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Matthew Stafford initially didn’t think the Rams could trade for him

Matthew Stafford throws a pass during a game between the Lions and Packers.
Matthew Stafford says he was “blown away” by the support he received from Detroit Lions ownership and management before being traded to the Rams.
(Nic Antaya / Getty Images)

Matthew Stafford walked past a hot tub in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where he was on a short vacation with his wife after the NFL season.

The former Detroit Lions quarterback who holds every significant passing record in franchise history recently had requested a trade from the team that drafted him No.1 overall in 2009. As he walked by the tub, he saw Rams tackle Andrew Whitworth in it, and the veteran offensive lineman joked that his team would “make a run” for him.

Within a day, a deal was finalized.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Detroit Free Press, Stafford — in his first public comments since the Rams traded for him in exchange for quarterback Jared Goff, two first-round picks and a third-round selection — talked about the transition to the Rams, his hope for the future and about the chance to potentially compete for a Super Bowl.

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Former Rams quarterback Jared Goff posted a heartfelt farewell to Los Angeles on Wednesday, days after being traded to the Detroit Lions for Matthew Stafford.

“Obviously, we were excited for a new start, excited for the whole process of being on the trading block to be over,” Stafford said. “Now we had a place. We knew where we were going. I was excited about their roster and their coaching staff and what they can bring to the table and their recent success.”

The Lions finished 5-11 in 2020, the eighth-losing campaign in Stafford’s 12-season career. The organization also hired a new coach, Dan Campbell, and general manager, Brad Holmes, the Rams’ former director of college scouting.

The quarterback, who turned 33 this month, said he knew his window for success was closing, and wanted to explore other options. Stafford said he felt that if he continued with the Lions, they would win 6-8 games. But that most likely would not be enough to qualify for the playoffs or secure a high draft pick. With a new regime arriving with thoughts of rebuilding, Stafford said it was time to part ways.

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“Anytime you switch GMs and a head coach, you know that they’re going to want to bring their own people in, and that’s going to take time,” Stafford said. “And I, frankly, didn’t feel like I was the appropriate person to oversee that time.”

Stafford met with owner Sheila Ford Hamp and president Rod Wood. The trio talked at length, Stafford discussing his disappointments for not bringing the team a championship and where he saw the organization in five years.

Matthew Stafford runs during a game between the Lions and Tennessee Titans last season.
(Brett Carlsen / Associated Press)

Stafford said he was “blown away” with the support the two displayed, considering that they did not have to agree to trade him with years remaining on his contract. Instead, they agreed to mutually find a solution and keep open communication regarding a deal.

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Because of the Rams’ salary-cap situation, Stafford initially did not expect to join them, instead anticipating to land with the quarterback-seeking Indianapolis Colts, San Francisco 49ers and Washington, or elsewhere. But “L.A. aggressively jumped into [the discussion],” he said.

After team officials told him of the trade, which won’t become official until the start of the new league year on March 17, Stafford immediately hugged his wife, he said. Then, he thought about what would come next.

The quarterback played through the season with a partially torn UCL in his right thumb, a torn UCL in his left elbow, broken rib cartilage, a torn ligament in his left knee and a right ankle sprain, he said. On top of recovering from his injuries, Stafford will be expected to bring the Rams into championship contention.

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Goff played inconsistently last season, which led to coach Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead offering noncommittal remarks about their quarterback after the NFC divisional-round loss to the Green Bay Packers. Goff did not get full support as the starter in postseason news conferences, either.

Stafford, who has lost all three of his career playoff games, joins a team that boasts the NFL’s top-ranked defense, and an offense with talented weapons in receivers Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, and running back Cam Akers. Stafford knows he’s in a position to perform well immediately, he said.

“As much as I’m moving to a place that’s got some pieces that are ready to go, I’m also betting on myself too, betting that I’m the person that can take them there,” he said. “So this is a big challenge for me.”


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