Matthew Stafford on Rams-Lions Trade: 'I Wanted to Shoot My Shot'

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 11, 2021

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford warms up before an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Ben Margot/Associated Press

Longtime Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford had been discussing a potential trade with his wife, Kelly, since last offseason with the knowledge another rebuild could be on the horizon in Detroit.

Stafford, whose move to the Los Angeles Rams will be completed when the new NFL league year opens in March, told Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press in an interview released Thursday that he was torn throughout the process but decided to chase a championship.

"I've always wanted to play in those big games," he said. "I feel like I will excel in those situations. I wanted to shoot my shot."

The Lions obtained a strong return package for the 2014 Pro Bowl selection, receiving two first-round picks, a third-round pick and fellow quarterback Jared Goff.

It makes the deal a potential win-win as Detroit gets key pieces for its building process and L.A. acquires a quarterback with the potential to help its Super Bowl pursuit.

Stafford told Albom his hope was to remain with the Lions for the "next 10 years and we win two Super Bowls."

He added, "I never thought I would ever finish my career anywhere else."

Stafford also detailed the numerous injuries he dealt with during the 2020 season:

"I mean, this past year was bad. I had the partially torn UCL in my right thumb, I tore my UCL on my left elbow on the second to last play of the Houston game that nobody knew about, trying to stiff arm a guy. That's why I started wearing a sleeve on my left arm because I had all sorts of tape underneath it, just to hold it in place.

"I broke my cartilage on my eighth rib in Green Bay. I also tore something (in the back of) my left knee. And then I had a subtalar, right ankle sprain."

Stafford noted he never spoke of the injuries out of deference to his teammates and the city of Detroit, where people are "dealing with much tougher challenges."

The 33-year-old University of Georgia product, selected by Detroit with the first overall pick in the 2009 draft, came to the conclusion that trying to maintain the status quo wouldn't have been good for either himself or the organization.

"In my mind, I felt like I was going to be able to help us go win six, seven, eight games, because I wasn't gonna let us lose more than that, you know?" Stafford said. "But I probably wasn't good enough [by myself] to help us win more than that. And maybe we don't ever get those top picks that we needed."

The Lions, under new general manager Brad Holmes and new head coach Dan Campbell, can chart a new path with a cache of picks in the coming years, and Stafford can chase the championship he's been seeking within a more established foundation in Los Angeles.

Stafford concluded by telling Albom he gave Detroit everything he had over the past 12 years:

"Sometimes it's not the perfect storybook ending in the same place. But I can leave here knowing that I gave this team every damn thing I had.

"The way that they handled it, I think it's worked out for everybody, and I think it will in the future. I cannot express how much gratitude I feel towards the Lions for handling it the way they did.

"As much as I'm moving to a place that's got some pieces that are ready to go, I'm also betting on myself too, betting that I'm the person that can take them there. So this is a big challenge for me.

"But I'm gonna miss the hell out of this place."

Stafford finished his Lions tenure with more than 45,000 passing yards and 282 touchdowns across 165 regular-season games.