For a couple weeks in January, Matthew Stafford was the most coveted player in football. He'd quietly requested a trade from the only NFL organization he's known, just as several teams were preparing for possibly unprecedented turnover at the quarterback position.
Stafford had a wish list, as you'd expect. Really, he just had a wish. After more than a decade of individual splendor but little team success, the former No. 1 pick communicated to the rebuilding Lions that he just wanted to win.
It all manifested into a blockbuster trade to the Rams, with whom Stafford has the potential to be the missing piece of a Super Bowl puzzle. L.A., after all, is only two years removed from playing in the title game. That day's victor, the Patriots, was also among the several clubs inquiring about the star veteran.
The interest apparently wasn't mutual. In part two of an extended interview with Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press, Stafford would neither confirm nor deny the validity of a report that he told his former team to trade him anywhere but New England, which missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and subsequently brought back Matt Patricia for an unspecified role.
"What's accurate is -- and this is an incredible thing by (the Lions) -- I asked to go to a team that was ready to win a championship," Stafford said. "And, you know, there were a few teams on that list. There were a few teams that were not on that list. And they were respectful of that and understood completely. I had thoughts and reasons for each one of them."
Stafford was a bit more forthcoming in addressing the notion that he was at odds with Patricia, who was dismissed by Detroit last November after going 13-29-1 in less than three seasons.
"He and I had a good relationship, no matter what anybody wants to say," Stafford said. "I could go into his office and talk to him, he could get me on the phone whenever he needed to. I think we both grew in that relationship. I have a lot of respect for him and who he is, as a football coach and an unbelievable mind."
Similarly, Stafford expressed strong support of previous coach Jim Caldwell. His four-year tenure in the Motor City produced a 36-28 mark and two postseason appearances. Stafford summed up the Ford family's decision to replace Caldwell with Patricia as "shooting their shots" amid the Lions' perpetual playoff despair. It’s the same characterization the 33-year-old offered for asking to be dealt out of Detroit.
Landing in L.A. provides Stafford with an organization harboring legitimate title aspirations, the best defense he'll have ever played alongside, and offensive mastermind Sean McVay. Still, his obvious excitement doesn't erase the fact that he feels a sense of responsibility for all the coaching turnover he left behind.
"That's a tough pill to swallow," Stafford said. "The fact that I wasn't able to help us win enough games to keep those guys around longer is tough."
If he contributes to the Rams as much as he did the Lions, his time in L.A. could be super.