Matthew Stafford spent his first 12 NFL seasons with the Lions. He’ll be wearing a different shade of blue for his 13th season.
Stafford is set to make his Rams debut Sunday night against the Bears (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC) after he was traded from the Lions to Los Angeles in a blockbuster deal last March for quarterback Jared Goff, a 2021 third-round pick and first-round picks in 2022 and 2023.
The move was a clear signal by the Rams that the time to win is now and that they wanted a more proven commodity than Goff, who has been inconsistent to begin his NFL career.
As Stafford gets ready to suit up against Chicago, SN takes a look at how he landed in Los Angeles.
Requesting a trade
Before the 2020 NFL season had officially wrapped up with the conclusion of the playoffs, it was reported that Stafford wanted out of Detroit.
The 2009 first overall pick had been one of the most reliable quarterbacks in the league, having thrown for at least 4,000 yards in eight seasons and 20-plus touchdowns in all but three. Yet, the Lions perpetually struggled, mustering just a 74-90-1 record in his time with them.
The Rams, meanwhile, reportedly attempted to make a run at the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers, another star NFC North quarterback who hinted at an uncertain future, although he ultimately returned to Green Bay.
It didn’t take long for Los Angeles to go after Stafford.
Swapping Goff for Stafford
Goff helped the Rams reach the Super Bowl following the 2018 season and looked like he might be LA’s long-term answer at QB. That year, he completed 64.9 percent of his passes for 4,688 yards, with 32 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
He fell back the following season with 22 touchdowns and 16 picks before throwing 20 touchdowns and 13 INTs in 2020. The Rams wanted a fresh face under center, someone other than the player they took first overall in the 2016 draft.
The Lions had already started shopping Stafford. Several suitors came calling, but Stafford didn’t want to end up with the Patriots or Panthers. New England wound up drafting Alabama’s Mac Jones 15th overall and then cut last year’s starter, Cam Newton, at the end of the preseason to usher in a new era. The Panthers traded for Sam Darnold in the hope he shows the upside that got him drafted third overall by the Jets in 2018.
About a week after the Stafford news broke, the Rams and Lions had a deal in place. The Lions invested in the future with the 26-year-old Goff and the picks, while the win-now Rams took the more proven and experienced Stafford.
It was an ideal match for Stafford, who, according to reports, had the Rams at the top of his list. He also would have been satisfied with the 49ers, who came close to pulling off a deal but couldn’t get him before their California counterparts did.
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What’s next for Stafford and Goff?
Stafford isn’t getting any younger, so the time is now for both he and the Rams.
He is 33, and just 18 quarterbacks older than that have had at least 4,000 passing yards in a season. Only 10 quarterbacks older than 33 have started and won a Super Bowl. Not to mention, his contract expires at the end of the 2022 season. If he and the Rams are going to get to a Super Bowl and win it, they’ll need to do it in the next two seasons.
The expectations for Goff in Detroit likely will be more incremental. If he can return to the form he showed when he led the Rams to a Super Bowl, then the Lions, who are in the midst of a seemingly never-ending rebuild, will be happy about their end of the bargain. The first-round picks in 2022 and 2023 should also help the cause.
Goff gets his first chance to show Lions fans what he’s got when Detroit hosts the 49ers at 1 p.m. ET Sunday. Stafford and the Rams are on the road to face the Bears in prime time.
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