On January 30th, 2021, a devastating headline popped up on the phones of Lions fans everywhere: Matthew Stafford was leaving Detroit. As a Lions fan, I found myself hiding under my blankets, hoping when I got out of bed, it was just a bad dream. I mourned the loss of who I thought to be the best quarterback of all time. Why would Dan Campbell and Brad Holmes do something so destructive to the team? I could not imagine how this trade could positively impact the Detroit Lions franchise in any way.
Was the Lions-Rams Trade Successful?
As time passed, Lions fans have been forced to grow more patient. The trade package was not completed until last year’s NFL Draft. It has become evident that this trade has many positives that fans should have considered at the time, such as creating a young team and fostering a new sense of spirit around the Lions franchise.
For many, the trade of Stafford was emotionally devastating. Detroit has long been a team that’s been forgotten about, but Stafford made the fans feel seen by sticking around for 12 seasons despite his potential to be a Super Bowl quarterback. Stafford not only contributed to the city of Detroit in an athletic sense but was very active in the community and made countless charitable contributions. Whether that be his work with Say Play, a non-profit working toward creating educational, music, and sports programs for underprivileged kids in Detroit. Or his tradition each year of hand-delivering Christmas presents to those in need. Nevertheless, Stafford was, and still is, adored by Detroit.
Yet being almost three years separated from this pivotal move by Detroit, it is apparent that despite many peoples’ initial beliefs, this trade was necessary for the current success of the Lions. Here are three reasons why the Detroit Lions and LA Rams trade was highly successful for Detroit.
1. The Trade Led to the Successful Rebuilt of the New Detroit Lions
Time and time again, Campbell and Brad Holmes have proven they are capable of building a team that could be a Super Bowl contender. This has included countless questionable moves that have ultimately proven successful when analyzing the results.
It all started with the risky trade of Detroit’s beloved quarterback, Stafford, to the Los Angeles Rams on January 30th, 2021. In this trade, the Lions received Jared Goff, a 2021 third-round pick, a 2022 first-round pick, and a 2023 first-round pick. Many Lions fans had difficulty parting ways with Stafford and embracing a new quarterback in Motor City. Parting ways with Stafford was not the only part of the trade heavily criticized by the public. The idea of the trade taking two years to be fulfilled had little appeal.
Over two years later, it is evident that this trade has been a vital part of the success of the Lions new franchise. The Lions used their 32nd, 34th, and 66th pick to obtain the 12th and 46th pick in the 2022 draft. This transaction led to the drafting of two integral playmakers of the franchise, Jameson Williams and Josh Paschal. In the 2023 NFL draft, they traded their number six pick for number 12, 34, and 168. Much like the outcome of 2022, this move proved successful, obtaining Jahmyr Gibbs, Sam LaPorta and Broderick Martin.
2. The Rebuild of this Team Has Allowed for a New Sense of Team Spirit
The excitement around this new young team has affected far more than simply the team’s performance; it has also fostered a new sense of excitement among Detroit Lions fans. Trading Stafford, and receiving Goff and draft picks meant a new beginning for the Detroit Lions. With the combination of new management, new coaching, a new quarterback, and offensive and defensive players, no one in Detroit could foresee the future going into the season. No longer could the Lions be “the same old Lions”; nothing about them was the same; this was a completely different team.
Just this past year, the Lions organization has done something never done before in Ford Field history: season tickets were sold out. This attests to the new sense of patriotism towards this franchise that has faced hardships for the entirety of its existence. Countless fans are packed into Ford Field, cheering on this new team. The fresh vibrancy surrounding Detroit football significantly contributes to the team’s recent success. The sea of Honolulu blue chanting “let’s go Lions” can be seen at every road game. Lions fans are not stopping at attending games at their home field, but traveling across the country to continue to cheer on the Lions.
After the impressive attendance of Lions fans at Lambeau field in late September, Goff praised the fans, saying, “They’re the best… That’s a feeling unlike any other, when you’re walking off the field, and they’re cheering like that, on the road”. It is obvious that this intense support of Lions fans have helped fuel the energy and focus of the team this season.
3. Detroit Gave Stafford What They Believed he Deserved: a Super Bowl Ring
It was apparent that many Lions fans’ poor reaction to the trade was due to the emotional departure of a Detroit Legend, Stafford. After being drafted by the Lions in 2009, Lions fans finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel: the quarterback that could take them to the Super Bowl.
They gained an extremely skilled player who made a big impact on the field and someone who would become a large part of the community.
Although Stafford’s 12 seasons in Detroit never resulted in a Super Bowl run, it was still apparent to Lions fans that Stafford had the talent of a future Super Bowl quarterback. That is why the trade was so bittersweet for Lions fans. They were losing Stafford, but losing him opened the possibility of Stafford finally getting the ring he deserved which he eventually would do in 2022.
Stafford and his family being showered with blue and yellow confetti is a moment that will never be forgotten. Although Stafford was not wearing Honolulu blue, Stafford winning a ring felt just as good as if the Lions had won it themselves. Stafford is our guy.
If you talked to anyone on the fateful day that the Stafford trade was announced, very few people would foresee its outcome. Many would laugh at the idea of it leading to the Lions securing a highly talented team that would be viewed as serious playoff contenders. Lions fans would never guess that to get season tickets, you would have to join a waitlist. Although the outcome of this trade took a lot of patience, it is evident that in the end, it was worth the wait.
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