Matthew Stafford Was Destined to Join a Struggling NFC Rival Before Making a Drastic Life-Changing Decision

After 12 long seasons, Matthew Stafford finally escaped Detroit this past offseason.

While Stafford did have a handful of exceptional seasons throwing to Hall of Fame wide receiver Calvin Johnson, most of his Lions career was filled with injury and disappointment. The Lions’ front office struggled to field a competitive offensive line year after year, which routinely left Stafford exposed to big hits.

Stafford will spend the next few years with the Los Angeles Rams following the blockbuster trade that commenced this past summer. However, it wasn’t too long ago that Detroit had concrete plans of sending Stafford elsewhere.

The Carolina Panthers were the initial frontrunners to acquire Matthew Stafford

Matthew Stafford during an LA Rams preseason game.
Matthew Stafford | Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Before pulling the trigger for former New York Jets QB Sam Darnold, the Carolina Panthers had their eyes set on Stafford. According to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, they were actually being considered the landslide favorites to acquire the Lions QB early on in the offseason:

When then-Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford started the process of seeking a new team, he spotlighted three top options β€” the Los Angeles Rams, the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers. Sources say those were his initial choices, though Stafford kept an open mind.

Yet, in late January, one team jumped to the forefront — the Carolina Panthers. They were aggressive. Sources said they actually neared a deal by the time they left the Senior Bowl. Several people involved thought they would be the winner of the Stafford sweepstakes.

Ian Rapoport, NFL.com

The Panthers reportedly offered Teddy Bridgewater and a “prime first-round pick.” It all looked like a done deal until Stafford himself decided to step in.

Matthew Stafford pushed for a trade to Los Angeles

According to Rapoport, Stafford and his family spent some time reflecting on the idea of heading to Carolina upon learning of the Panthers’ intense interest. The 33-year-old QB ultimately told the Detroit front office to trade him to the Rams instead. They listened.

Multiple other teams had offers on the table for Stafford. However, the QB’s personal desire to join the Rams eventually caused them to up their offer and beat the competition. The Rams traded Jared Goff, and two first-round picks to Detroit for Stafford β€” a mammoth-sized haul for a full-scale rebuilding team.

Where did this hyper fixation on the Rams stem from? During the offseason, Stafford and Rams head coach Sean McVay ended up vacationing at the same spot. The two spent much of their vacation time scheming up plays and discussing tactics.

Stafford’s personal connection with McVay was the driving force behind him stepping in and vetoing the Carolina deal.

Expectations are sky-high for McVay and the LA Rams

Since their impressive 2018 Super Bowl run, the Rams have struggled to re-establish themselves as an elite contender in the NFL. Much of the blame has fallen on Goff’s shoulders. Hence the aggressive push for a new QB this past offseason.

Now with Stafford at his disposal, McVay is being afforded no more excuses. The time to shut up and perform has unquestionably arrived for the Rams.

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