Matthew Stafford trade: Former Lions QB gets candid about his 2021 departure from Detroit


Matthew Stafford adores the City of Detroit, and is forever grateful for the Lions giving him the call as the first-overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Now traded to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for a package that sends fellow former first-overall pick Jared Goff to Motor City, Stafford himself admits he “never thought” he’d play for any other team in his NFL career, but also that the time had come for a parting of ways — for a variety of reasons. 

Fact is, the Lions are hitting reset yet again in 2021, and the 33-year-old couldn’t be party to yet another press of that button. Stafford laid it all bare in a recent Q&A with the Detroit Free Press, including a confession of when the wheels actually began turning on a possible departure from the Lions.

“To be honest, [my wife] Kelly and I probably started talking about it before last season,” he said. “It was one of those things where, you know, we were hoping that, golly, let’s go, I hope this thing takes off and we play great. But if it doesn’t, you just knew what was going to happen. They were going to tear it down and rebuild.

“And anytime you switch GMs and a head coach, you know that they’re going to want to bring their own people in, and that’s going to take time. And I, frankly, didn’t feel like I was the appropriate person to oversee that time.”

It was another disappointing year in Detroit, finishing 5-11 on the season and firing head coach Matt Patricia along the way. The move to Dan Campbell marks the second regime change since 2018, and the Lions finished last in the NFC North in each season following the decision to move on from Jim Caldwell. Stafford played in just three playoff games in his 12 seasons with the Lions, going 0-3 and never advancing beyond the NFC Wild Card Game.

It’s his biggest regret thus far, but he believes that’ll change quickly in Los Angeles under Sean McVay — who took Goff to Super Bowl LIII.

“I’ve always wanted to play in those big games, I feel like I will excel in those situations,” Stafford said. “I wanted to shoot my shot.” 

Time will tell if it’s all net or an airball, but both the Rams and Stafford are thrilled about the union and what it could mean going forward. 

For Stafford, it’s about at least having the chance to play deep into January and possibly February — a chance he didn’t see anywhere near the horizon for an oft-rebooted Lions organization. At best, Stafford is confident he could’ve continued playing at a high level and saving the day to the tune of several wins, but probably not enough to mask all of the team’s issues en route to a double-digit win tally and/or a deep postseason run. Which means they’d constantly be floating in the middle of the pack, if that.

“In my mind, I felt like I was going to be able to help us go win six, seven, eight games, because I wasn’t gonna let us lose more than that, you know?” he said. “But I probably wasn’t good enough [by myself] to help us win more than that. And maybe we don’t ever get those top picks that we needed.”

And with that, a new chapter flies open for Stafford in Southern California, in a book he thought would be written cover to cover in Detroit. 

“Sometimes it’s not the perfect storybook ending in the same place,” he said. “But I can leave here knowing that I gave this team every damn thing I had.”





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