Do you know how difficult it is to trade one quarterback for another?
The NFL is altogether different from other sports. In Major League Baseball, we see trades all the time. For major players too. All-star pitchers switch teams with regularity and can make upwards of $30 million a season if their arm is golden enough.
NBA players move from team to team as well. The power and leverage of the modern NBA superstar allows them to pretty much dictate when, where and with whom they want to play… or if they even want to play at all. Ben Simmons has bowed out this season citing mental health reasons, Kyrie Irving has refused to get the vaccine and is missing time as a result and the Los Angeles Lakers have compiled a veritable who’s who of Hall of Famers including LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard because that’s how they wanted it.
But in football, things are a little trickier. With 53 men on the roster and an ever-evolving yet generally top-heavy salary structure, trades are trickier to pull off, which is why we don’t see that many, especially when they involve marquee names.
We saw one this off-season, however, and it left most of us scratching our heads considering the rarity of such a deal. How in the world did the Los Angeles Rams pull off a trade for Detroit’s Matt Stafford?
If you know anything about the NFL, you know that the Lions are arguably the worst-run team in professional sports. If they’re not the worst-run, they’re certainly the unluckiest. This is a franchise that hasn’t won a playoff game since 1991. Prior to that, their last playoff win was in 1957. You read that correctly. The Detroit Lions have only one playoff win in 64 years!!! Since the 1990s, they’ve made the playoffs eight times and lost all eight times in the opening round. If this were soccer, they’d have been relegated, if not altogether disbanded.
Detroit’s number one draft pick in 2009 was the University of Georgia’s star quarterback Matt Stafford. Stafford led the Lions to the playoffs three times and as we’ve discussed lost all three. Never much to complain, Stafford went about his business, all the while assuming he’d go down in Detroit’s history alongside all the other players who were unable to get their Lions over the hump. Then came a phone call, from sunny breezy Los Angeles and just like that, Stafford was a Ram.
The Rams were apparently unhappy with their young quarterback, Jared Goff, who they selected in 2016. Goff had taken the Rams to a Super Bowl, giving him more playoff wins than Stafford, but most in Los Angeles agreed that Goff wasn’t the answer. So, the trade went down: Stafford to the Rams for Goff, two first round picks and a third, a steal by most standards, especially if you consider the way Detroit selects draft talent, Matthew Stafford obviously excluded.
After a single transaction, the Rams became contenders and the Lions, well, remained the Lions. Many pundits now believe the Rams can win a Super Bowl. Meanwhile, the Lions have yet to win a game. In other words, the Rams pulling off this trade was an absolute coup and once again shows why the Lions are who they are. Matt Stafford will undoubtedly win a playoff game in Los Angeles this year where as he was unable to do so in 12 seasons in Detroit.
Think he’s a happier campier? Google any picture of Matt Stafford’s wife and you’ll see her grinning from ear to ear. She has to be the happiest person to make the move from Detroit to L.A. since Axel Foley did so in the Beverly Hill Cop movies. Meanwhile, the Lions once again fell for the banana in the tailpipe.
Somewhere in Atlanta sits another Matt: Matt Ryan. Ryan has played quarterback for the Falcons longer than Stafford was stuck in Detroit. Like Stafford, Ryan was drafted number one, in 2008. The Falcons haven’t experienced quite the misery of the Lions but then again, few have.
Ryan and the Falcons won a playoff game in 2012 and made it all the way to the Super Bowl in 2016-17. We won’t talk about what happened after that as I don’t want to upset the decent folk of Atlanta. They won a playoff game again in the 2017-18 season, ironically beating the Rams. But this year, they are as bad as they’ve ever been. They may be 4-6, which is four wins more than the Lions have, but three of those wins have come against the Giants, Jets and Dolphins. They just got shut out in their own building by the New England Patriots. At 36 years of age, Matt Ryan has to secretly be hoping there’s another Stafford-to-the-Rams type of deal out there. Atlanta’s a fine city but Ryan’s clock is ticking faster than the Falcons can rebuild, if it hasn’t already struck midnight.
There are plenty of teams out there that need quarterbacks. If Tom Brady has proven anything, it’s that an old guy with unrivaled determination can take care of their body long enough to play into their forties. That all depends on how badly Matt Ryan wants out of Atlanta. I wouldn’t say this team is far away from competing in a division that appears to be wide open, once Brady retires, but Ryan would certainly have better luck elsewhere in the immediate future. While Stafford kicks back sipping Mai Tais out of coconuts and driving convertibles down Rodeo Drive, Matt Ryan is asking the kids to turn down the party music in brisk Buckhead, which is assuming Falcons fans have a reason to party at all.
Like Stafford, Ryan doesn’t seem like the type of guy who would demand out of a bad situation. I’m sure he’d be happy to retire a Falcon. But he might want to set his cell phone to ring just in case anybody with greener grass decides to comes calling.
It’s the NFL and despite its restrictions, you never know what can happen.