The Stafford-led Super Bowl champion shows the value of aggressive offseason moves while leaving the Indianapolis Colts wondering what could have been.
Shortly after Phillip Rivers announced his retirement as the Indianapolis Colts quarterback in January 2021, recent Super Bowl LVI champion Matthew Stafford requested a trade out of Detroit.
In the eyes of some, the stars were aligning for a Stafford reign in Indianapolis. Now, many Colts fans are left wondering what might have been.
Detroit found a worthwhile home for their franchise quarterback in Los Angles, in exchange for Jared Goff and two first-round picks. Stafford joined a team with enough talent to win the Lombardi Trophy, a key condition the veteran quarterback set when seeking a one-way ticket out of the Motor City.
The Colts successfully sought a trade for Carson Wentz, and well, you know the rest of the story.
As the Rams celebrate a Super Bowl victory, the Colts are once again searching for answers at quarterback. Management has declined to commit to Wentz as the team’s starter next season, and ESPN’s Chris Mortenson recently reported that Wentz will likely be traded or released by March 19.
The immediate aftermath of the NFL’s season finale is as good of a time at any to reflect on the different paths the Rams and Colts took during the 2021 offseason.
Los Angles went for the kill, trading the farm for a clear quarterback upgrade from Jared Goff to Stafford.
Three time zones away, Indianapolis went with an all-too-familiar patchwork solution, with the thinking that Head Coach Frank Reich could work some magic with his former pupil from Philadelphia.
Now, the Rams are celebrating the league’s ultimate prize. On the other hand, the Colts didn’t pursue an elite quarterback and their season ended in Jacksonville – a statement that never describes a successful season.
Indianapolis Colts General Manager Chris Ballard is known to emphasize finding talent through draft picks, a conventional approach that emphasizes long-term roster development over short-term success.
While common and often successful in the NFL, such an approach has been proven by the Rams to not be the only way to achieve greatness. Stafford, linebacker Von Miller, and cornerback Jalen Ramsey are all stars who the Rams acquired by trading away high draft picks.
The results? Seven consecutive seasons without first-round draft picks, but the ultimate prize of the Lombardi Trophy in LA. The Rams’ victory makes a strong case for investing in blockbuster offseason deals, no matter the cost so long as it works within a team’s finances.
That’s not to say the organization hasn’t acquired talent the old-fashioned way. All-pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Super Bowl MVP Cooper Kupp were both drafted by the Rams and obviously integral to this title-winning team.
But let Stafford’s current route to Disneyland be a lesson to the Indianapolis front office heading into another turbulent offseason: you can’t be afraid to do some major dealmaking in pursuit of the ultimate prize.
If you’re a Colts fan already dreading number two lining up behind center again this fall, you’re undoubtedly spending this week thinking: what if?