If it doesn’t feel strange to see Matthew Stafford playing for any other team besides the Detroit Lions, it should. Even if 2021 made sense as a perfectly logical time to move him, and the trade works out for both sides, that still won’t change the fact that Stafford is one of the most valuable players to ever be traded, as many of his predecessors in similar positions either chose to stick it out or had no other choices.
But the changing landscape of player movement, the rising cost of a good quarterback, the skyrocketing value of first round picks, and Tom Brady may have been what motivated Stafford to ask the Lions if they were willing to move on from their 33-year-old franchise quarterback.
New general manager Brad Holmes could have looked at his roster and decided that he didn’t want to lose his most valuable player during his first month on the job. He could have told Stafford, “Sorry, I want you to stay. Nice to meet you, I’m Brad.” And Stafford would have said, “You’re the boss.”
In Sunday’s FMIA for Pro Football Talk, Peter King talked to Stafford about how his transition has been since going from the Lions to the LA Rams in January. When asked whether or not the lack of consistent success wore on him or not, Stafford explained that it wasn’t the past that forced him to ask for a change, but the future. And that if Holmes had asked him to stay, he would have stayed.
“For me, it wasn’t so much that as it was just kind of knowing where the organization was going. It was going through a big change with new head coach, new general manager. Gonna be a lot of new players as well. I just felt like the timing was right. It was well within their rights to tell me that it wasn’t, and I would’ve understood. Just really appreciate them for at least entertaining the idea and then obviously going through and together making that happen. It’s something that as a player, you want to have chances at it. Luckily, they were great and sent me to a place that’s got a bunch of great players and a bunch of recent success.”
Instead of telling Stafford that the timing wasn’t right, Holmes looked at a roster that needs several years to re-mantle, he remembered the value of first round picks, and he read the text messages from his old boss at the Rams, and decided to give Stafford a fresh start.
Stafford also feels some regret over not having helped the Lions make a dent in the playoffs.
“Definitely. I sit there and go, ‘Man, I wish I could’ve gotten it done.’ I mean, it would’ve been amazing to have a Super Bowl parade down Woodward Avenue in Detroit. Didn’t happen. Tough pill to swallow as a competitor and somebody who touches the ball on every single offensive play. You definitely look back and wish you’d done a few things different here or there in some games, that maybe change the outcomes of seasons, but I’m focused completely forward now.
Not every general manager would have done that. And that’s another reason why Stafford changing teams at this stage in his career is such a rarity.