| Detroit Free Press
Detroit Lions’ Matthew Stafford not thinking past last five games of 2020
Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford speaks to the media on Monday, Nov. 30, 2020.
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford had one of his best scrambling performances of the season Monday when he slipped out of several sticky situations while discussing his future with the team.
The weekend firings of coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn have left much of the team’s future, including Stafford’s, in flux as the organization begins a search for their replacements.
Stafford fielded several questions Monday from reporters during his weekly conference call, but he avoided each query about his future by deferring it to after the season.
“As far as my future goes past this season, I’ll figure that out, talk about that later on,” he said. “To me, I’ve got a lot of work to be done. As a team and as a leader, there’s a lot to be done here for the rest of the season.”
Patricia marks the third coach who has been fired in Stafford’s 12 seasons. When Stafford was asked whether he had the patience to go through another rebuild, he kept his poker face on and divulged very little.
“I’m not going to limit myself to anything,” he said. “… I’ll answer that probably better for you after the season. There’s too much work for me to be done at the moment. If I’m worried about all that kind of other stuff, I’m not worried about trying to beat the Bears (on Sunday).
“And that’s unfair to my teammates, my coaches, ownership, our fans, everybody. So I’m going to put my best foot forward and try to beat the Bears this weekend and we’ll figure out all that other stuff down the road.”
COACHING SEARCH: Robert Saleh makes impressive case to next Lions coach
REPLACING PATRICIA: Top candidates for next Lions coach
REPLACING QUINN: Top candidates for next Lions general manager
To be fair, everyone else in the organization so far has said little about the future — and even about Stafford’s future. In her post-firing news conference on Saturday, team owner Sheila Ford Hamp deferred any decisions about Stafford, who is signed through 2022, to the new coach.
“Well since I’m not the coach, I’m probably not the right person to ask that question to,” Hamp said when asked about the team’s long-term commitment to Stafford. “So we’ll see what the new coach has to say.”
But Hamp did praise Stafford’s talent and toughness.
“It’s been tough for him,” she said. “Again, I think the coach will make that decision.”
In a similar manner, interim coach Darrell Bevell on Monday wouldn’t say whether he thought Stafford would be the Lions’ quarterback of the future but instead praised his work ethic.
“I can tell you this: Matthew comes to work every day,” Bevell said. “He’s given me everything he can possibly give. I think he’s given everything he can possibly give to the team. We take shots, he’s been beat up, he’s played through it. He’s tough as they come.
“He’s definitely a positive influence on our team. The guys look up to him, the guys love him. I’m excited I have five more weeks to work with him in this situation because I know it’ll bring out the best in him. If he’s playing his best, I know we have a great shot to win.”
Stafford said he wanted to lead the team to play well under Bevell this season. But he also didn’t throw his support behind Bevell’s candidacy and wouldn’t say whether he wanted to have input on retaining Bevell or hiring a new coach.
“We’ll talk about that and figure all that out at a later date,” Stafford said. “I appreciate you asking, but not going to spend any mental energy on it. Don’t want to clog up the bandwidth.”
Stafford did offer more substantive thoughts on the firings of Patricia and Quinn.
“Never expect it to happen,” Stafford said. “We’re just going about our business trying to win games. Hate the way it happened for those guys. They put so much time and effort into trying to get this team to where it needs to be.
“And it didn’t happen and I understand that this is a winning-based business, and I get that. But I’m always surprised by those things. I never feel like it’s going to happen and then it does.”
After news broke of Patricia’s firing, some former Lions players — several of whom were cut or traded — rejoiced on social media by attacking a coach who was perceived as unpopular. But Stafford gave a profound and thoughtful answer about the importance of having a likable coach and the nature of perception.
“I think it’s important to win, you know?” Stafford said. “I think that’s the most important thing. I think everybody’s experiences are going to be seen through the lens of kind of wins and losses. If you have this lens of a bunch of success and a bunch of wins, everybody has a great look on it. And if it’s the opposite, it can turn it maybe a little bit worse than maybe it was.
“So I think the biggest thing is to win. And that’s not a head coach by himself thing or a GM by himself thing. That’s a team thing, that’s an everybody thing and we’ve got to do a good job of making sure we have that we have that mindset coming in for the next five games and make sure we do everything we can to get those wins.”
Contact Carlos Monarrez at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.