NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported on NFL Network's GameDay Morning that the former No. 1 overall pick's future was very much in doubt even before the recent front office firings and the dismissal of offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi.
Per Rapoport, the Lions are considering options to replace Stafford and his $17 million salary in 2016 -- $22 million salary cap hit -- especially if they have an early draft pick.
Perhaps more interesting to Rapoport's reporting is the notion that the 27-year-old quarterback never invested in Lombardi's offense.
"Stafford never really bought in to offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi," Rapoport said. "He was essentially nursing a hangover from the loss of Scott Linehan, his preferred offensive coordinator. (Stafford and Lombardi) were never on the same page. The hope now is with new offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, that Stafford will get back to what he was doing two years ago."
In Stafford's last three seasons under Linehan -- currently the Dallas Cowboys' offensive coordinator -- the quarterback averaged 4,885 yards passing, but suffered from bouts of turnover troubles, something the new staff was hired to correct.
In a year and a half under Lombardi, Stafford never looked comfortable. While the offensive line has been a problem, the quarterback regressed in how he handles blitzes and his mechanics never improved. He reduced his interceptions in 2014, more so due to the conservative play calling than any substantial improvement from the quarterback.
Rapoport's report makes sense in watching Stafford the past two seasons. The signal-caller has been at his best at the end of games in a hurry-up offense when he was allowed to go back to his gunslinger ways, which is how Linehan coached the quarterback for years.
In the end, the Lions' next general manager will have to decide if a new coordinator can salvage Stafford. It's highly unlikely any franchise would give up a proven quarterback -- the scarcest commodity in sports -- until they have an obvious replacement in the building.