A fiery competitor on the field, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford publicly presents himself as reserved and humble outside the white lines.
So, it’s hardly surprising he downplayed a private text shared by former teammate Nate Burleson, where the quarterback made a bold claim he was coming for the league Most Valuable Player award in 2020.
The conversation started when NFL Network host Peter Schrager, a frequent supporter of the Lions, listed Stafford as his dark-horse MVP candidate for a feature on “Good Morning Football,” an NFL Network show he co-hosts with Burleson.
“My dark horse might be the same answer I’ve had for 10 years now,” Schrager said last month. “I’m going to go right down the road I’ve always gone, can I get Matt Stafford some preseason love, some Peter Schrager, August Matt Stafford hype? I’ve been born to do it. This is why I work on this network. It’s because I’ve got really favorite thing to do and it’s talk about how good Stafford is going to be this season on Aug. 11.”
On a later broadcast, when Schrager again mentioned Stafford’s MVP prospects, Burleson interrupted to share a text from his former quarterback.
“Tell Peter to forget the dark horse stuff — I’m going for the MVP!”
Asked about Burleson’s reveal, Stafford wasn’t interested in touting his credentials further.
“Not going to share the backstory,” Stafford said on Monday. “What I text Nate, I guess is for y’all a little bit, but not all of it. Nate is a great buddy of mine. Love watching him do his thing. It’s always good to talk to him. I’m just excited to go play. I know I have a bunch of talented playmakers around me, some guys that if I can just get the ball in their hands, they can do some pretty incredible stuff. It’s on us as an offense to be able to go out there an operate. We’ve got to operate as one, 11 guys working together.”
Prior to suffering a season-ending injury in 2019, Stafford was arguably on track for his best season of his career. He was leading the league in yards per passing attempt, while on pace to threaten 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns.
The award eventually went to Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson. The speedy-dual threat quarterback took home all 50 first-place votes after completing 66.1% of his passes with 36 touchdowns to just six interceptions, while rushing for another 1,206 yards and seven scores.
Stafford is going to need to throw for at least 50 touchdowns to compete against numbers like those.
“Listen, I just go out there and play and try to win games, try to help my team to win games,” he said, when asked if competing for MVP was realistic. “Whatever I can do to help them win, I’m going to try and do that.”