Anywhere but New England.
Reportedly, that was Matthew Stafford’s only request ahead of the trade that would ultimately send the former No. 1 pick from the Detroit Lions to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for Jared Goff, two first-round picks, and a third-round pick.
Stafford, who turns 33 on February 7, is still considered an upper-echelon quarterback. He generated several calls from NFL teams–including the New England Patriots.
Unfortunately for Patriots fans who are also fond of Stafford, the quarterback reportedly made it clear he wanted no parts of New England.
According to NBC Sports’ Tom Curran, who referenced a person involved in the trade negotiations but who represented one of the teams that didn’t land Stafford, the California native specifically said trade me anywhere but New England.
And now, for a localized aftershock: Stafford told the Lions they could send him anywhere but New England. This comes from a source whose team was heavily involved in Stafford trade negotiations but failed to land him. Stafford, of course, is a Ram after Los Angeles sent a huge haul to Detroit for the one-time Pro Bowler.
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Why Not New England?
There are multiple reasons for Stafford to be cold on landing in New England. USA Today’s Henry McKenna offered some sensible potential factors. He wrote:
Well, Stafford didn’t click with former Lions coach Matt Patricia, who deployed Belichick’s stern and hardworking philosophies, often called The Patriot Way. Perhaps because Patricia failed to stray philosophically from the Patriots, he ended up back with them. They hired him on staff this offseason after the Lions fired him. Again, that might have been a deterrent for Stafford. Finally, Stafford could have looked at New England’s roster and seen a group of pass-catchers devoid of talent. The Patriots have cap space and draft picks to add players this offseason — but it’s unclear who they add and how aggressively they’ll target talent at receiver and tight end.
From the moment news broke about Stafford and the Lions agreeing to part ways, and the Patriots hiring back Patricia, I felt New England would be a tough sell to the QB.
Even if Patricia hadn’t returned to his roots in New England, Stafford might have had his fill of the Patriot Way. It’s funny how much things have changed in a year.
Is the Patriot Way Dead?
At one time, coaches who had worked under Bill Belichick were considered the cream of the cop. Now, with the failing efforts of guys like Patricia, Bill O’Brien, and Josh McDaniels in head-coaching roles, the perception has shifted.
It seems Tom Brady’s success with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season has only intensified the disrespect being flung Belichick’s way. It’s difficult to imagine another time over the past 15 years when a player like Stafford would have said “trade me anywhere but New England.”
While there is nothing that can be done to taint what Belichick has accomplished over the course of his career. However, the vitality of his influence is in danger.