"I’d love nothing more than for Matthew to be able to get in that place, to be able to play in all those meaningful games, and I think he deserves it," Bevell said Monday. "He works at it. I think he is talented enough to do that. And if you have a good team around him, I think he can most definitely lead you to a championship."
Stafford and the Lions have a decision to make on their future together in the coming months, as the Lions dive into the process of hiring a new head coach and general manager, and Stafford decides if he wants to be part of another rebuild in Detroit.
Stafford said Sunday he will figure out his future at "a later date," after he's had time to sit down with his family and decompress from what's been a "difficult, disappointing" season.
The Lions went 5-11 to finish with a losing record for the third straight year and fired head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn on Thanksgiving weekend.
Bevell replaced Patricia as head coach and will interview for the full-time job Tuesday.
Asked if he would keep Stafford as his quarterback if he was given the job, Bevell said, "Yes, I would."
"I love Matthew Stafford, I think he’s a heck of a quarterback," Bevell said. "He’s in the upper group in the league in terms of that position. I think it’s the most important position on the field. If you don’t have one of those guys you’re going to struggle for a long time. And I think he is a very, very good one and he’s been in that position for a long time. So from my perspective, it’s been a great two years working with him and I would love to continue that."
Stafford has played for three full-time head coaches (Jim Schwartz, Jim Caldwell and Patricia) and two general managers (Martin Mayhew and Bob Quinn) as a Lion, and made just three playoff appearances.
This year, the Lions finished in last place in the NFC North for the third straight season, and though they went just 1-4 after Bevell, Stafford and others praised the job he did as interim head coach.
"I was extremely proud of the way he stepped into that situation," Stafford said. "It’s a tough one. It’s a tough year to be a coach in the NFL with all the extra COVID stuff going on, all the regulations and all that. I thought he did an outstanding job. He’s a heck of a person, and I think everybody got to realize that. I’m sure you guys did, getting your chances to talk to him a little bit more. He’s a great person and a great coach and I was just really happy that he got the opportunity and I think everybody in our locker room really rallied around him."
Said safety Duron Harmon, "I love working with Bev. Before he got the interim head coach, obviously we had interaction and talked, but I didn’t really get to see him lead a group of men. He’s done a tremendous job. His energy each and every day, making the practices competitive, having it be a place where everybody was excited to come to work and that’s what he wanted. He’s a great leader. I mean, obviously, we now what he can do as offensive coordinator, but he’s a great leader and I wish him the best of luck in all his interviews."
Bevell declined to say why he thinks things went so wrong in Detroit this season, saying he prefers to share that behind closed doors with Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp and president Rod Wood.
But he said he was proud of the way his team fought through a difficult December - the Lions played one game without Bevell and four other coaches because of COVID-19 protocols, and spent the end of the season fielding a patchwork defense that was short starters Trey Flowers, Desmond Trufant, Danny Shelton and Jamie Collins - and wants to be judged by what happened on the field.
"I think what I would like you to look at is the games that I was involved in, how they played and the enthusiasm that they played with, the heart that they played with," Bevell said. "I mean, obviously there’s positions, obviously, that we’re going to evaluate and try to upgrade, all those things, because that happens every year, turnover in the league. But it’s one thing to lay down and not finish the season, and it’s another thing to play your heart out all the way till the last play. That was really my main focus because there wasn’t a lot that I was going to be able to do with other parts and I think I got that.”
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Darrell Bevell: Matthew Stafford can be a Super Bowl-winning QB