This trading Matthew Stafford stuff already has a Justin Verlander-type feel to it. There is a slight difference knowing that the Detroit Lions were never really Super Bowl contenders during Stafford’s tenure like the Tigers had been World Series bound twice with Verlander.
Business is business, and at the end of the day, you can’t make franchise-altering decisions with your heart.
In both instances, the trade signaled a full-blown rebuild. Verlander was dealt to the Houston Astros with the deadline to do so just mere minutes away. The veteran right-hander and maybe the best starting pitcher to dawn the old English D on his chest needed to sign off on the deal. Verlander later mentioned he felt reluctant to do so.
Like many players, Verlander had a strong bond to the organization that drafted him. Plus, Verlander had been very close with former owner Mike Ilitch. The veteran has not been shy to mention he regrets not winning a title for his beloved team owner.
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In Stafford’s case, after making a wholesale management, coaching overhaul felt it was time to move onto a contender at this juncture of his career and requested a trade. Stafford is, without a doubt, the best quarterback in the modern era to wear a Lions jersey but failed to win a single playoff game.
We’ve seen the Stafford children adored by Martha Firestone Ford over the years, almost as if they’d been her own grandchildren. The Stafford’s have given so much to the city of Detroit. The often outspoken Kelly personally delivered a truckload of toys before Christmas, supporting a toy drive.
Kelly has also been extremely thankful for the care she received after successfully going through a 12-hour brain surgery back in 2019. The Stafford’s have called Detroit home since 2009 when the Detroit Lions selected Stafford first overall.
Similar to the Detroit Tigers, it’s time the Detroit Lions move on from a star player and rebuild this thing the right way.
Kelly penned a nice thank you to the Detroit Lions and its fans shortly after the news broke that her husband had indeed requested a trade;
"“Thank you. This place, our home, the people… it’s hard to find the words to explain what this place means to me,” Random tears come very often when I think about not being here. This place supported me during the toughest time of my life and during the happiest times and I want to thank y’all in the right way,” she continued. “Whenever I figure out what the future holds, you’ll be hearing from me again with a thank you that hopefully shows how much gratitude and love I have for this place.. but until then we are going to enjoy our time left in Michigan to the fullest because there really is no other place like it. #detroitvseverybody #staffordstrong.”"
I have that same empty feeling in the pit of my stomach as I did realizing there was a chance I wouldn’t get to witness Verlander pawing the rubber on the mound to start a playoff game. Maybe never getting a chance to see Verlander with that bulldog mentality glaring in to get the sign from his catcher and rearing back to find that high-90s fastball late in a ballgame.
The same goes for Stafford. I’ll miss that warrior-like signal-caller gutting it out through various injuries, refusing to come out of the game. I’ll miss Stafford throwing downfield laser passes into tight coverage. I’ll miss watching ‘9’ under center as the face of the franchise, but we’ll be ok. Life moves on.
It’s difficult to see star players like this move on, but similar to Verlander, I’ll be rooting for Stafford except when he’s playing Detroit. It’s unlikely Stafford returns to the Lions’ understanding how the NFL works. Teams are always looking to get younger. If all goes well in Detroit, they will draft their next franchise quarterback over the next two years and will not need a 36-year old Stafford in three years from now.
On the other hand, Verlander may re-join the hopefully ‘up-and-coming’ Detroit Tigers in the near future, already having that World Series title under his belt.