With the ground being excoriated over the loss of Detroit icon Matthew Stafford, most fans are looking towards the future, wondering what a ransom for the quarterback could bring to the Detroit Lions. Many are recording fond memories, mourning in their own ways.
But was there a chance Stafford could have been retained? According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the possibility might have actually been real:
From NFL Now: Had the #Lions kept OC Darrell Bevell, QB Matthew Stafford likely would have wanted to stay. Instead, Bevell moves on to the #Jaguars and Stafford moves on to ... ? pic.twitter.com/hGcYVFLZ0c— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 25, 2021
The relevant quote:
“Fascinating little side note here...had the Lions retained Darrell Bevell, from what I understand I do not believe Stafford would have wanted to ask out, I believe he would have wanted to stay there. Instead, it’s Anthony Lynn...Lynn lands in Detroit, Bevell goes to Jacksonville, and Matthew Stafford goes, somewhere else.”
Rapoport gives plenty of qualifiers to this—”I understand,” “I believe”—so it might be worth taking it with a grain of salt. It also has to square the timeline that Stafford apparently told management that he wanted out before the coaching search got too much under way. But it could have been contingent upon Bevell being the head coach.
For now, it’s a look in the rear-view mirror, of what might have been, and a question of if the Lions would have been better long-term with Bevell and Stafford still together. It also puts into question just how much Stafford values Bevell’s leadership and scheme, and if that might impact his decisions in the upcoming trade scenarios.
UPDATE: Justin Rogers of the Detroit News is reporting that Rapoport’s version of the story does not line up with his source’s version of the story:
This didn't really line up with the timeline I reported on Stafford approaching ownership ahead of actual coaching search. Doubled back with source familiar with those conversations and told it's not accurate. Stafford attached no contingencies about staying if Bevell stayed. https://t.co/fsvqmld1L6— Justin Rogers (@Justin_Rogers) January 25, 2021
Believe whichever you’d like.