If the Detroit Lions curse began with an unwanted trade of Bobby Layne, maybe getting Matthew Stafford’s blessing for an even bigger trade is ultimately what will take to end it.
In a move that echoes across the entire NFL landscape (the void of Super Bowl bye week helped), the band-aid has been ripped off, and Matthew Stafford is on his way to Los Angeles. A week ago, I wrote about the Seven Stages of Stafford Grief. I think I’ve discovered the 8th stage though: after ‘acceptance’ comes ‘pulling off a blockbuster trade that can potentially reignite the franchise in the coming years’.
The Rams get Matthew Stafford, while the Lions get his replacement in Jared Goff, plus L.A.’s first-round pick next year, plus their first-round pick in 2023, as well as an additional third-round choice this April. By almost any measure, the Lions walk away with a stunning amount of value from this move. With a total rebuild on the way and large concerns about Stafford’s long-term viability, the Lions have everything to gain and very little to lose from this transaction.
With a few days have gone by, it hasn’t fully sunken in yet, but here are my initial ‘Winners’ and ‘Losers’ from the Matthew Stafford/Jared Goff trade:
Winner: Brad Holmes
The new Lions general manager has been on the job barely two weeks and already pulled off possibly the biggest trade in franchise history. As Lions’ radio announcer Dan Miller once said of a rookie Matthew Stafford, this is “the kind of stuff that endears you to a city.”
Stafford had to go, it’s difficult to imagine the Lions getting a bigger return for him. While speculation over the past week questioned whether Detroit could land a single first-round pick in exchange for Stafford, Holmes managed to get two of them (in the future), an extra third-round pick now, AND a more than capable replacement at quarterback.
If the Lions finally break their decades-long curse, I believe we will point directly back to this trade as the moment it all began to change. Holmes earns an A++ grade from me for an unbelievable haul in this move.
Winner: Matthew Stafford
As far as the Lions/Stafford relationship goes, this is about as close to a win-win as you can get. This is Stafford’s reward for being a stand-up guy 100% of the time, even as the franchise crumbled around him in the Quinntricia era.
Stafford gets everything he asked for with this trade: a championship-level defense, a capable run game, a legitimate chance to get some playoff wins, and maybe even a ring. As an added bonus, he even gets an L.A. reunion with Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (you have heard this mentioned once or sixty times during FOX telecasts, they’re childhood friends).
The work now begins for Stafford to cement his legacy. If he can win big in his new situation, the entire narrative about his career gets completely flipped, and Stafford becomes a borderline Hall of Famer. If he can’t, it means his detractors were right about him all along.
One way or another, the endless debates about Stafford’s greatness (or not) will be settled at this stop. At least we’ll know.