That might have been Stafford's last Thanksgiving in Detroit


No one knows, not the player, not the owner, certainly not any of us. And that's sort of the point. When have we ever wondered if Matthew Stafford will play another Thanksgiving game in Detroit?

Win or lose, Year 1 or Year 10, we always knew that Stafford would be back. That the Lions wouldn't have it any other way. That the franchise and the franchise QB would soldier into another season, trying to get it right.

They haven't. They just haven't. And it's increasingly less likely that they ever will. With Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn surely on their way out, Stafford is headed for his fourth head coach and third general manager over 12 years in Detroit. And the new decision-makers might decide enough is enough.

They might decide, assuming ownership allows it, that the only path forward is to return to the start.

For the past few years, that hasn't been feasible. Moving Stafford would have left the Lions with a prohibitive cap hit. But that will change this offseason. The Lions could trade him and actually save money against the cap over the next two seasons.

It would cost them $19 million in 2021, yes. But a rebuilding team can spare the cap space. And it would only cost them $6 million by 2022, which is to say it would save them $20 million.

The Lions were embarrassed Thursday against the Texans. They were embarrassed last week against the Panthers. They've been embarrassed for much of Patricia's tenure, and frankly for most of Stafford's. If the next regime is ready to move on, Stafford might be, too.

"I love this organization. I love playing for it, so that’s not my style," he said Thursday. "I’m going to keep fighting, keep doing everything I can do to try and help us win. I hate losing -- frustrating, disappointing, all that. But I’m going to continue to work and try to get better.”

Noble words from Stafford, per usual. He's given all he has to the Lions from the moment he arrived. He's put them on his back for so long that he broke it in 2018, then again in 2019. And neither he nor the orgazniation has anything to show for it.

There will be QB-needy teams this offseason, teams who fancy themselves contenders. Maybe even Stafford's hometown Cowboys, who may or may not re-sign Dak Prescott. Stafford was asked on Thursday if he ever wonders what it would be like playing elsewhere.

“No, I just put my head down and go to work," he said. "It’s on us as players, we have to go out there and make plays. It doesn’t matter what uniform you’re wearing, the team that makes more plays is going to win the game. And we didn’t do that (today) and haven’t done it consistently enough this year."

Or last year, or the year before that, or any of the 12 years that Stafford has been here. No one wants it to end like this, but it might be the only way for the Lions to start something new.