We’re a little over the two year mark since the Detroit Lions traded long-time quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Rams for Jared Goff and some draft capital. At the time, there were a lot of mixed feelings for Lions fans. It sort of felt like getting out of a long-term relationship that felt like it was a really good one.
As far as breakups go, it was as amicable as it could get. Both parties were ready to move on and already had dates lined up. Stafford had a date with the Rams and the Lions had a date with Jared Goff. At the end of the day, both romances have worked out pretty well— even if some Lions fans occasionally look at Stafford’s Facebook from time to time to see how it’s going.
Personally, it actually caused me to go down quite the psychological rabbit hole. In October, I wrote about sports breakups with the help of a sports psychologist. But as I reflect upon this moment in the midst of today’s quarterback breakup climate, the only thing I come back with is that it all could have ended so much worse than it actually did.
There was really only one bad thing about it. For years, Stafford’s message was that he always wanted to stay—and win—in Detroit. Even until a year before the trade, that was the message. That message seems a bit disingenuous now.
But it’s okay. That’s as bad as it got. How much worse could have been? Let’s take a look.
Let’s start out in Green Bay. This situation is really the inspiration for me to write this piece today. Aaron Rodgers has held the Packers hostage for the last few offseasons, and it’s been quite the sight to see.
Imagine a world where Matthew Stafford goes on a weekly podcast to talk about how he doesn’t know if he’s going to keep playing football and then does a bunch of ayahuasca and then signs a contract that metaphorically ties a brick to the Lions leg and throws them in the lake before going on a darkness retreat. Like I said, it could have been so much worse.
While the Lions were able to move on from Stafford quickly to get their rebuild started immediately, the Packers have been dragging their feet. Who knows what’s about to happen if Rodgers does indeed get traded or retires? Right now the word from insiders is that the Packers are disgusted with Rodgers and they’re done with him. So it seems like something is on the horizon. Sure, they have Jordan Love waiting, and they are reportedly very high on him. But think of the valuable games of on-field growth they have missed out on because they gave into every one of Rodgers’ hostage demands.
Green Bay isn’t the only place going through a breakup. The Raiders have their own issues with Derek Carr. This one is more on the team than it is on Carr. The Raiders benched him at the end of the season in favor of Jarrett Stidham. Carr felt disrespected enough about his treatment that he utilized his no-trade clause and blocked a move to the Saints. (Note: He’ll also likely get more money as a free agent and he can now pick his destination.) Instead of recouping some valuable draft capital for an in-demand quarterback, the Raiders wound up with nothing and released him.
Those are the two most recent examples. But there’s been more through the years. The Russell Wilson/Seahawks breakup was rough. So was the Kirk Cousins breakup with the Commanders after tumultuous relationship. Even the other side of the Matthew Stafford trade was drama-filled.
Things did not go well at the end of Jared Goff’s run with the Rams. It was apparent that his once great relationship with Sean McVay had become pretty strained. McVay had essentially given up on Goff publicly, and they young quarterback’s confidence really took a beating that he wasn’t able to get over until recent days in Detroit. It got so bad that when McVay called Goff after the trade, Goff reportedly hung up on him.
At the end of the day, the Lions not only survived a tough breakup, but it’s easy to say they’re better off today than they were at the time. Ironic that it all of it started with a bad breakup in Los Angeles.