The divorce between Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions was an amicable one that lacked the usual rancor currently prevalent with Carson Wentz and the Philadelphia Eagles and, more relevant to Stafford, between Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams. The latter is now taking up residence where Stafford once sat as starting quarterback for the Lions, while Stafford unpacks for the Rams -- one of a "few teams" the Pro Bowl quarterback was willing to be traded to. Rumor has it one of the few he refused to play for was the New England Patriots, leaving many to point at Matt Patricia as the reason.
Stafford has neither confirmed nor denied the rumor that he wanted nothing to do with Tom Brady's former team, but he did attempt to squash speculation about his relationship with Patricia -- who returns to New England in 2021 as assistant head coach after leaving their defensive coordinator role vacant in 2018 to join the Lions as head coach. Patricia was fired midway through the 2020 season, after mustering a paltry 13-29 record in Detroit.
Despite his failings, Stafford says he holds no ill will toward his former head coach.
"[Patricia] and I had a good relationship, no matter what anybody wants to say," he said, via the Detroit Free Press. "I could go into his office and talk to him. He could get me on the phone whenever he needed to. I think we both grew in that relationship.
"I have a lot of respect for him and who he is, as a football coach and an unbelievable mind."
That hints at his alleged decision to stay away from the Patriots as rooted in his disbelief in their ability to be a contender in 2021, and not necessarily due to a fear of being reunited with Patricia.
"What's accurate is -- and this is an incredible thing by [the Lions] -- I asked to go to a team that was ready to win a championship," Stafford added. "And, you know, there were a few teams on that list. There were a few teams that were not on that list. And they were respectful of that and understood completely. I had thoughts and reasons for each one of them."
That's quite the sting for an organization so accustomed to winning, but also a reality check when considering how far they fell in 2020 following Brady's wildly successful decision to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. So as head coach Bill Belichick works to get back to stacking victories, he'll have to address his quarterback situation elsewhere in free agency, or in the 2021 NFL Draft.