Matt Stafford would solve Washington's QB woes and allow him to rewrite his legacy

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Ethan Cadeaux
·4 min read
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Stafford would solve WFT's QB woes, allow him to rewrite legacy originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

When the Lions selected Matthew Stafford first overall in the 2009 NFL Draft, Detroit hoped it had found their franchise quarterback of the present and the future.

For the past 12 seasons, Stafford has served as the Lions' primary signal-caller. Over that span, the former Georgia star emerged as one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL, consistently finishing in the top five for passing yards and touchdowns on a yearly basis.

However, in the 12 years that Stafford has been a member of the Lions, he has led them to the postseason just three times with each trip ending with a loss in the Wild Card round.

This past weekend, multiple reports surfaced that Stafford, who turns 33 on Super Bowl Sunday, wants out of Detroit. It makes sense, too. The Lions have just hired a new head coach and general manager. A long rebuild awaits -- one Stafford doesn't have the time to wait around for.

Stafford wants to win now, and there are several teams that believe they are a quarterback away from being true contenders. The Washington Football Team, reigning NFC East champions, figures to be included in that mix.

And if Washington were to acquire Stafford, two things are for certain: 1) Washington will have solved its quarterback position for the foreseeable future, and 2) Stafford will have the chance to rewrite his own legacy, a story that still has chapters to be written.

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Fair or unfair -- and like any No. 1 pick -- Stafford was pegged as the savior of the franchise in Detroit when he was drafted.

On several levels, Stafford delivered. The quarterback played through some grueling injuries, earned the reputation as one of the toughest quarterbacks in the NFL, and became one of the league's most prolific passers.

As stated earlier, though, Stafford's legacy is nothing more than just an above-average quarterback. Why? Because he has yet to find success in January.

In each of Detroit's three playoff berths during the Stafford era, the quarterback was largely responsible for the team's success. Yet, not once were the Lions ever considered a true championship contender, even during Stafford's best seasons.

For the first seven years of his career, Stafford was lucky enough to have future Hall of Fame wideout Calvin Johnson to throw to. But outside of Johnson, and a few good years from Golden Tate, Detroit never surrounded its star quarterback with other offensive weapons.

Stafford has never had a true No. 1 running back to hand the ball off to. Heck, only one running back during Stafford's entire 12 years in Detroit has rushed for over 1,000 yards in a season (Reggie Bush in 2013, with a mere 1,006 yards on the ground). At tight end, Stafford has never had a reliable option to throw to, unless you want to go out on a limb to claim TJ Hockenson became one this past season.

Defensively, the Lions have failed Stafford, too. In his 12 seasons, the Detroit defense has only finished in the top 10 twice (2014, 2018) in total yards allowed per game and once (2014) in points allowed per game. Stafford can't do it all by himself, and for the most part, got little help from his defense during his time in Detroit.

While it's no guarantee things would be completely different should Stafford wind up in Washington, the Football Team is headed in the right direction under head coach Ron Rivera.

The organization has plenty of young talent, particularly on defense, a unit that finished top five in almost all major categories in 2020. Many of those players had the chance to display those traits during the 2020 campaign.

Moving forward, though, Washington won't be able to take the next step as a franchise until it figures out a short-term and long-term future at the quarterback position. Rivera said as much himself on Jan. 10:

"The quarterback is probably one of the most important things we have to get done and get established," Rivera said. 

It doesn't matter how bad the NFC East was in 2020; the fact that Washington was able to win the division, despite playing four different quarterbacks, is miraculous. That simply won't work next season or beyond.

The only quarterback Washington has under contract next season is Alex Smith, who turns 37 in May. His comeback story is incredible, but his late-season leg injury showed the harsh reality that Smith's health is not a given moving forward. Washington can get out of the remainder of his contract by releasing him, a harsh move but perhaps a necessary one if he doesn't retire.

Kyle Allen and Taylor Heinicke each showed signs of hope during their limited action this past season, but Washington would be foolish to enter 2021 thinking they can compete with either one of them as its full-time starter.

By trading for Stafford, Washington would solve its current quarterback woes while also allowing the 33-year-old to change the perception of himself around the league. It's a win-win for both parties, and it's time to make it happen.