Not long ago we published a piece here about how Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn murdered the Detroit Lions. This will be a spiritual sequel to that. The damage has already been done to the Lions. They were forced to do a complete overhaul of their front office and staff and there’s a lot of talent issues that need to be dealt with. They set off a nuclear bomb inside of the organization.
Still, like Indiana Jones, we had the refrigerator that was Matthew Stafford to keep us safe from harm. We were wrapped up in the protecting arms that would make everything all better and keep the Lions from complete implosion. On Saturday we lost that fridge when it was announced that Matthew Stafford requested to be traded. Now that nuclear bomb that the Boston Boys set off in Detroit is feeling a lot more like the bomb that went off in Terminator 2. We’re all just Sarah Connor being burned alive at the playground now.
It didn’t hit me right away. I, like many Lions fans, was too busy dealing with the initial blow of Stafford leaving to comprehend the possibilities of what it all means in the end. After spending time reflecting, here’s what I’ve come up with. This is going to be hell on Earth, and it’s going to sting for a while.
Matthew Stafford was the one thing holding this franchise together. He was, by far, the most important Lions player in the team’s history. Some might say it was Barry Sanders or Calvin Johnson. I get that, but I’m not talking about talent here. I’m talking about a centerpiece that made anything possible if it was around. Calvin and Barry were never that. They were the best of a bad situation, not the staple that holds all in place.
Losing Stafford affects the Lions in multiple ways. Here’s a few ways that this changes everything.
It thrusts the Lions into full blown rebuild mode
New Lions GM Brad Holmes can call it what he wants. This isn’t a re-tool anymore. This is a from-the-ground-up rebuild. As it stands right now, this is a team without a quarterback, their top three receivers, their kicker, and their defense finished worst in the league in 2020. How do you re-tool that?
I guess the good news is that the Lions don’t have to tear it all down anymore because it just collapsed under its own weight. Get ready for the long haul. This is going to take years. It’s been 12 years since you felt what it was like to be this deep into the hole. Anyone remember how bad that was? Sure took a while last time.
Re-signing and signing players just got harder
It was already going to be hard enough to secure Kenny Golladay for example. Now it’s going to be next to impossible. Golladay is going to have plenty of suitors calling come March. It seems quite doubtful that he decides to stay with the team that just traded one of the best quarterbacks in the league. The same goes for Marvin Jones Jr. Granted he was likely gone anyways, but if he had any second thoughts, those are probably gone now.
Replacing those guys won’t be easy either. Matthew Stafford was a bargaining chip, especially for receivers. As we mentioned earlier, Stafford leaving means rebuild. Who’s going to want to be a part of the rebuild when there’s other opportunities out there? Even the guys that could have been attached to the Lions via the new staff members seem unattainable now. What it is it about Detroit that’s attracting anyone now?
Who are the Lions?
This isn’t anything the Lions can avoid, but the fact is they’re nothing to the league in the grand scheme of things. The Lions aren’t going to be on national television anytime soon, they won’t be talked about nationally unless someone is making a joke, the jersey sales will fall and the team will lose money off this. Maybe that’s all over-reactionary. It probably is, to be honest.
But what’s true is that Matthew Stafford represented the Detroit Lions’ identity. Whether the team was good or bad, they had Stafford and you knew you were going to be entertaining. Who is this team now? I don’t know how to answer that just yet. Simply saying they’re the rebuilding team seems lazy. How long until the Lions are fun again? Who knows?
How about some balance
Alright, the sky has fallen enough. I’d be remiss if I didn’t shed a little optimism here. Maybe this is what the Lions needed. Sometimes you have to go to hell to get to heaven. Perhaps on the other side if this is the success Lions fans have always dreamed of. This is something that needed to happen in order to lead to that. The Lions will be position to have extra draft picks ,and by all means, they have a really great staff on paper right now.
Brad Holmes has a great history of scouting, and he helped rebuild the Rams into an NFC championship team in short order. Maybe that’ll rub off on the Lions. One of the things that helped the Rams achieve what they did is that they didn’t have a massive quarterback contract holding them back. They rebuilt with a lot of hits in the draft and a lot of guys on rookie deals. The Lions now have a chance to do that very same thing. That is something to have some excitement about.
Still, the fears of the Lions past are going to haunt us all for a while. Everything that’s happened in the past three years is going to haunt us for a while. Nothing will potentially haunt us more than the loss of Matthew Stafford.