The Untold Truth Of Matthew Stafford

Ahead of Super Bowl LVI, many were expecting — and probably hoping for — a rematch of the previous year's championship game, which saw Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers rout Patrick Mahomes' Kansas City Chiefs, 31-9. But with the Bucs bowing out in the divisional round and the Chiefs losing a close AFC Championship Game, fans will be getting another kind of grizzled veteran vs. young upstart matchup — Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams vs. Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals — on February 13, 2022, at the SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California.

Currently in his 13th season in the NFL, Stafford has an enviable list of achievements that include being the fastest quarterback in NFL history to reach 20,000, 30,000, and 40,000 passing yards and being the league's only signal-caller to ever attempt more than 700 passes in a season. After spending 12 seasons with the Detroit Lions, Stafford replaced another former No. 1 overall pick, Jared Goff, as the Rams' No. 1 QB for the 2021 season, and it goes without saying that he's had an impressive first year in Los Angeles after all that futility in the Motor City. But while a good number of fans may be familiar with his recent on-field exploits with the Lions and the Rams, there are other details about Stafford's professional and personal life that oftentimes fly under the radar.

He was seen as a potential top draft pick as a high school QB

Draft analysts often get it wrong when it comes to college quarterbacks. They tend to pay too much attention to a prospect's arm strength, touchdown-to-interception ratio, athleticism, and/or size while overlooking leadership, decision-making skills, and other intangibles. It's why guys like Tom Brady remain undrafted until the 199th pick while future busts such as Ryan Leaf and JaMarcus Russell go early in the draft. As for Matthew Stafford, he did get picked first overall by the Detroit Lions in 2009 after a standout career for the University of Georgia, and he's obviously lived up to his billing. And there was one noteworthy NFL draft analyst who saw him as a potential No. 1 pick even before he played a down for the Bulldogs.

As recalled by MLive, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. first predicted that Stafford would go first overall back when he was still playing high school football for Highland Park High School in Dallas. Back then, he was good enough to win EA Sports National Player of the Year honors in 2005, thus making him a coveted prospect as part of the high school class of 2006. Kiper would stick to his prediction even as some other analysts were downgrading him to a potential top-10 prospect, and as it turned out, he was right. Good thing he was, as the Lions got the college stud who actually panned out in the pros as a signal-caller — other quarterbacks selected in the first round in 2009 included Mark "Butt Fumble" Sanchez (No. 5, New York Jets) and Josh Freeman (No. 17, Tampa Bay).

It took some time before he broke out in the pros

While the Cincinnati Bengals' starting quarterback, Joe Burrow, enjoyed near-immediate success after getting picked first overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, that wasn't the case for his Super Bowl LVI opponent, Matthew Stafford. As shown on his Pro Football Reference page, Stafford went through the typical growing pains rookie quarterbacks experience, and that meant some brutal performances on the field and a rookie season that wasn't anything to write home about — 13 touchdown passes, 20 interceptions, a paltry 53.3% completion percentage, and a QB rating of 61.0. He only won two out of his 10 starts, though it's not like his backups, a past-his-prime Daunte Culpepper and fellow young prospect Drew Stanton, were any better for the 2-14 Lions of 2009.

Stafford's 2010 campaign was similarly rough, but for entirely different reasons. He injured his right shoulder during the Lions' Week 1 matchup against the Chicago Bears, returned several weeks later against the Washington Redskins, and re-injured his shoulder one week later versus the New York Jets. All told, he played just three games in 2010 but put up solid numbers in his abbreviated sophomore season. He would then undergo shoulder surgery in the offseason (via MLive) and enjoy a breakout year in 2011, throwing 41 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions and leading Detroit to a 10-6 record and a (very brief) trip to the playoffs.

From fourth alternate to Pro Bowl Offensive MVP

It probably comes with the territory of spending more than a decade with a franchise that has struggled more often than it hasn't, but Matthew Stafford has played in only one Pro Bowl thus far in his career. He was selected as an alternate after his successful 2011 season, but he had to wait another three years before he actually got to play in the NFL's annual all-star game. Following the 2014 campaign, he was once again chosen as an alternate (via CBS Detroit), but with then-Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning unable to play due to a right thigh injury, Stafford got to take the field for Team Irvin at the 2015 Pro Bowl. It wasn't just Manning, though, who was ahead of him in the pecking order. Per the Detroit Free Press, Stafford was the fourth alternate — Manning and Ben Roethlisberger were both injured, while Tom Brady and Russell Wilson were both playing in the Super Bowl.

It may have been his only Pro Bowl appearance to date, but Stafford made that appearance count, as he led Team Irvin to a 32-28 win over Team Carter. For his efforts, he was named Offensive MVP after throwing for 316 yards, which was the second-most passing yards in Pro Bowl history at that point.

Matthew Stafford, family man and supportive husband

So far, we've focused entirely on Matthew Stafford's football career. But whenever he isn't throwing touchdown passes on the field, he's a devoted family man who has four daughters with his wife, Kelly. According to Sporting News, the couple met while they were both students at the University of Georgia. Matthew, of course, was the Bulldogs' star quarterback, while Kelly was one of their cheerleaders; they eventually tied the knot in 2015 after several years of dating.

During the post-game press conference after the Los Angeles Rams defeated the San Francisco 49ers and booked themselves a trip to Super Bowl LVI, Stafford wasn't shy about expressing how much his family means to him. "[Kelly is] fired up. I couldn't have done it without her," he said. "She's an unbelievable part of my life. I'm so lucky to be with her and have the children that I have and the family that I have — it's the best part of my life. This is great, but that's so much better."

In addition, Stafford also missed a substantial part of training camp in 2019 to be by his wife's side as she underwent surgery for a brain tumor. The operation was successful, and in a blog post she wrote for ESPN, Kelly Stafford recalled how her husband was "literally by [her] side at every step" of her health crisis.

Stafford specifically did not want to be traded to this NFL team

When Matthew Stafford asked the Detroit Lions for a trade, he had seemingly reached a point where he had done all he could for a team that hadn't enjoyed much playoff success in decades. We all know what happened next — Stafford was traded to the Los Angeles Rams, while the Lions got Jared Goff in return and had their worst season since the aforementioned 2009 campaign. Obviously, the Rams got the better quarterback, but if rumors are to be believed, Stafford would have been okay with playing anywhere else in the league, as long as he didn't get traded to one team in specific — the New England Patriots.

Citing an anonymous source familiar with the negotiations, NBC Sports wrote that Stafford simply didn't want to join the Patriots despite how they had a lot of salary cap space and a proven track record under head coach Bill Belichick. They were, along with the Indianapolis Colts, among the frontrunners for the quarterback's services following his trade request, but as NBC Sports noted, Stafford allegedly wasn't too keen on replacing Cam Newton, the former NFL MVP with the Carolina Panthers who had a forgettable 2020 campaign for New England as Tom Brady's replacement behind center.

As it seems, the Patriots got a steal of a quarterback in the 2021 draft with No. 15 selection Mac Jones, while Stafford led the Rams to the Super Bowl, so things did work out in the end for both teams.