After a decade in Detroit, Matt Stafford had finally had enough. And you know what? There was nothing wrong with that. He actually waited too long. Organizations have existed for decades, plural. An athlete’s career is lucky to last a decade and a half, max. Stafford looked in the mirror and asked himself, do I want to win? The answer was: Yes. So the next question was can I do it with the Lions? That answer was: No. So, Stafford told the franchise he wanted to break up. He made the right choice.
He wasn’t the first. After almost two decades in Boston Ray Bourque wanted to win a Stanley Cup. He couldn’t do it with the Bruins so he left for Denver. He won with the Avs. Karl Malone and Gary Payton never won with the Sonics and Jazz so at the end they formed the first Super Team with Kobe and Shaq with the Lakers. It didn’t work. But it was the right decision. Staying in one place for your entire career and never winning is haunting. Ask Dan Marino. If Phillip Rivers would have had the Matt Stafford light bulb moment 7-10 years ago then his mantle would have some more silver on it.
So here we are. Now that Matt Stafford has showed athletes that it is OK to want to WIN a title before your career ends. We ask who should be watching Stafford’s map and asking themselves, can I win here?
The Matt Stafford Method has a front runner in the NFL, NBA and MLB. All three need to start the process of calling North American Van Lines. Here they are and where they need to go.
MLB – Mike Trout
He is a modern day version of Mickey Mantle. At the age of 30 he is a nine time All Star and has now hit over 300 home runs and is on pace for 3000 hits and over 600 home runs in his career. He has made the playoffs, ONCE. Nine years ago. The Angels were swept and Trout went 1 for 12 against the Royals. Mike Trout’s career is wasting away in Anaheim. If he was a Dodger it may be different. He is not. So where too?
Answer: Cleveland Guardians
They are the last of the old guard that is still waiting on a World Series title. The Red Sox, White Sox and Cubs have all ended 80 year plus droughts. The Artist formerly known as the Indians are nearing 75 years since their last title. They have made the playoffs in four of the last six seasons so they are just missing a piece or two. Trout would be just another champion in New York or Boston. In Cleveland he would be immortalized.
NBA – Damian Lillard
He has spent 10 years in Portland and has gone to six All-Star Games. He is loyal and wants to win In Portland. It’s not going to happen. In his eight post-season appearances the Blazers have played in six or fewer post-season games five times. He is on pace to have a Tracy McGrady esque career. He is actually Lebron in Cleveland, the first go around, without the Finals Appearance. He is now hurt. This should be an alarm bell that at the age of 31 the clock is ticking. So where too?
Answer: Celtics or Knicks
Despite making the playoffs almost every single year for 15 years now the Celtics have only one title in the past 30 plus years. Yikes. Pairing Lillard with Jayson Tatum would make Boston an immediate Finals threat and with an Eastern Conference with the Heat, Bulls and Cavs as three of the top four seeds this year, Boston can be back on top in less than a season.
New York has waited 50 years now. Putting Lillard together with Julius Randle and RJ Barrett would make the Knicks and instant playoff team looking for just another piece to help ascend to the mountaintop. Oh and if he wins a title in New York with the Knicks. Immortality awaits.
NFL – Allen Robinson
He is only 28 years old. So what’s that mean? It means he has five more seasons as a #1 receiver. In seven healthy NFL seasons he as three 1200 plus yard season with Blake Bortles and Mitch Trubisky as his QBs. It’s Odell Beckham time for Robinson. Pick a QB that is in his 20s with a decade left. Without an elite QB he is headed down the career path of Derrick Mason on the low end and maybe, maybe Tim Brown on the high end. He may lose out on total yardage and TD numbers by being part of a duo but Beckham laid the blueprint with Cooper Kupp. So where too?
Answer: Buffalo Bills
The division belongs to Josh Allen for the next few years. The Bills were a blink of an eye from hosting the AFC title game this year. By cutting Cole Beasley, Buffalo can free up $6 million. By adding another year to Stefon Diggs’ deal and converting some of that money into a signing bonus another $7-8 million would become available. The Bills then draft the best running back on the board at the end of the 1st Round. Josh Allen would have Diggs and Robinson at WR and then James Robinson at RB to go along with that duo. Yikes. I mean Y-I-K-E-S.
Trout, Lillard and Robinson are all top 5 players at their position in their sport. In Trout’s case he is the best in the game. Staying put and hoping for the best isn’t going to work for any of them. It’s time for a little WWSD.
What would Stafford do?