

The unshaved look doesn't work either - not enough whiskers.


He could also afford a decent haircut 


Shall we talk about the bimbo with the store boughts?



electric1234
electric1234

Stafford is a "Billy Bob "graduate of cow tipping not a good football player everything dumb butt UGA athletes do is simply by fluke!

MoistDawg
MoistDawg

matt stafford has taken the LIONS to heights never seen before since barry sanders and some of you LOOSERS want to get on him over the way he wears his hat.  payton manning wears his hat "perfect" and look how he got humileated in the super bowl. some of you are nothing but a bunch of OLD fuddy duddys and im probly older then all of you.

stafford will get his ring and aaron murray (according to my sources) will get drafted by denver and will be  close behind and hopefully they will play each other in the super bowl and then everyone will have to admit that uga is QB university!

patriotdog
patriotdog

I live in Athens, met Matthew several times when he was here, nice young man. He is as far from Jeff George on a character scale as you could be. George was a selfish, coach killing cancer in the locker room. Matthew is none of these, but he does have the same cannon arm.

I watch many Lions games, as I unfortunately find myself in the Detroit area on Sundays while I'm working. Matthew's success as a qb is as much due to Calvin Johnson as it is his own talent. His mechanics are abysmal, he throws off of his back foot, he throws sidearm, he throws high more than any qb in the NFL and Johnson, the King Kong of wideouts, goes up and gets them all.

He's only finished five years, he still has a long career ahead of him, so there's plenty of time to become what Mel Kiper said he would be. His attention to detail, becoming more Manning like (Peyton, not Eli) in his preparation would be transformational for him.

NajehDavenpoop
NajehDavenpoop

Stafford isn't a great QB, but if you think the reason is because of how he's wearing his hat, you're an idiot. It takes a monumental lack of intelligence to equate the way someone wears their hat with a character trait, let alone their intellect.

displayname101
displayname101

I know Stafford is not the perfect quarterback, but I don't think he's done anything bad enough to be compared to Jeff George. 

Wrecker
Wrecker

Let's face it.  What Mark and Coach Ditka are really talking about is professionalism and Matt's lack thereof.  There are instances when a player is simply too talented and can coast on his talent without putting in the hard work and study necessary to perfect a craft.  Maybe he participates too often in keg stands and not often enough in film study.  I almost wonder if he would not be more successful if he did not have that cannon arm to thread the ball into situations where he should not.  With lesser talent, he might have developed some good habits, some professionalism, some pride in his work.  Instead, he is just coasting through and will never realize his potential.

ms1964
ms1964

My bad Mark.  I misinterpreted your point on JG. When I'm wrong, I'm wrong.   But I stand by the rest of my post.  

Stafford MAY end up being great, but he's shown nothing yet that would point to it.

Princess_Leia
Princess_Leia

Why would anyone expect one of Mark Richt's former players to be intelligent enough to wear his hat the right way?

NCDawg
NCDawg

@dawgfacedboy calling anyone 5 years into their career, who has never had disciplinary problems, who has a 5000+ passing yard year, a  failure is beyond ludicrous.  Is he as good as he could be?  Hell no.  He is too free with the football.  He believes too strongly in his arm and has not learned "discretion is the better part of valor".  It is not too late for him to learn it.


Another guy that had to overcome the "my arm is the solution to everything" mindset was Steve Bartkowski.  He took quite a while to mature into his best form.  Stafford has the raw materials to be great... now he just needs to begin to use them wisely.

ChubbE
ChubbE

@ Graphite........ Regardless of your age, maybe you enrolled or rode pass a PUBLIC university in the state of Alabama.  Rolled On.

CTBigDawg
CTBigDawg

If memory serves me correct Georgia was devastated with injuries- 27 players missed parts or all of the season. Plus Georgia was being penalized for everything that year because of the incident against Florida where the whole team had gone on the field after Georgia's first touchdown in 2007. The wearing of the hat by Stafford as Ditka suggests is indicative of Stafford's nonchalant attitude which shows up on the field with bad throws, bad decisions on plays etc which leaves one wondering how any team with Stafford- this great talent ever losing a game.  

jerunamo
jerunamo

I think you meant Calvin Johnson has taken the Lions to heights unseen before since Barry Sanders. THWG!!!! Go Jackets!!!!

NCDawg
NCDawg

@Princess_Leia Matthew Stafford scored more than double digits better on the Wonderlic test than the highest rated "engineer" from Tech ever has.  He has the 11th best score ever among QBs.  Ben Watson, former UGA TE, has the 5th highest score EVER on the Wonderlic.  Stafford's 38 was higher than Andrew Luck.


Shows how smart you are pwinceth.  Why don't you just stick to the Tech blogs so I am not forced to humiliate your ignorance yet again in the future.

jerunamo
jerunamo

Who cares how he wears his hat.

JSSN
JSSN

@NCDawg @dawgfacedboy  

Unlike Atlanta, people in Detroit simply want one thing from Matt Stafford, game awareness! That is it, they don't care about hats, keg parties in 2009, or any of this mess! They love his competitiveness, but he cost them at least 5 games by not being "game awareness." They been down this road before with Greg Landry and Scott Mitchell! Matt Stafford has to be aware!

Domina8r
Domina8r

@CTBigDawg  Why doesn't UGA just refuse to play when one of their guys is injured?  Why don't they just supply their own referee's?  Bunch of morons.