On Jan. 23, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that starting Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford had requested a trade. Stafford joined Detroit as the first overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. He spent the last 12 years with the Lions, becoming the franchise’s all-time leader in passing yards, touchdowns, and wins by a quarterback.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) January 23, 2021
According to Pelissero, Stafford and the Lions have openly talked about the future of the organization. With Detroit recently hiring head coach Dan Campbell on a six-year deal and general manager Brad Holmes on a five-year deal, it became clear that the organization is thinking about a long-term rebuild. At 32 with mounting injuries, Stafford wants out.
The Lions plan on working with Stafford to find a new home for the franchise quarterback. Despite the pending split, neither side is bitter. Campbell and Holmes knew about the likelihood of a Stafford trade before assuming their positions. The picks Detroit gets for Stafford might even accelerate the rebuilding process.
Detroit holds the seventh overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, which features at least four first-round quarterbacks. The organization wants at least a first-round pick for Stafford, who has two years and $43 million remaining on a five-year extension from 2017. However, Detroit could easily net several draft picks and additional assets in a trade.
Plenty of teams need new quarterbacks. The Indianapolis Colts just watched Philip Rivers ride off into the sunset after a playoff season. New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Washington, and maybe even Tampa Bay could face similar situations in the coming months. Meanwhile, Carolina, Chicago, Denver, Miami, New England, New York (both teams), and San Francisco all seem uneasy about their current quarterback situations. Houston could join the market if Deshaun Watson forces his way out.
Stafford rewrote Detroit’s record books during his 165 starts. The Georgia product set a new franchise record with 45,109 passing yards, which already ranks 16th in NFL history. Bobby Layne, who played with the Lions from 1950 through 1958, held the previous record with 15,710 yards. Stafford also smashed the team’s records for passing touchdowns (282), completions (3,898), attempts (6,224), and wins by a quarterback (74).
Despite possessing one of the game’s strongest arms, Stafford went 74-90-1 as a starter in Detroit. The Lions repeatedly failed to surround him with a strong supporting cast, especially along the offensive line. Stafford took 35 or more sacks in seven different seasons. He led Detroit to the playoffs three times but never got past the Wild Card Round.
Even though Stafford never won a playoff game, he developed a reputation for clutch performances. He and John Elway are tied for seventh all-time with 31 comebacks, and Stafford’s 38 game-winning drives are tied for eighth with Matt Ryan and Johnny Unitas.
No one can ever question whether Stafford did everything possible for Detroit. Many quarterbacks that request trades leave cities and teams on bad terms. Detroit should throw Stafford a parade. Over his 12 years with the organization, Stafford endured countless beatings and authored many comebacks.
Perhaps the first of those great moments came in Week 11 of Stafford’s rookie season against the Cleveland Browns.
One of many incredible Stafford moments.
Next time you think about comparing yourself to a pro athlete: don’t.pic.twitter.com/qF75BfOuhw
— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) January 23, 2021
Nearing his 33rd birthday, Stafford could play for at least half a decade into the 2020s. Rivers only recently announced his retirement at 39 years old. Most analysts expect 42-year-old Drew Brees to hang up his cleats as well. It’s a new era for quarterbacks, where players regularly compete into their late 30s and early 40s. Stafford could have a whole new career of memories ahead of himself.