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Report: Quarterback Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions parting ways

Matt Patricia coached Matthew Stafford for three seasons in Detroit before his firing. It appears Stafford, however, won't be back for the 2021 season, either.
Matt Patricia coached Matthew Stafford for three seasons in Detroit before his firing. It appears Stafford, however, won't be back for the 2021 season, either.Kevin C. Cox/Getty

After 12 seasons and more than 45,000 passing yards, Matthew Stafford has apparently played his last game for the Detroit Lions.

Detroit this coming week will listen to trade offers on the first overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on Saturday evening, with the parting mutually agreed upon and the sides agreeing a fresh start is best for both.

Stafford expressed an interest in being traded after the season ended and the team responded by tabling the idea until a new general manager and coach were hired, a source told The Associated Press. The Lions hired Brad Holmes as their new general manager two weeks ago, and introduced Dan Campbell as their new head coach on Thursday.


According to multiple reports, the two will hire former Chargers coach Anthony Lynn as their new offensive coordinator. Detroit holds the No. 7 pick in the 2021 draft, and according to Schefter is expecting to receive at least a first-round pick in return for their franchise leader in passing yards and touchdowns.

Detroit drafted Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah last year No. 3 overall, passing up on quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert.

Stafford, who turns 33 next month, has two years and $43 million remaining on a five-year deal he signed in 2017. At the time, it made him the highest-paid player in the NFL, but Spotrac ranks his $20 million total cash for the 2021 season as 11th among quarterbacks.

Despite rib, right thumb, ankle, and neck injuries, Stafford made all 16 starts for the Lions — the ninth time he’s done that in his 12 seasons — and ranked 12th in the NFL with both 4,084 passing yards and 26 touchdowns. His 96.3 rating was 14th, well ahead of Patriot Cam Newton’s 82.9.


Stafford surpassed the 45,000-yard mark in the 165th game of his career, the fewest games an NFL player has had to reach that number, during the finale of the 2020 season. He threw three touchdown passes in that game against Minnesota to raise his career total to 282.

Like many of Stafford’s accomplishments, they were marred by a loss as the Lions fell to 5-11 last for their third straight double-digit loss season. His career record dropped to 74-90-1 in the regular season; Detroit has made just three playoff appearances with Stafford under center, losing on wild-card weekend after the 2011, 2014, and 2016 seasons. His 165 regular-season starts without a playoff victory are the second-most all time, behind only Jim Hart (180).

Matt Patricia, Stafford’s coach in Detroit for the past three seasons, will assist Bill Belichick and the Patriots next season after being fired by the Lions in November. MLive.com’s Kyle Meinke wrote after Patricia’s firing that Stafford was “not a fan of Patricia’s talking-down style” in his start as head coach, and that Meinke didn’t “think it was a toxic relationship at any point, but there was tension between the coach and his quarterback, period.”

He also noted former Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and his positivity helped change the tenor between the two.

“Patricia also softened some over time, wasn’t so toxic with players, and that’s a big reason why guys who weren’t around for 2018 tend to have a higher opinion of Patricia than guys who were. In the end, the Patricia-Stafford relationship was fine down the stretch,” Meinke wrote. “It just wasn’t always that way.”


Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.