Lions' Matthew Stafford not ready to talk about future after gutty performance
Detroit — Despite battling three separate injuries, including a sprained ankle that knocked him out of the game in the early stages of last week's matchup against Tampa Bay, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford delivered a strong, three-touchdown performance in a season-ending loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
Like he has many times, both this season and during his 12-year career, Stafford was simply unable to overcome an awful performance by his defense, which finished the season breaking franchise records for both yards and points allowed.
Now, focus shifts to the offseason for the Lions, where the franchise soon will hire new leadership. And once they do, that focus shifts back to Stafford and his future with the team that selected him first overall in the 2009 draft.
Former teammate, close friend and ESPN analysts Dan Orlovsky took to Twitter after the game to echo a sentiment he's made known on multiple occasions in recent weeks; that the Lions and Stafford should divorce in 2021.
"Today should be the final game for Matthew Stafford in a Lions uniform," Orlovsky wrote. "He goes down as one of the franchises best players, and certainly one that represented the city of Detroit and its people as well as anyone. He needs a new home — let him leave. ...The Lions need a full reboot."
Always a topic of offseason conversation, the debate figures to be as fierce as ever this offseason, despite Stafford still having two years remaining on his contract.
And while he's far from oblivious to the talk, Stafford isn't at the point where he's ready to publicly address the possibility.
"It honestly doesn’t matter if I know them or if I don’t, I really don’t pay too much attention to it," Stafford said about Orlovsky comments. "I just go about my business and go about my day-to-day and try to help this team win. All of those kinds of things, in my mind, will figure themselves out and we’ll go from there. Everybody has their right to their opinion. I know Dan well, he’s a good friend of mine, but to me, don’t pay too much attention to it."
The day before Sunday's game, interim coach Darrell Bevell asked Stafford and couple other players to speak to the team. While the game seemed meaningless to outside observers, given both teams already had been eliminated from postseason contention, Bevell wanted those players to explain why the game of football, even when there was seemingly nothing on the line, was important to them.
"I didn’t realize it was that moving, but I appreciate (people saying that)," Stafford said. "I was just honest. We’re lucky to get to do what we do. We’re a part of history. We’re a part of this group of people that gets to call themselves NFL players or coaches or whatever it is, and that’s a huge responsibility. Just wanted those guys to know that I feel like every time I come to work, I bear that responsibility. I want to hold up my end of the bargain. I just wanted them to know that that’s what’s really important to me about this game, and some other stuff, but that was kind of the gist of it."
During his career, Stafford has obliterated the majority of Detroit's franchise passing records, and he has continued to climb the league's all-time ranks in yards, touchdowns and fourth-quarter comebacks. But team success continues to be elusive. He has yet to win a division title or playoff game, making just three postseason appearances.
And regardless of what share he deserves for those shortcomings, the end result never gets any easier.
"It’s hard every time," Stafford said. "Difficult, disappointing, all of those words come to mind. I want to win. I want to be in those games more than anything. It starts with me, I can play better, help us get there. That’s the way I look at it. I want to win just as bad as anybody, if not more so, but the thing that I can control is how I play. I could have played better to help us win some more games in some other spots this year, and maybe that gave us a chance."
As for his future with the Lions, Stafford said he plans to discuss it with his family at a later date and was no mood to be reflecting on his tenure to date.
"I’m not going to get into that hypothetical," he said. "You guys can talk to me after whatever my last game is here, who knows. Until that’s final, I’m not going to have any thoughts on that."