It has been well documented - the Detroit Lions have won exactly one playoff game since 1957, which also happened to be the last time that the franchise won the NFL Championship.
So when an exuberant Matthew Stafford greeted Lions President Tom Lewand with a bear hug at the 2009 NFL combine, a seed was planted. Stafford made no bones about it - he wanted to be a Detroit Lion.
In an odd coincidence Stafford had attended Highland Park High School in Dallas, Texas, the same school that Bobby Layne attended as a prepster. Layne, of course, was the last Lions quarterback to in fact lead the franchise to the promised land, all the way back in 1957.
Stafford was subsequently drafted number one overall in the 2009 NFL draft by the Lions, and when he beat out Dante Culpepper on the last day of training camp to be named the team's official starter in Week 1 vs. the New Orleans Saints, it felt like there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
There indeed was, but that light turned out to be an oncoming train.
Stafford landed funny on his right shoulder - while simultaneously banging up his right knee - and he ended up missing six games during his rookie season as the Lions finished 2-14. The following season, on opening day 2010, lighting struck twice. Stafford was tackled hard by Chicago's Julius Peppers and he landed on the same shoulder. He finished the 2010 campaign by playing only three games.
Rob Parker of the Detroit News labeled Stafford a "China doll." Many in the media looked askance at the six-year deal he had soon received and wondered if he would be a bust. Alas, it turned out to be a false narrative. In fact, over time, Stafford proved to the city of Detroit he was tougher than a two-dollar steak.
Stafford soon rebounded and started all 16 games over the next several seasons. But when the history books are written, the prevailing fact pattern is undeniable: Stafford did everything in Detroit... but win.
While I've heard some national folks extolling his virtues because he "engineered 31 comebacks in his career," this nebulous statement is without context - Stafford managed only 10 victories in his 163 starts in Detroit vs. teams who actually finished with a winning record.
Often times, Stafford's statistics were meaningless fourth quarter rallies when the Lions trailed by three or more scores while opposing defenses were in base coverages, deep off the ball and funneling everything to the middle of the field. Over several years of time, Stafford established himself as a guy who played hard and played hurt, but he also became a supreme stat compiler in the process. And before anyone who reads this takes umbrage, please tell me - how many games did you see at Ford Field?
If you weren't there, you can't relate to what I saw - and what I saw was an extreme competitor.
Unfortunately, what I also saw - all too often - was Stafford rolling to his right and trying against all odds to keep a play alive. He would then throw a floater across his body and into a sea of hands, killing a drive.
Over a five-year period, with Calvin Johnson in his prime, Stafford threw 77 interceptions.
I also saw, on many occasions, Stafford fail to secure the ball in the pocket, scrambling like a whirling dervish, trying to make a glory play, all the while getting stripped once again, and killing another drive.
Instead of fighting to live another day, he handed the ball to the other team, way too many times.
And how many times did I see Stafford fumbling on the goal line because he tried to do too much?
You know the answer.
Later in games, with the Lions often down by 20+ points, Stafford would lead the team downfield - and long after the contest was in the bank for the opponent, mind you - and proceed to start zinging the ball all over the lot, thus earning the moniker, "Stat Padford."
There's an old saying, "you define the moment or the moment defines you." Typically, there are about five seminal moments in every NFL game that usually sway the outcome one way or another. Stafford has simply been on the wrong side of those moments far too many times in his career.
To earn the beatification that some national types have bestowed on Stafford throughout the past 12 years he Would've had to put this franchise on his back at least once. But it never happened.
Nope. Never. Not even close.
I have since coined the following phrase about Matthew Stafford - "he's a guy you might win with, but not because of." Stafford will have his moments with the Los Angeles Rams, who by the way have already been to a Super Bowl and just gave up on a guy who actually won three playoff games since entering the league in 2016. Stafford, on the other hand, has zero playoff wins. And he made his entrance in 2009.
But I digress. I simply do not believe that Stafford will get the Rams to the promised land. And know this:
Stafford has been on the gameday injury report for the following body parts during his career, according to pro-football reference: hip (10), shoulder (8), knee (7.5 times), thumb (4), back (3), ribs (3), finger (2.5), ankle (2), groin (1), quadricep (1), arm (1), hand (1), foot (1).
That's 13 body parts for a total of 44 games, or also 22.9% of all the games he could have played in.
The notion the Rams are getting a fresh spring chicken to replace a stodgy Goff are ludicrous.
In the end, I still root for Stafford because as Dick Schaap taught me, "you always root for the story."
And the best story would be seeing Stafford hoist the Lombardi Trophy for the Rams and Sean McVay.
Many Detroit fans would take great pleasure in seeing that as well, because in truth, Matthew Stafford had the heart of a Lion while representing the Motor City. In fact, in Las Vegas, the Rams' 2021 Super Bowl future odds actually dropped from 18-1 down to 13-1 after the Stafford signing was announced.
But I'm not betting Stafford will win a Super Bowl anytime soon. In fact, I'm on record saying he won't.
Because, in the end, you simply can't bet with your heart, or you will likely end up with heart disease.