Matthew Stafford preparing for villain role ahead of return to Detroit

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford will face the Detroit Lions, the team that drafted him, in the playoffs. His goal is to end their magical season.

Detroit Lions v Los Angeles Rams
Detroit Lions v Los Angeles Rams / Sean M. Haffey/GettyImages

There was once a time when Detroit Lions fans would've loved to see Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford win a playoff game –– after all, he spent the first twelve years of his NFL career in Detroit. Now, as Stafford makes his return to Motor City, some Lions fans are attempting to ban Stafford jerseys from the stadium that was once his home.

On Sunday, Stafford will play in Ford Field as a visiting player for the first time in his career. The veteran quarterback was once a beloved sports figure in Detroit and he still holds most of the franchise's passing records. Still, Stafford isn't expecting a warm welcome.

"I'm not expecting anything, to be honest with you," Stafford told reporters. "I was asked this question a couple times just by friends and family, and I think the biggest thing for me is just to go and experience whatever that experience is gonna be. I understand what the people of Detroit and the city of Detroit meant to me in my time and my career, what they meant to my family. I hope they feel that back, but at the same time, I'm not a stranger to the situation and understanding that I'm the bad guy coming to town."

Matthew Stafford embraces the villain role ahead of Lions homecoming

The NFC Wild Card Game will be Detroit's first time hosting a playoff game in nearly 30 years. Stafford knows what that means to the Lions –– he tried to lead them to home playoff games and postseason successes for most of his career.

As the first overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, Stafford stepped into the spotlight as the franchise quarterback of the Detroit Lions. Despite his talented arm, his early years in Detroit were marked by a team in transition. The Lions were stuck in a rebuilding process and Stafford was expected to guide them out of it, but Detroit often lacked the coaching and talent to compete in a tough NFC North division.

Still, Stafford was loved by Lions fans for the remarkable toughness he exhibited, even during hopeless seasons. Stafford strived –– and often suffered –– to lead the Lions to relevancy. The Lions made three postseason appearances during Stafford's 12-year tenure in Detroit, but they never managed to advance past the first round.

After twelve years, Stafford finally requested a trade. During the 2021 offseason, the Los Angeles Rams acquired Stafford in a blockbuster trade that reshaped the NFL landscape. Some doubters believed Stafford was to blame for Detroit's postseason woes, but it didn't take long for the embattled quarterback to silence those critics. In his first season with the Rams, Stafford led the team to a Super Bowl championship.


"I loved the Lions, wanted what was best for them," Stafford said this week. "And now they're playing really good football, had the opportunity to host a playoff game, and they've earned that opportunity."

Meanwhile, the Lions inherited current quarterback Jared Goff in the Stafford trade, forever linking their careers. Now, as the Lions look for their own postseason success, Stafford is hoping to leave them broken-hearted once again.

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