Matthew Stafford spent his first 12 seasons in the NFL with the Lions. He will wear a different shade of blue for his 13th season.
Stafford is set to make his Rams debut on Sunday night against the Bears (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC) after being traded from the Lions to Los Angeles in a hit deal last March for quarterback Jared Goff, a third-round pick in 2021 and a first-round pick in 2022 and 2023.
The move was a clear signal from the Rams that the time to win is now and that they wanted a more proven product than Goff, who has been inconsistent to start his NFL career.
As Stafford prepares to take on Chicago, SN watches how he ended up in Los Angeles.
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Before the 2020 NFL season officially ended with the conclusion of the playoffs, it was reported that Stafford wanted to leave Detroit.
The 2009 first overall pick was one of the league’s most reliable quarterbacks, throwing for at least 4,000 yards in eight seasons and over 20 touchdowns in all but three. Still, the Lions have struggled perpetually, amassing just a 74-90-1 record in his time with them.
The Rams, meanwhile, have reportedly tried to run against Aaron Rodgers of the Packers, another star NFC North quarterback who hinted at an uncertain future, although he eventually returned to Green Bay.
It didn’t take long in Los Angeles to take it out on Stafford.
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Goff helped the Rams reach the Super Bowl after the 2018 season and it looked like he could be LA’s long-term answer to the QB. That year, he completed 64.9% of his passes for 4,688 yards, with 32 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
He retreated the following season with 22 touchdowns and 16 picks before throwing 20 touchdowns and 13 INTs in 2020. The Rams wanted a new face under center, someone other than the player they took in first place. in the 2016 draft.
The Lions had already started shopping in Stafford. Several suitors came up to call, but Stafford didn’t want to end up with the Patriots or the Panthers. New England ended up drafting Alabama’s Mac Jones 15th overall, then knocked out last year’s starter Cam Newton at the end of the preseason to usher in a new era. The Panthers traded to Sam Darnold in hopes he would show the advantage that saw him be drafted third by the Jets in 2018.
About a week after the news broke from Stafford, the Rams and Lions had struck a deal. The Lions have invested in the future with 26-year-old Goff and picks, while the now-winning Rams have taken on the more proven and experienced Stafford.
It was an ideal game for Stafford, who reportedly had the Rams at the top of the list. He was also said to have been pleased with the 49ers, who nearly struck a deal but couldn’t get it before their California counterparts.
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What’s next for Stafford and Goff?
Stafford is not getting any younger, so now is the time for him and the Rams.
He’s 33 years old and only 18 quarterbacks older than that have totaled at least 4,000 passing yards in one season. Only 10 quarterbacks over 33 have started and won a Super Bowl. Not to mention that his contract expires at the end of the 2022 season. If he and the Rams are to reach a Super Bowl and win it, they will have to do so in the next two seasons.
Expectations for Goff in Detroit will likely be more gradual. If he can return to the form he showed when he led the Rams to a Super Bowl, then the Lions, who are in the midst of a seemingly endless rebuild, will be happy with their end of the bargain. First-round picks in 2022 and 2023 are also expected to help the cause.
Goff has his first chance to show Lions fans what he’s got when Detroit hosts the 49ers at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday. Stafford and the Rams are on the road to take on the Bears in prime time.