Faulk downplays Stafford’s stats

Sniping season continues for retired NFL stars who are taking potshots at the Lions’ star quarterback-receiver duo of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson.

Johnson was in the cross hairs early in the season when Cris Carter did not rank him among the NFL’s top five receivers in an interview on ESPN.

Carter later changed his mind about Johnson — in a presidential election year, we’ll charitably call it a flip-flop — after taking considerable heat for excluding Johnson.

Now it’s Stafford’s turn to be the target. Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk has questioned the validity of Stafford passing for 5,038 yards in 2011. Stafford also had 41 TD passes.

Faulk, an analyst for the NFL Network, didn’t specifically criticize Stafford’s ability. He questioned the value of a 5,000-yard pass season because of how the NFL has become a pass-oriented league.

“Throwing for 5,000 yards in the NFL right now is nothing,” Faulk said. “I don’t want to take anything away from it. As much as people throw the football now, you better have 5,000 if you have Calvin Johnson.”

Johnson established himself as the NFL’s premier wide receiver in 2011. He led the league with 1,681 receiving yards, was second in TD catches with 16 and was fourth with 96 catches.

The 5,000-yard standard was shattered in 2011, with three quarterbacks going over it.

Drew Brees of the Saints passed for a league-record 5,476, and the Patriots’ Tom Brady had 5,235. Stafford was next on the list — but did not make the NFC’s Pro Bowl team.

Previously, only two quarterbacks in history had gone over 5,000 yards in a season.

Dan Marino threw for 5,084 in 1984 to set a record that stood for 27 seasons — until Brees broke it. Brees passed for 5,069 in 2008.

With Johnson and Stafford having their turn on the firing line, one can only wonder which Lion is next — and to what absurd lengths the criticism will go.

Perhaps Jan Stenerud, the only pure kicking specialist in the Hall of Fame, will question kicker Jason Hanson’s durability. After all, he’s only played 20 seasons.