Why the Detroit Lions’ choice of Matthew Stafford trade offers was best for the future

Detroit Free Press

Carlos Monarrez
| Detroit Free Press

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Free Press sports writer Carlos Monarrez answers three questions about the Carolina Panthers’ reported offer of the No. 8 overall pick in the NFL draft for former Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Should the Lions have taken the offer?

According to a Sports Illustrated report, the Lions fielded several offers for quarterback Matthew Stafford before accepting the Los Angeles Rams’ swap of Stafford for Jared Goff, a third-round pick this year and first-rounders in 2022 and ’23. But the doozy in the report was the Carolina Panthers’ supposed offer of their No. 8 overall pick and a “later pick” for Stafford, which I would assume to be a sixth- or seventh-rounder. It’s tempting, but the Lions did the right thing because they aren’t one or two blue-chip, top-10 picks away from greatly improving. It’s better for the dust to settle this year while the NFL continues to deal with a pandemic that’s affecting scouting evaluations. General manager Brad Holmes shouldn’t worry about making a splash this year. Draft a couple of impact players, begin the roster teardown and go hard in 2022 when you have more draft ammunition, better options and evaluations.

MITCH ALBOM: Lions do right by Matthew Stafford, and themselves, in trade with Rams

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DAVE BIRKETT: After doing Barry & Calvin wrong, Lions were right to grant Stafford’s wish

Anything else concern you about the reported trade offers?

Yes: Stafford himself. He has tried to assert his will over past hirings and firings by publicly advocating for Jim Bob Cooter and not advocating for coaches Jim Caldwell and Matt Patricia when asked direct questions about their futures. Silence speaks volumes. So the report from NBC Sports Boston that Stafford told the Lions they could “send him anywhere but New England” didn’t surprise me. This was Stafford dictating where he would go. And wouldn’t you know it? He ended up in L.A., where his wife suggested a trade last year and near where Stafford owns a home. And the trade went down while Stafford and Rams coach Sean McVay happened to be vacationing in the same Mexican resort town. What a coincidence!

We’ll never know if the Lions really turned down a better offer that Stafford nixed. But I hope the Lions and their trade partners weren’t scared to call his bluff of retirement or sitting out, because a soon-to-be-33 banged-up QB with an 0-3 playoff record is no position to be making demands and threatening to sit out a season.

How concerned are you about Goff?

Not as much as I was at first. After having a full day to think, I’m not too concerned about Goff’s ability. Statistics aren’t everything, but he’s very similar to Stafford in meaningful stats like completion percentage, yards per attempt, yards per completion, touchdown percentage, interception percentage and passer rating. The Lions have a good offensive line and if they can pair that with a strong running game, maybe Goff can get back to successfully executing play-action. My biggest concern with Goff is a literary one. There’s an old piece of advice for writers: Kill your darlings. It means writers must be willing to eliminate any of their favorite devices — like unnecessary characters or plot lines — for the greater good of the story. The NFL almost works the opposite way: Go sign and hire every former player or coach you’ve ever worked with, regardless of their success. I worry Goff might be one of the darlings Holmes considers too precious to eliminate, even if he’s struggling mightily.

Contact Carlos Monarrez at cmonarrez@freepress.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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