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Matthew Stafford is elite, but the world is just now seeing it

The Detroit Lions have found themselves a superstar, and it’s one who they’ve had all along. Much of the credit for quarterback Matthew Stafford’s 2016 success to this point should go to offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, but there’s also no question that it takes an exceptional playmaker to succeed at the NFL level. Fortunately, Stafford is proving to not only be exceptional but the Lions’ QB is also elite and fully deserves to be in the NFL’s Most Valuable Player conversation.

If you don’t believe it, just ask Lions backup QB Dan Orlovsky, who’s gotten to see Stafford’s success first-hand throughout the season. Orlovsky is fully sold on the fact that Stafford is in the MVP conversation currently, per ESPN’s Michael Rothstein.

“One-hundred percent, 100 percent,” Lions backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky said. “If he’s not in the MVP conversation, then who is? You know, who is. One-hundred percent.”

“He’s playing really good football for us,” Orlovsky said. “Really good football. Not ordinary football. It’s don’t-take-it-for-granted type stuff.”

The craziest part of all? Stafford is doing this without his favorite long-time wide receiver in Calvin Johnson, who will certainly go down as one of the best to ever play the game. It’s the first season for Stafford without Johnson, and he’s on pace for a season that could rival what he did in 2011.

During that year, the Lions then third-year quarterback tossed for 5,038 yards, 41 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. This season, Stafford has a better completion percentage, is on pace for fewer interceptions and has the best quarterback rating of his career.

Currently, Stafford has completed a career-best 68.1 percent of his attempts, has thrown just four interceptions and has a QB rating of 105.7. All of this comes with multiple new weapons in wide receivers Marvin Jones Jr. and Anquan Boldin, as well as a tough spot at tight end, where Eric Ebron has played in just four games due to injury.

To show that Stafford’s dominance isn’t something new either, check out the following tweet from SportsCenter’s Twitter account:

While Stafford has attempted 3,932 passes in those 100 games (average of 39.32 passes per game), throwing for nearly 28,000 yards is pretty unbelievable. It’s also pretty amazing to consider that Stafford is just now getting recognition for being a great quarterback, as he threw for over 4,200 yards in each of the past five seasons. He also tossed at least 29 passing touchdowns in three of the five years.

A large part of why Stafford gets overlooked is due to the Lions’ lack of success. Since the 2009 season, Stafford and company have made the playoffs just twice, losing in the Wild Card round both times. While that’s a fair knock against Stafford, it’s also hard not to realize that the team went through a nine-year drought of not make the playoffs before he was even drafted.

Finally, the lack of a run game actually makes Stafford’s success even more impressive. Even while defenses know that the Lions are going to pass the ball, he’s still finding plenty of success. Through seven games in 2016, Theo Riddick has the team’s most rushing yards with 171. The Lions have had just one 1,000-yard rusher in Stafford’s tenure, which was Reggie Bush (1,006 yards) back in 2013.

Apparently, this MVP candidate just doesn’t need any help from the running game to succeed.

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