He has been everything the franchise hoped for when they drafted him with the first overall pick in 2009.
Though the Lions have rarely surrounded him with a strong supporting cast, he has been a lone bright spot for over a decade.
With his arm talent, fearlessness, and toughness, Stafford has endeared himself to the city he represents.
Matthew Stafford the "comeback king". Browns vs Lions 2009. This game shows you how big of a heart Stafford has for the game and team! pic.twitter.com/j4XXvU7juZ
— Lions Pride (@LionsPride) December 17, 2016
While he will inevitably find himself in the Lions’ ring of honor when he retires, his enshrinement in Canton is far from a guarantee.
How much longer he plays and how well he plays in that span will dictate his chances of putting on a gold jacket.
Here are the arguments for and against Stafford making the Hall of Fame.
On paper, Stafford has put up some of the most prolific numbers in the history of the NFL.
"Oh my goodness!"
— Detroit Lions (@Lions) February 8, 2020
Through 12 years and 165 games, he has piled up 45,109 passing yards and 282 touchdowns.
He ranks as the 16th best quarterback of all-time in both of these categories.
Stafford became the quickest quarterback to reach the 40,000-yard mark, accomplishing this feat in 147 games.
He also had one of the best statistical seasons ever by throwing for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns in 2011.
Stafford is just one of eight quarterbacks to eclipse 5,000 yards in a single season, even in a pass-happy league.
He is, without a doubt, the greatest quarterback to ever grace the Honolulu blue.
The most glaring issue with Stafford’s resume is his lack of postseason accomplishments.
Playing for the most inept franchise in a challenging NFC North division has damaged his reputation.
Brett Favre wants to see Matthew Stafford find success in the postseason — and to win in a Lions uniform.
— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) January 15, 2021
While the Lions’ woes should not fall upon Stafford’s shoulders, though, it is a burden that he has never been able to overcome.
He did lead Detroit to three playoff appearances but has come away with zero victories.
If there is a glimmer of hope, it is not unprecedented for a quarterback to make the Hall of Fame without winning a championship.
Of the 26 current quarterbacks with a bust in Canton, only five have made it without a ring.
However, all five of these players have at least made five Pro Bowl appearances.
Marino and Tarkenton also won an MVP, while everyone except Moon made an All-Pro team.
Stafford has only made the Pro Bowl once and has never won any major individual awards.
He did win Comeback Player of the Year, but that is not enough to distinguish himself from other candidates.
Playing in a pass-happy league is a double-edged sword for Stafford.
This movement has been perfectly tailored for his skillset, as evidenced by his stellar career.
Unfortunately, it also allowed for other quarterbacks with a better team to outperform him.
He has just as much individual talent as any quarterback in the league but falls just short when stacked up against the best.
Matthew Stafford on throwing no-look passes: “It started the most when I played with Calvin just because defenses knew where I was trying to go with the ball. It just kind of developed from there. It’s just something that happened naturally for me.”pic.twitter.com/JvfBB07Md5
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) December 23, 2020
With a slew of quarterbacks on deck to make the Hall of Fame, it will become even more difficult for Stafford to make the cut.
Peyton Manning is a universal lock to make it.
When compared to his peers, Stafford falls into the good-not-great category of quarterbacks.
However, he is still only 32, which means he should still have a few years to improve his case.
Should he lead the Lions to an improbable Super Bowl run or win an MVP, it would be a lot more difficult to keep him out.
It would also help if he found success with another team, as the Lions can not get out of their own way.
Regardless, Stafford is a fringe candidate who needs to continue his strong play into his late 30s to garner consideration.
Otherwise, it seems as if he will fall just short of the Hall of Fame.