In case you’ve been living under a rock, Matthew Stafford is in the NFC Championship.
Unfortunately for Detroit Lions fans, Stafford is in his first title game with the Los Angeles Rams.
That hasn’t stopped Michigan sports bettors from rallying behind the former Lions QB. Others aren’t so excited.
Should Lions fans be riding the Stafford bandwagon? Did Detroit drop the ball with him?
Michigan bettors behind Matthew Stafford
One thing has become clear during the NFL Playoffs. That is that Michigan sports bettors are behind Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams.
According to BetMGM Sportsbook, Rams money line tickets and handle were up 10% in Michigan compared to the national average last weekend against Tampa Bay. Also, on the Super Bowl market, 51% of Michigan tickets are on the Rams compared to a national average of just 33%.
DraftKings Sportsbook has Stafford as its seventh-most bet-on player for Super Bowl MVP nationwide. In Michigan, he sits fourth in MVP wagers.
So, Michigan sports bettors are putting their money behind Stafford, but should Lions fans be cheering him on?
Lead writer Drew Ellis says no. Managing editor Paul Costanzo, meanwhile, is still rocking a Stafford jersey.
Drew Ellis: Matthew Stafford succeeding doesn’t help the Lions
Bottom line, the Rams’ success directly impacts the Lions negatively.
Detroit owns the Rams’ first round draft pick for the 2022 NFL Draft. The further the Rams have gone, the further back the pick is. It could have been up to No. 23 and now can’t be any better than No. 29.
While some will argue that isn’t a big change, it still is a negative one. It can impact the prospect the Lions will draft. It can impact the trade value if the Lions wanted to make a move.
There is nothing positive for the Detroit Lions that comes from Matthew Stafford winning.
Paul Costanzo: Stafford fandom is an emotional decision, not a logical one
Drew is going to use logic to argue his points, and that’s unfortunate for two reasons: 1. Sports fandom is not based in logic; 2. No logical person would continue to root for the Lions.
It’s emotional attachment that has forced me to suffer through hundreds of Sundays in my nearly 40 years as a Lions fan. In that time, I have celebrated the smallest of victories, mainly because those are the only ones available.
I’ve also grown emotionally attached to a handful of players in that time, Stafford being one of them. He put everything he had into his 12 years in Detroit, and he provided a lot of fun moments for a fanbase that doesn’t get many.
So, that emotional attachment trumps a difference in draft capital at the back end of the first round which has historically been a wash.
Drew: Stafford was never going to win in Detroit
Take away the blame game for a minute. The fact is, Matthew Stafford was never going to succeed in Detroit.
While there could be a litany of reasons as to why, I truly believe this to be fact.
The Detroit Lions franchise is abysmal in its history. In order for the Lions to finally get this right, it is going to take someone truly special to lift this franchise out of the muck. Matthew Stafford was not that guy.
Stafford’s physical talents are elite. His arm is elite. However, I don’t believe Stafford is capable of taking a franchise from the bottom and leading it to a Super Bowl.
That’s not meant to be a knock. I am not sure who that QB is. But, look at what Tom Brady did with the New England Patriots. Even Brett Favre with the Green Bay Packers or Drew Brees with the New Orleans Saints. They took a franchise that was accustomed to decades of failure and completely changed the culture.
It’s not something you can just do with talent. It takes a mindset that I don’t believe Matthew Stafford has.
Stafford is proving he has the talent to win a Super Bowl with the right situation. The Rams were already a contender prior to his arrival. Just this year they added Super Bowl MVP Von Miller and receiver Odell Beckham Jr. without having to pay a major toll.
That’s not something the Lions have the luxury to do.
Paul: Stafford proved Sunday he can put a team on his back
I love the way Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers ended, because it felt like a rewind of Stafford’s Lions career, only on a much bigger stage.
Everything around Stafford fell apart in the second half against the Bucs. His teammates lost four fumbles. FOUR. Tom Brady started to figure out the defense, which was clearly tiring. Then Stafford came through in the biggest moment of his career.
Stafford is not an all-time great, but there’s a soft landing zone between that level and not being able to lead your team to a title, which is where too many Detroit fans feel he falls.
Sunday proved that Stafford can carry a team when it matters most.
Drew: Don’t say Stafford didn’t have talent around him
Perhaps the most frustrating media narrative this season has been how Stafford never had surrounding talent.
The media treated Stafford like he was a poor victim that was being held against his will in Detroit.
First, Matthew Stafford was always amongst the highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL since the day he was drafted by the franchise.
Second, Stafford wasn’t a one-man show during his time in Detroit.
A lack of defensive help was often stated. However, in 2014, according to Pro Football Reference, the Lions were third in the NFL in total defense. That includes leading the league in rushing defense. In 2016, the Lions ranked 13th in total defense. In 2013 and 2018, the Lions ranked in the top half of the league in total defense.
Stafford also had the luxury to play with Calvin Johnson for seven seasons of his NFL career. A first-ballot Hall of Famer, Johnson aided Stafford to his two career-highs in passing yards in a season in 2011 and 2012. As good as Cooper Kupp has been, Johnson holds the single-season receiving yards record of 1,964 in 2012.
The Lions also invested a lot of draft stock to help Stafford.
Since Stafford was drafted in 2009, the Lions used seven first round picks on offense. That includes four offensive linemen and three tight ends.
They also drafted one running back in the first round, along with using three second round picks on the position. In 2011 and 2012 they used a second-round pick on a receiver.
It’s one thing for the picks not to pan out, it’s another to say the Lions didn’t attempt to surround him with help.
Paul: You should have stopped at ‘three tight ends’
The Lions were never as good or complete as this Rams team is.
Were there years where a break here or there could have led to a playoff berth or even an elusive playoff victory? Absolutely.
Did Stafford get to play with some very talented players? Some, yes. But I don’t think you can say with a straight face there was a year the Lions were a true Super Bowl contender if only they had a different quarterback.
Stafford was never holding the Lions back. The overall organization is holding the Lions back. It’s been this way for half a century.
So, since we’ve all had to suffer through this – Stafford included – I’m choosing to celebrate the success of someone who gave the organization all he had before leaving on good terms.