Reliving the cycle of the Stafford trade rumor bonanza
When the Super Bowl ends, and we're hit with this realization there's no NFL football for the next seven months, the mind tends to wander. Speculation season quickly springs into full bloom as we ponder what's next for the franchises we follow, whether that be through coaching changes, the draft, free agency, or trades.
In this case, we're here to put some emphasis on that last one.
In a little over two weeks, we witnessed the full life cycle of the frenzied rumor the Lions were shopping quarterback Matthew Stafford, fueled by a combination of wife Kelly reacting negatively to a speculative piece posted on a gambling website, of all places, nearly simultaneous with a repeatedly refuted televised report the Lions have had conversations with multiple teams about dealing the quarterback.
Let's do our best to establish a timeline here.
► Nov. 10
Stafford's back injury is determined to be worse than anticipated after a late-week evaluation and he is scratched from the lineup for the team's game in Chicago, ending a consecutive start streak that spanned 136 games over eight years.
► Dec. 17
After six weeks (and six losses), the Lions concede Stafford's season is over, placing him on injured reserve.
► Dec. 26
The Lions restructure Stafford's contract, adding a voidable year to the end of the deal, converting a 2020 roster bonus to a signing bonus and making $7.2 million of his $15 million base salary in 2020 to an option bonus. We'll spare you the mathematical details, but the move basically spreads out the cap hit owed Stafford the next few years.
If you want to read more about the details of the contract, we have them here.
► Dec. 30
Both Stafford and general manager Bob Quinn express confidence the quarterback's back injury won't be a long-term issue.
"Very confident," Quinn said. "In just talking to all the doctors, trainers and Matthew himself that he is going to be good to go for the offseason program. So no issues there."
► Jan. 7
ESPN commentator Bart Scott suggests the Lions should trade Stafford to the New England Patriots and draft Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
► Jan. 20
In an interview with Sirius XM radio, Quinn affirms that the Lions are "totally comfortable and happy that Matthew Stafford’s our quarterback" for the 2020 season.
► Jan. 24
Three days after tweeting the Lions are in play to draft a quarterback with the No. 3 pick, South Florida Sun-Sentinel reporter Omar Kelly tweets he's hearing Stafford could be on the move this offseason.
The culmination of these "rumblings" fuels a number of opinion pieces around web about potential Stafford trade destinations, including one published Feb. 10 on gambling website FanDuel.
► Feb. 12
Reacting to the FanDuel piece, Kelly Stafford posts a two-part response on Instagram with a quote saying, "Well, if Detroit is done with us... I could stay in Cali" with a shrugging emoji. Less than an hour later, WDIV broadcasts a report that the Lions have engaged in trade talks with multiple teams regarding Stafford.
This is significant for two reasons. First, Kelly has a pre-existing relationship with the network, granting them the first interview after her procedure to remove a non-cancerous brain tumor last year. The Stafford family is also close friends with the network's investigative reporter Hank Winchester.
Second, WDIV is the first local source to report anything about Stafford being traded.
► Feb. 13
Quinn emphatically denies the WDIV story, texting to multiple local and national outlets the report is "100 percent false."
► Feb. 14
WDIV doubled down on its report, via its website.
"We stand by our story and by our sources. We find tremendous validity in what we are reporting because of what Kelly Stafford posted on Instagram."
► Feb. 18
ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper slots Tagovailoa in a mock draft.
► Feb. 22
In a one-on-one interview posted to the team's website, Quinn reiterates the WDIV report is false.
Meeting with a small group of local reporters before his media session at the scouting combine in Indianapolis, Quinn and coach Matt Patricia once again crush the WDIV report. Quinn adds some additional details, noting he called Stafford after the report ran.
"When the story came out, I called Matthew," Quinn said. "I said, 'Listen, I haven't had one conversation. I'm not trading you. Period. He was great. He was like, 'Yeah, I don't want to go anywhere.'"
Importantly, Quinn also confirmed Stafford had never requested to be traded.
In an interview with the NFL Network, Patricia called the Stafford trade rumors "comical."
"It was really confusing so just one of those things that, for me, I kind of laugh at 'cause it's not even a conversation," Patricia said.
NFL Network analyst Michael Silver tweets that multiple coaches and general managers have told him they believe Stafford is the one pressuring the Lions for a separation. The timing of this news is awkward, given the repeated public denials by Quinn and Patricia.
Several hours later, Silver retracts his earlier nugget with news Stafford's agent, Tom Condon, has unequivocally stated the quarterback wants to remain in Detroit.
Finally, Kelly chimes in via her Instagram account, tagging the Lions with "We aint' goin' nowhere, a lyric from the song "Bad Boys for Life" by P. Diddy.
She followed with a second message, noting leaving Detroit has "never been a thought" and that Matthew loves Detroit and the Lions organization.
There you have it, what should be a definitive end to a silly saga.