There’s not much in the NFL like the relationship between center and quarterback. Not only is the center largely responsible for protecting the quarterback, but those two share the literal same space on the field on every single down.
So when Detroit Lions center Frank Ragnow talks about Matthew Stafford, you know everything he is saying is coming with the kind of in-depth knowledge that not many can offer.
In the aftermath of the trade that will send Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams once the 2021 league year begins on March 17, Ragnow joined the “Unrestricted with Ben Leber” podcast this week to talk about his career with the Lions, his ties to Minnesota, and his relationship with Stafford. And, man, if you are missing Stafford already, this may not be the podcast for you.
Ragnow has been Stafford’s center for the past three years—just one-fourth of the quarterback’s career—but the Lions offensive lineman already believes he’ll never have a teammate like him.
“Matthew Stafford, I don’t think anyone will ever be able to top my favorite teammate ever,” Ragnow saids. “Toughness, passion, competitiveness, everything. I can’t say enough about the guy, and I’m excited to see what he does in Los Angeles.”
On the field, Ragnow was in awe with Stafford’s intelligence. Though Ragnow was responsible for protection calls on offense, sometimes he could sense Stafford was just waiting for Ragnow to call the protection he already wanted.
“He’s a savant when it comes to reading defenses,” Ragnow said. “Blows my mind. It got to a point, so I would make a lot of the protection calls, but he would know. He would know a call he wants to do and he would switch it—he obviously had last say—but I would make the switch and he would be like, ‘There we go, buddy. I was waiting on you.’”
And off the field, Stafford was just the guy you could have a beer with. There was no entitlement. No smugness or arrogance.
“He is a dude. He’s the ultimate dude’s dude. I just can’t say enough about the guy. He’s so cooler-than-life. Maybe that’s because I’m so much younger and I grew up watching him, but I just look at him like a superhero.”
The two didn’t see much success together, though. In Ragnow’s three years with the Lions, the team amassed just a 14-33-1 record. For many young players, that could demoralize them to a point where they adopt a loser’s mentality. However, for Ragnow, Stafford was a source of inspiration and confidence, even as the losses piled up.
“He just brought my confidence up where I always felt we could win (any) ballgame.”
And even though the two will go their separate ways in 2021, Ragnow—who is coming off an All-Pro and Pro Bowl season—is excited for the future. He’s already exchanged numbers with his new quarterback Jared Goff, and he’s spoken briefly with briefly with new head coach Dan Campbell.
“I’m super excited for Jared Goff,” Ragnow said. “I think Detroit will embrace him. I’m going to embrace him. I’m just excited to open this new chapter with coach Campbell.”
Hat tip to @jasonhatch20 for linking the interview.