After another losing season, the Detroit Lions are again embarking on a GM and head coach duo. The Lions bottomed out this year with another disastrous season. They finished bottom of the NFC, while the defense set new records of awful. In the Lions’ horrible history, the 2020 defense was the worst in franchise history. The Lions are now looking to the future.
Rebuild seems to be the name of the game in Detroit, the question now is what the team should do with Matt Stafford. The former Georgia Bulldog is the face of the franchise; he is an elite quarterback. Sadly, Stafford’s tenure in Detroit hasn’t coincided with much success. He’s played for the Lions for 11 years now, is it time for a clean break for both player and team.
Stafford is Special
Matt Stafford is a superb quarterback. He belongs in the elite bracket of NFL signal-callers. Strangely, Matt Patricia seemed hell-bent on taking the ball out of his hands. The endless running of the ball on first and second down didn’t work. Matt Patricia actively attempted to neuter his best player; thankfully, Sheila Ford ended Patricia’s reign of terror after Thanksgiving.
With interim coach Darrell Bevell at the helm, Stafford let loose in the final weeks of the season. In the four games he completed under Bevell, Stafford’s passer rating was north of 100. Under Patricia, Stafford posted three games out of twelve with a passer rating above 100. Once Bevell gave him the license to attack, Stafford balled out.
His PFF passing grade leaped after Bevell took over. His performance at Soldier Field, in particular, was insane. He threw for over 400 yards on 27 passes with three touchdowns and one interception. Chicago is a good defense, yet Stafford skewered them on that particular Sunday. He threw the ball all over the field that day, Stafford displayed the arm is still incredible plus the deep ball was as good as ever.
His deep ball statistics make for fantastic reading; it’s just a shame his head coach was so bad. Stafford is one of the very best deep throwers in the NFL. Bevell let him realize that once he took over.
Stafford can make any throw from a variety of arm angles plus different platforms. His no-look pass against Tennessee was Sportscenter’s top ten worthy. If other quarterbacks did that, we’d still be talking about it. Even when he faces pressure, Stafford is still able to play at a superlatively high level.
The Gunslinger is still alive and kicking in the Motor City. Add his talent to the leadership he shows; you understand why the fans love him in Detroit. It’s not just Lions fans though, Aaron Rodgers was on record saying how great Stafford is. That is high praise from the MVP front-runner.
Lastly, Stafford is as tough as a pair of Detroit work boots. This season, we’ve witnessed Stafford play at an elite level while carrying a slew of injuries. He personifies the grit, determination, and blue-collar mentality that runs through the city he represents. No Lions fan wants to see their team lineup at the tunnel without number nine at the front.
The Case for Moving Him On
After well over a decade of losing, there is plenty of chatter amongst the NFL cognoscenti that the Lions and Stafford should go their separate ways. Stafford is an outstanding player, sadly all he owns in Detroit is a lot of battle scars and crushing defeats. After over a decade in the D, is it time to move on? Well, the 2021 draft offers a chance if the Lions decided to move on from Stafford.
There are several exciting, young quarterbacks in the upcoming draft. From Zach Wilson to Mac Jones or Desmond Ridder, there are talented players that Detroit can take. Drafting a young quarterback provides the team with plenty of cap flexibility, plus it gives a new coach time to retool the team.
The Lions are in desperate need of playmakers on both sides of the ball. If they shop Stafford, the team could get substantial compensation in the form of draft picks. With that, the Lions can redesign the woeful defense while still drafting a quarterback. The caveat to that is Stafford carries a $19 million dead cap hit next year.
It is not unmovable like Carson Wentz’s deal, though it does create challenges. A rookie quarterback will signal a new era, add that to the chance of building a team with extra picks; the talk of trading Stafford does possess some logic behind it.
What Should the Lions do?
After weighing all that up, the Detroit Lions should not trade Matthew Stafford. He is only 32; there is no sign of a gradual decline in his play. The offensive line features a pro bowl left tackle as well as a pro bowl center. A rookie quarterback brings cap flexibility; conversely, a rookie also brings unknowns plus the typical rookie growing pains.
Stafford is still the real deal, the sure thing, every franchise needs its franchise quarterback. The position is the fundamental building block, Stafford is the franchise quarterback in Detroit. Any rebuild must-see Stafford be at the center of it. After all, you don’t sell your house’s foundations, so you shouldn’t sell your foundational player.