Trading Matthew Stafford sounds like ‘Same Old Lions’ but here’s why that’s wrong

Detroit Free Press

Jeff Seidel
| Detroit Free Press

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The time is right to say goodbye to the best quarterback in Detroit Lions history.

Matthew Stafford is officially on the trade market. Stafford and the Lions have agreed to part ways, if a trading partner can be found, a source told the Free Press.

And all I can say is: Wow. I didn’t think the Lions would have the guts to make this kind of move. It would be far easier for a first-time general manager and coach to win some games next year if they keep their veteran quarterback.

But this is an encouraging sign that the entire organization, from ownership to the front office to the coaching staff, can see what is so obvious: This team needs a complete rebuild, not a quick makeover.

Now, I know what some people will say: Why does this make sense? The Lions don’t have a quarterback to replace him.

But it’s all about the timing.

This franchise is a mess and it’s years from being good again. The Lions have some pieces, but not enough to make a legitimate contender.

Former general manager Bob Quinn left the defense in shambles. One trip through free agency and the draft will not put the Lions in a serious position to win again. And that made the Stafford situation complicated because he turns 33 in February and has two years left on his contract.

It’s the perfect time to trade him because he is still valuable, can still play and is still relatively cheap for a team that needs a quarterback. Not enough for the Lions to sign him long-term. You don’t give a big contract, in the middle of a rebuild, to a guy Stafford’s age.

Not in this situation.

But the Lions could flip him — they hope — for draft picks that can spark this “retool,” as new GM Brad Holmes has called it.

Or maybe, they can take those picks and move up in the draft to select the quarterback they want.

Of course, the Lions are still in the driver’s seat here. If they don’t get what they want, they don’t have to trade him this year. They could wait until they get a suitable offer.

The fact that this news is out there — it’s clear the Lions want to start a bidding war —is a suave move.

More: Detroit Lions’ Dan Campbell says exactly what fan base needs to hear

Give the man his flowers

Now, a word here about Stafford.

I know he is not traded yet, but he deserves appreciation for what he has given this franchise.

He has never won a playoff game and his stats can feel empty when you consider he has never turned this team into a legit contender.

But the guy deserves a tip of the cap for everything he has given this team: playing hurt, showing up every Sunday and never giving up.

He has been the face of the franchise and he’s done great things in the community; he will certainly be missed, in that regard.

Personally, I believe he deserves a chance to go to a good team. I wouldn’t be shocked if he led a team to a Super Bowl.

So I hope the Lions can send him to a legit contender.

Indianapolis or New Orleans would make a lot of sense.

And I think he would have a chance to write a new ending.

Give the Lions credit (weird, right?)

Finally, a word here about Holmes, Campbell and Lions’ leadership.

Holmes and Campbell knew that this was in the works before they signed with the Lions, the Free Press has been told.

So now, it makes even more sense why they signed Campbell to a 6-year deal.

This isn’t a short-term turnaround.

Some fans were worried that owner Sheila Ford Hamp was going to force the new regime to keep Stafford. They worried the franchise or front office wouldn’t have the guts to trade Stafford.

But it’s clear the Lions are ready for change

Those are fantastic signs about the future of this organization.

We still don’t know if Campbell can coach, and we don’t know if Holmes can make the right decisions to build a team, but this is welcomed news.

It’s an acknowledgment that the best way for this franchise to move forward is to let go of its best quarterback in franchise history. Painful as that might sound to Stafford fans.

This team doesn’t need a quick retooling. It needs several years, several drafts and a whole lot of development. Trading Stafford, at this time, makes complete sense.

This is how you break from mediocrity. This is how you build something special.

By making tough decisions. Thinking long term.

And not letting emotional attachment cloud your view.

When you look at what the Lions have done over the last few months, getting rid of Quinn and Matt Patricia, bringing in a draft-centric GM and a culture-setting coach, it’s easy to like the path they are taking.

Contact Jeff Seidel: Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to

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