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Matthew Stafford’s extension is the most important moment in Lions history

Mike Payton explains why Monday night was a monumental moment for the franchise.

NFL: New York Jets at Detroit Lions Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Break out your Toto cassette tapes, Lions fans, it’s time to blare Pride Of Detroit’s celebration song: “Africa.” The party officially began Monday night, when the Lions finally chained Matthew Stafford to the couch like Samuel L. Jackson did to Christina Ricci in Black Snake Moan. Only they also gave him enough money to make the entire staff of Cash Money Records blush.

The deal is reportedly worth $135 million. That’s a lot of lettuce, and it’s surely going to fetch all kinds of criticism—much of it centered around the usual criticisms of “quarterback wins.” It’s important to realize that Matthew Stafford is only going to be the highest paid player in the league for about six months. Then the next guy will take over.

But that’s not the only important thing. Not too long ago I said if the Lions were unable to get a deal done to retain Matthew Stafford, it would be the worst screw up in franchise history. But now that the pen has been put to paper and Stafford is in Detroit long term, I’m comfortable saying this is the most important moment in Detroit Lions history. Here’s why.

When was the last time the Lions locked up a major player for the duration of his career?

Think about this for a moment. I’m sure most will point out drafting Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson as two huge moments in Lions history. They are. As were the subsequent extensions both those players eventually signed. But then those players both notoriously retired right in the middle of those contracts while still young enough to play them out.

The Lions blew it on Ndamukong Suh. They blew it on Chris Spielman and they blew it on Cliff Avril and countless others. But the Lions got one right on Monday night. That’s a big win for a team that so often struggles to lock down big talent.

He’s the greatest quarterback in franchise history

Look, I know that’s not saying much. The Lions have not had a decent quarterback since Bobby Layne. Don’t believe me? Ask any national outlet. They’ll remind you every weekend about how Layne and Stafford went to the same high school. I’m shocked every time I hear it. Did you guys also know Stafford is friends with Clayton Kershaw? Crazy, right?

I hate quarterback wins as a stat. If you know me, you know this is at the top of my pet peeves list, right next to the sound of laughing teenagers and tank tops. So I refuse to acknowledge anything that has anything to do with it.

But I will say is that Matthew Stafford holds the Lions record for career passing yards, touchdowns, passer rating, games played, games started, passes completed, single season passes and touchdowns, most passing yards in a game, most touchdowns in a single game, most slices of pizza eaten during lunch and best career pinball percentage.

Stafford is also the fastest quarterback to 30,000 yards in NFL history, one of five quarterbacks to throw for 5,000 yards in a season, a Pro Bowler, 2011 NFL Comeback Player of the Year, Water balloon champion at the annual company picnic and just an all-around really swell guy.

In all seriousness, over half the teams in the league would drink pickle juice mixed with gasoline while wearing Reebok shoes and sitting in the nosebleed section of the Big House, to have a quarterback like Stafford. Or they would pay a lot of money.

Stafford represents the Lions’ best chance at winning it all

As I mentioned, I hate quarterback wins as a stat. But at the same time, I also understand the importance of the quarterback position. You have to have the right player there if you ever hope to win a championship.

Keep in mind here that I’m not saying the Lions will win a Super Bowl just because they have Stafford. I’m not even saying they’ll win a playoff game because of it. I’m saying that never before has there been a player that’s so crucial to the success of the Lions than Matthew Stafford.

Barry and Calvin were great. They put butts in the seats for years, but in the case of Stafford, the team goes the way he goes. Barry and Calvin never had that effect on the Lions. They were just amazing players in a bad situation.

With Matthew Stafford, a quarterback that is still only 29 and just entering his prime, the Lions have a better chance now than they’ve ever had to win the big one.

Now the Lions have time to do everything else that needs to be done

Think about this: The Lions have their quarterback in place for the next five years. The Lions are coming off a playoff run and continue to make improvements in important places. Now they can continue to do so.

One of the problems most teams have when they are building a team is starting at quarterback. Look at the Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans and the Cleveland Browns. All those teams have talent, but are consistently forced to pause their rebuild in order to find a quarterback. It’s like trying to solve a puzzle without the largest middle piece.

The Lions don’t have that problem, and thanks to a $135 million pay day, they won’t for a while. They’re now able to focus on the other necessities of the team and build around a player that’s playing the best football of his career. For a team that, up until Monday night, had more cap space than any team in the league in 2018, things are looking really good for the Lions’ future.

We’ll soon see what the future holds for Stafford and the Lions. Until then, go on and get it, Matthew.

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