After 12 years in Detroit, Matthew Stafford is nearing the end of the road.
A new general manager and a new head coach will take over this offseason, and they might decide it's time for a new quarterback, too. And Stafford might be of the same mind.
The next regime will mark GM No. 3 and head coach No. 4 for the former first overall pick, and potentially offensive coordinator No. 5. And so Stafford was asked on Monday whether he has the patience at this point in his career to endure another rebuild.
"I’m not going to limit myself to anything," he said. "But I’ll probably answer that better after the season. There’s too much work to be done at the moment. If I’m worried about all that other stuff, I’m not worried about trying to beat the Bears (on Sunday). And that's unfair to my teammates, my coaches, ownership, our fans, everybody.
"So I'm going to put my best foot forward in trying to beat the Bears, and we'll figure out that other stuff down the road."
A typically measured answer from Stafford, who's careful with his words. But noteworthy for the fact that he didn't commit to being here beyond this season. Like everyone around him, including his former teammate and longtime friend Dan Orlovsky, Stafford seems to understand that a divorce from Detroit might be for the best.
Orlovsky said Saturday following the firings of Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn that the next move for the Lions is to "start over and move on from Stafford."
For the first time since he signed his $135 million extension, moving Stafford will be feasible this offseason. His dead cap hit in the event of a trade would be $19 million in 2021, $6 million in 2022 and $3 million in 2023. The Lions would end up saving money against the cap over the next three years.
And yes, there will be suitors for a 32-year-old, cost-controlled quarterback who still has one of the best arms in the league.
In the same way Stafford didn't pledge himself to Detroit beyond the next five games, owner Sheila Ford Hamp didn't pledge herself to Stafford when asked on Saturday about his long-term future.
"Since I’m not the coach, I’m probably not the right person to ask that question to," she said. "So we’ll see what the new coach has to say."
Hamp praised Stafford for being "an extremely talented young man and tough as nails," before adding, "but again, I think coaches will make that decision."
Well, the coach and the general manager, whoever they might be. For now the coach is Darrell Bevell, who's had a great relationship with Stafford in his two seasons as offensive coordinator. If the decision were his, Bevell would probably keep Stafford around.
"He’s given me everything he can possibly give," Bevell said Monday. "I think he’s given everything he can possibly give to the team. He takes shots, he’s been beat up, he’s played through it. He’s as tough as they come. He’s definitely a positive influence on our team. The guys look up to him, the guys love him.
"I’m excited I have five more weeks to work with him in this situation because I know it’ll bring out the best in him. And if he’s playing his best, we have a great shot to win.”
And there's the rub. Even when Stafford's played his best -- 2011, 2015, 2019 -- the Lions haven't won much of anything. And when the Lions have played their best -- 2014, most notably -- Stafford hasn't matched it. It was a well-intentioned marriage that just hasn't worked, and it's probably time for both sides to admit it.
"As far as my future goes past this season, I’ll figure that out, talk about that later on,” Stafford said. “To me, as a team and as a leader, there’s a lot to be done here for the rest of the season.”
In the past, he might have signed up for another season. Perhaps he already knows that this season is his last.