The Los Angeles Rams placed Matthew Stafford on injured reserve Saturday, almost assuredly ending Stafford’s 2022 season and ratcheting up the uncertainty about his future plans.
The Detroit Lions, meanwhile, spent Saturday making final preparations to face the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 13. And while their playoff hopes are still technically alive, they also have at least one eye on 2023.
But unlike the Rams, the Lions’ future is bright — thanks in no small part to the team’s decision to deal its most accomplished quarterback ahead of the 2021 season.
Did the Lions or Rams Win Matthew Stafford Trade?
Stafford suffered a concussion in early November, and in his first (and only) game back, he experienced numbness in his legs following a hit.
He’s had two stints in the concussion protocol this year, and his wife Kelly — who had brain surgery in 2019 — has been outspoken about her concern for how the situation has been handled. That’s led some to wonder if Stafford, who turns 35 this offseason, will make his 14th NFL season the last.
But no matter how much longer he plays, Stafford’s legacy in Los Angeles is safe.
The Rams sent two first-round picks (one in 2022 and another in 2023), a third-round pick, and Jared Goff to Detroit because they believed Stafford was the missing piece to their Super Bowl puzzle.
They were right. Stafford delivered. He led L.A. to a 12-5 record in 2021 and wins in all four playoff games. He threw three touchdown passes in the Super Bowl and would have been a worthy game MVP if selected instead of Cooper Kupp. So, mission accomplished.
And the fact that both he and the Rams took a big step back in 2022 is irrelevant. If he never played another down after winning the ring, the trade was a success from the Rams’ perspective.
Les Snead’s “F— Them Picks” approach was never particularly sustainable. There’s a reason most teams value high draft picks. They’re the best way to build (and reload) a franchise long-term.
But the vast majority of those conventional-thinking GMs never win a Super Bowl. Snead did. And even if the Rams spend the next five years out of the playoffs, Snead will assuredly believe it’s not too big a price to pay for a ring.
Just ask the Lions. They have won just seven playoff games in their 94-year history — including just one in the last six-plus decades. Detroit and their fan base would gladly trade five years in the NFL wilderness for a title, considering they’ve spent much of the last century there.
By dealing Stafford in early 2021, they essentially conceded he would never win a title in Motown. And who knows — maybe they won’t win one with the bonanza of picks they got in return.
But at least they gave themselves a shot — and those odds have only improved thanks to the Rams’ struggles in 2022. If the season ended today, Detroit would pick fourth (LA.’s first-rounder) and 14th overall. And considering how bleak the rest of the season looks for the Rams with Stafford out, that No. 4 pick could go as high as No. 2.
That would mean the Lions would be guaranteed the second quarterback off the board — in a draft class expected to include Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, and Will Levis, among others.
In other words, the Lions will have basically traded Stafford for both his short and long-term replacements (Goff and whoever the Lions take in April), plus reserve cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu and one of the picks Detroit sent in a package to Minnesota to take wide receiver Jameson Williams.
Now, it’s entirely possible the Lions’ biff on their choice of quarterback. Or maybe Williams never fully recovers from the knee injury that he suffered in his last game at Alabama.
But in terms of grading the trade, that’s playing the result. Both the Rams and Lions got what they wanted out of the blockbuster deal, which makes it a true win-win.