Detroit embraces Stafford in Superbowl victory, despite winning for a different city

After a long 13 seasons in the NFL, Matthew Stafford has finally become a household name across the country.

On Feb. 13, 2022, with around 112 million TVs tuned in, Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams rose to the occasion on the brightest stage, defeating the Cincinnati Bengals in a nail-biter with a final score of 23-20.

This Super Bowl victory came at an odd time for Stafford, as this was his first year playing without the Lions’ Honolulu blue over his pads.

It came as a surprise to the NFL community when Stafford was shipped across the country on Jan. 30, 2021, to sunny Los Angeles, swapped for Jared Goff, two first-round picks, and a third-round pick.

Rumors seemed to point to Stafford being dealt to a subpar team looking to make a playoff push, so it came as a shock when the star-studded Rams ditched their former Superbowl quarterback to push all their chips in with a new signal-caller.

This trade should be categorized as a win-win for both teams. The Rams pushed their chips in at the right time. Stafford was the final piece that the Rams needed to win the Lombardi Trophy, and in return, the Lions got a young quarterback and some quality draft picks to build around.

When it comes down to Matthew Stafford, there seem to be two vastly different groups of opinion on his talent level.

The first group is the Stafford doubters. These are the individuals who witnessed his struggles with the Lions and use his lack of success to define him as a player. The stats don’t lie – Stafford was 74-90-1 with the Lions, as well as 0-3 in the playoffs. Stafford also had the luxury of throwing passes to Hall-of-Fame wide receiver Calvin “Megatron” Johnson, who holds the single-season receiving record at 1964 yards.

On the other hand, Stafford supporters believe the Lions gave Stafford nothing to work with. Despite playing with Calvin Johnson for seven years, Stafford has never had a 1000-yard rusher besides Reggie Bush in 2013. Working with an offense that is one-dimensional can be a struggle for even the best of quarterbacks. Also, Stafford’s defense was statistically disappointing. Although the defense was ranked third best for points per game (17.6 PPG) in 2014, the most talented Lions’ defense since then has been thirteenth best (22.4 PPG) in 2016.

Despite the controversy over Stafford, the majority of Lions fans seemed ecstatic after his Super Bowl victory.

The energy seemed to form around a given mindset that Stafford was held back from fame and success by a lousy Lions organization that prevented any sort of postseason run like the one he just made with the Rams.

Some fans even talked about organizing a parade for the hometown hero, right in the heart of the Motor City.

The peak of the Stafford worship came when locally owned store Pro Sports Zone in Livonia went viral for selling “Detroit Rams” apparel. While the merchandise seemed to have an innocent background, many fans agreed that the inordinate amount of support for another team – despite Stafford having Detroit connections – undermined the morals and strength of Lions fans.

Diehard Lions fans know the feeling of being disappointed season after season. Lions fans take pride in calling themselves the most loyal fanbase in the NFL. Many argue that the joy for Stafford should not go to the point where another team seems to be supported more than the original hometown team.

In this case, the love for Stafford is getting out of hand. For every team that the Rams knocked out of the playoffs, the Lions seemed to get more and more trashed by the general sports media. With a promising, charismatic coach in Dan Campbell, the culture is looking to make a big change in the next coming years. A trending narrative about Detroit being a lousy football city is not what is going to turn this team around – it will only dig the grave of an organization that has had failures in the past.

Lions fans should also remember that for every playoff win Stafford achieved, the Lions’ first-round draft pick got worse and worse. The NFL draft features gaps of talent and even dropping a mere ten picks removes elite players from the draft board. Going from a projected mid-20’s pick to pick 32 makes it harder for general manager Brad Holmes to pick the exact player that he wants to build the future around.

With Stafford recently turning 34, his tenure in the NFL is reaching an end.

There is still a lot to prove for the former Georgia Bulldog. It has taken Stafford 13 seasons to win a playoff game, and despite his impressive stats, not reaching the all-pro level once may prevent him from having his bust in Canton.

Time will tell if a team change was what Stafford needed to jump-start his success. He has a star-studded team around him, and multiple years means one final shot to rebuild his legacy.

But one thing is for sure. The city that Stafford played 12 years for, raised his kids in, and called his home will be largely behind him.