Welcome to the NFL, Matthew

Lions QB Matthew Stafford

Lions writer Mike Mady pens an open letter to QB Matthew Stafford following Sunday's opening-season loss to the New Orleans Saints.

Matthew Stafford, Welcome to the National Football League.

Your debut enabled you to experience many of the highs and lows that a starting quarterback at this level regularly goes through – unfortunately there were more lows than highs.

You had the experience of throwing your first interception, then your second and your third. You felt the helplessness of watching a team march down the field against your defense and take the lead.

You briefly felt what it was like to throw your first touchdown before a controversial call took it away, then you felt what it was like to reach the end zone yourself.

Feelings of relief and confidence probably overwhelmed you when your touchdown pulled the team within four points and feelings of frustration and disappointment probably did the same as your third interception ended the contest.

Still, with all that you've put under your belt after your first game, there is much more that you will experience during the coming season.

You will experience adversity. Fans will boo your mistakes; they will question your status as the starting quarterback and possibly the decision to make you the top pick in the draft. You will lose more games and could finish the season with double digits in the loss column.

Expectations of you will remain high and the weight of a frustrated fan base and a franchised mired in losing will fall on your shoulders.

From here, you have two options: be the franchise's ultimate savior or latest scapegoat.

Remember, you aren't the first quarterback to be thrust into a starting role on a re-building team and you won't be the last.

Your ability to maintain your confidence – both in yourself and in your teammates – through the adversity that is certain to follow you during this season, and beyond, will be the key to your success.

Peyton Manning threw three interceptions in his rookie debut and Tory Aikman threw two interceptions and only 180 yards in his. Terry Bradshaw completed only four passes and threw an interception in his first game, while throwing 24 picks in his rookie campaign. The first time John Elway experienced game action, he completed one of eight passes and threw an interception, he would eventually throw 14 picks that season – with only seven touchdown passes.

All of the above quarterbacks shared the same pressures as you and all of the above quarterbacks reached their potential. Their early struggles didn't shake their confidence and the initial adversity wasn't enough to keep them down.

No matter how bad it may get, remember the path you are on has been taken before. You have the tools – physically and mentally – to be successful. It is up to you to shoulder the pressure and develop into a winner in the face of adversity.

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