Matthew Stafford knew he didn’t want to be a part of another Detroit Lions rebuild, but it didn’t make requesting a trade from Lions brass any easier before he was ultimately dealt to the Los Angeles Rams.
“Probably the hardest conversation I’ve ever had in my life. It was a really tough deal,” Stafford told WDIV-TV in Detroit of the discussion. “I’ve got to give the Lions a bunch of credit for the way they handled it.”
With another regime change, the 33-year-old Stafford wanted a chance to compete for a Super Bowl, something he couldn’t help bring to Detroit in 12 seasons after being selected No. 1 overall in the 2009 NFL Draft.
He and his wife Kelly had an inkling before the Lions’ 5-11 season — in which head coach Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn were fired — that change could be coming.
“To be honest, Kelly and I probably started talking about it before last season,” Stafford told the Detroit Free Press. “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.”
What Stafford couldn’t predict was where he’d end up. He thought the Indianapolis Colts, San Francisco 49ers and Washington Football Team were among the potential landing spots. He was surprised when he ended up with the Rams, who traded Jared Goff, two first-round picks and a third-rounder to seal the deal.
“I just didn’t know how they would ever be able to (pull it off.)” Stafford told the Free Press. “You know, I’m not a salary cap guru. It kind of got to a point where I’m like, OK, I can’t sit there and go crazy. I just tried to let it happen. And L.A. aggressively jumped into it.”
Stafford, who has two years and $43 million left on his contract, said in 2020 he played through a partially torn UCL in his throwing thumb, a torn UCL in his left elbow, broken cartilage on a rib, a tear in the back of his left knee and a right ankle sprain.
He wishes things didn’t turn out this way.
“Sometimes it’s not the perfect storybook ending in the same place,” Stafford told the Free Press. “But I can leave here knowing that I gave this team every damn thing I had.”