| Detroit Free Press
Detroit Lions hire Dan Campbell: Digging deeper on what he said
Dave Birkett, Carlos Monarrez and Shawn Windsor break down what we heard during Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell’s news conference on Jan. 21, 2021.
Shawn Windsor, Carlos Monarrez and Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press
Yes, I’m the guy who wanted the Lions to trade Stafford to the New England Patriots for Tom Brady three years ago. How silly of me. Stafford was still a spry 30-year-old with so much great football left in him, while Brady was a fading, 40-year-old quarterback playing on his last legs. Silly, silly me.
But this is different.
I recently advocated trading Stafford, and I still do. But that action, and that decision, needed to come from the team, not the player. Why? It hurts the Lions’ negotiating power because there’s a huge difference between a team putting out feelers about trading their star quarterback and the star quarterback essentially demanding a trade.
Every potential trading partner now knows the Lions must get rid of Stafford, because the Lions can’t have a disgruntled QB leading their team, especially as a new regime embarks on establishing a kumbaya, all-for-one, new culture.
Here’s how the trade process should have happened. The Lions should have quietly explored options for trading Stafford while indicating they would be happy to keep Stafford around as a bridge to a younger quarterback during this rebuild. Not only would that be plausible, it would also be a good idea. It would give the Lions better leverage, making it seem like they don’t have to trade Stafford.
Now? Now they have to trade Stafford, and that kills their leverage.
The big deadline comes five days after the new league year starts, tentatively set for March 17. That’s when Stafford is owed a $10 million roster bonus. If I’m an interested team, I don’t make a serious offer until the day before the deadline, when the Lions are in panic mode.
The other problem with Stafford asking for the trade is that it’s an entirely selfish decision. He approached the Lions after the season ended and asked to be traded, even before the team hired general manager Brad Holmes and coach Dan Campbell. He didn’t even give the new regime a chance. He just wanted out because he didn’t want to be part of a rebuild at age 33.
From Stafford’s point of view, it makes sense. The injuries are piling up, he’s having a harder time getting through a whole season and he wants to cash in on at least one more contract extension. That wasn’t going to happen with the Lions, who could be drafting his replacement in April. (And by the way, now the Lions have to draft a quarterback with the No. 7 pick.)
It make sense. But it doesn’t make Stafford a good teammate; he’s leaving other established veterans to go through the slow and painful rebuild without him. I wonder how left tackle Taylor Decker feels. He said, after the season, he would lobby team president Rod Wood to keep Stafford, only to find out Stafford already had one foot out the door. Fellow offensive lineman Tyrell Crosby tweeted crying emojis when the trade news broke.
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And this isn’t like the Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson retirements. Say what you will about them, but at least they had the decency to give us the “it’s not you, it’s me” speech when they filed for divorce. Stafford is asking for a divorce and the ring back with a draft of the marriage proposal for his new fiancée sticking out of his front pocket. Even the staunchest Stafford supporter must admit it’s going to be hard watching him win elsewhere.
Yes, I know it’s a business. Everyone knows it’s a business. But there’s no other way to describe Stafford’s actions than to call them a me-first move. And maybe you think he’s earned that over 12 years. But it’s still a selfish move, and one that could hurt trade negotiations; suitors will have to consider Stafford’s motivations.
Remember that is isn’t a Deshaun Watson situation — or even a Carson Wentz. The Lions didn’t treat Stafford poorly. They didn’t lowball him on contracts. They didn’t bench him or trade away his best receiver or retain a losing regime. The Lions accommodated Stafford at every turn.
Any team that is thinking about trading valuable capital for Stafford needs to know where he stands. What was his big problem with the Lions? Does he really want to build something? Or did he just want to abandon ship and cash in on one last contract before his body breaks down?
If nothing else, it would have been better for his own value — and for the Lions’ trade potential — if he had kept his mouth shut and let the Lions do the talking.
Here’s what I believe about Stafford. He has been a good player and a good teammate who has given a lot to the Lions, who, in turn, have compensated him very well for that effort. But I don’t agree that the Lions wasted Stafford’s career by failing to surround him with good players.
A star quarterback is supposed to make players around him better, not the other way around. In Stafford’s 12 seasons, the Lions surrounded him with teammates who were selected to the Pro Bowl 24 times, including a potential first-ballot Hall of Fame receiver and a potential Hall of Fame defensive tackle. It wasn’t a perfect roster, but if that’s what Stafford needs to win one measly playoff game, then maybe this isn’t the sport for him.
As I’ve said, I think it’s time for Stafford, the Lions and their fans to move on. I hope the Lions are able to trade Stafford and get fair value for him, so that this regime has every chance to be successful. But don’t be surprised if the return for Stafford is far from the bonanza of draft picks you hope it will be.
Contact Carlos Monarrez at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.
Matthew Stafford through the years: Time as Detroit Lions and Georgia quarterback
A look at Matthew Stafford through the years as the Detroit Lions quarterback.
Tyler J. Davis, Wochit