It didn’t take long for speculation about Matthew Stafford‘s future with the Detroit Lions to start following the team’s shakeup of the front office with the firing of general manager Martin Mayhew and team president Tom Lewand.
Stafford was the first draft pick ever selected under Mayhew as general manager and while he has put up some big statistics, many have been empty and his play has been inconsistent. Now seven years in, Stafford is not an elite quarterback despite a focus on surrounding him with weapons.
With so much changing with the Lions, it’s natural to wonder if a change at quarterback is in store.
According to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, a trade market for Stafford would not only take shape, it may have already:
"Several NFL teams, upon GM Martin Mayhew’s firing on Thursday, informed me they would have most definitely pursued Stafford at Tuesday’s trade deadline had they known such changes were coming to Detroit’s front office, and there will be a robust market for Stafford’s services should Detroit shop him this offseason. The Jets, Bills, Browns, Texans, Eagles and Redskins are just some of the teams with unsettled quarterback situations heading into 2016, and at least some of those teams are high on Stafford."
Those in the “dump Stafford” camp are probably feeling their blood pressure rise reading that there may have been an opportunity to trade him at last week’s trade deadline but I don’t believe that ever would have been a real consideration.
For one, the Mayhew-Lewand front office was unflinching in their believe of Stafford, with Mayhew saying as late as the end of last month that he believes in Stafford’s Hall of Fame potential.
But even if there was some wavering in confidence with Stafford, trading him would have been the ultimate white flag as it would have left the team with just Dan Orlovsky and Ricky Stanzi as their quarterbacks. The second half of the Lions season very well may be tough to watch, but the prospects of Orlovsky or Stanzi starting for multiple games is frightening.
Stafford has been a polarizing figure both nationally and locally so it is fair to wonder whether a new general manager with no previous connection to Stafford will want to hitch his wagon to the incumbent starter or try to draft his own quarterback.
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It’s clear from La Canfora’s report that if the new regime decides to move on from Stafford the Lions will be able to do it via a trade rather than straight cutting him. That makes the decision more nuanced as it isn’t a Stafford/no Stafford decision, it’s a Stafford/no Stafford + whatever comes back in a trade.
Whatever the decision ends up being, it is one that could be a make-or-break decision right off the bat for a new general manager. Many new GMs take over knowing what needs to be done but the new GM in Detroit will step in with an immediate big decision that hindsight will judge harshly if is made incorrectly.