Matthew Stafford was with the Lions for his first 12 NFL season. For his 13th season, he’ll be wearing a different color of blue.
Stafford will make his Rams debut on Sunday 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.
Rams made this move to signal that they want to win and that Goff was not a proven player.
As Stafford is getting ready to take on Chicago, SN takes a look back at how he got to Los Angeles.
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Asking for a trade
It was reported that Stafford wanted to leave Detroit before the 2020 NFL season ended with the conclusion the playoffs.
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. The Lions were still struggling, with a record of 74-90-1 in his time with the team.
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.
Los Angeles quickly pursued Stafford.
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Swapping Goff with 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. Goff completed 64.9 percent, for 4,688 yard, with 32 touchdowns. He also had 12 interceptions.
The following season, he was back with 22 touchdowns. He also had 16 picks. In 2020, he will throw 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. The Rams wanted someone else to be their center of gravity, someone who was not the first overall pick in 2016.
Stafford was already being sought by the Lions. 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 made an investment in the future by purchasing Goff, 26 years old, and the picks. Meanwhile, the Rams won the fight and took the experienced Stafford.
Stafford was thrilled to find the perfect match, with the Rams being at the top his priority list, according reports. 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 in Stafford and Goff’s lives?
Stafford isn’t getting any younger, so the time is now for both he and the Rams.
He’s 33 years old, and only 18 other quarterbacks have at least 4,000 yards passing in a single season. Only 10 quarterbacks over 33 have won the Super Bowl. He will be out of contract at the end 2022 season. If he and his team are to win the Super Bowl, they will need to do so in the next two years.
Goff’s future in Detroit is likely to be incremental. Goff can return to his former form when he led the Rams into a Super Bowl. The Lions, which are currently in the middle of an almost never-ending rebuilding process, will be pleased with their part of the deal. It should also be helped by the first-round picks of 2022, 2023.
Goff will get his first opportunity to show the Lions what he can do when Detroit hosts 49ers at 1:05 p.m. ET Sunday. Stafford and the Rams will face the Bears in prime-time.
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