While Tom Brady has been everything the Bucs could have hoped for and more, the reality is that the 43-year old may only play one more season after this one, which has prompted all Bucs fans to have one eye on the present and one eye on the future. So hearing head coach Bruce Arians gush about Lions’ quarterback Matt Stafford on Tuesday certainly got the wheels turning about a potential marriage in Tampa Bay in 2022.
“He’s one of my all-time favorite guys,” Arians said. “He’s tough as nails. Like I said the other day, he’s one of the few quarterbacks that I like to go out and watch him warm up, just to watch him throw, because he’s so special. I’ve always felt like he was one of the top 4-5 guys in this league for a long time. Like I said, he’s tough as nails and his guys know it. They know he’s gonna suck it up for them.”
Stafford played through a rib injury on Sunday in a loss to the Titans, throwing for 252 yards and a touchdown on 22-32 passing. Despite the Lions struggles as a team, Stafford’s numbers are again impressive this season, as he’s thrown for 3,774 yards and 23 touchdowns to just nine interceptions, while completing over 64 percent of his passes. He’s been especially sharp for the Lions over the past few weeks, playing his best football of the season.
“He can make every throw from every angle,” Arians said. “He’s just so, so talented. There are only so many guys that are that talented, you just say ‘hey I’m gonna sneak out and go watch him warm up’. I’ve been a fan of his for a long, long time.”
Stafford’s career has been statistically prolific and an amazing testament to his longevity, but he’s rarely been recognized as a top quarterback in the NFL while toiling in one of the worst organizations in the league.
“It’s the same old story,” Arians said. “It’s winning. You can be a great player, if your team is not winning, you’re not going to get what you deserve, and he deserves a lot.”
The Lions are looking at a coaching regime change this offseason, and it remains to be seen what will become of Stafford. His contract makes it unlikely, but not impossible, that he’ll be moved this offseason, but after the 2021 season it becomes much more manageable for the Lions to rid themselves of Stafford’s $27 million cap hit for the 2022 season. Given the fact that Detroit will be looking at a rebuild over the next two offseasons, and the Bucs could be looking for another veteran quarterback option if Brady retires after the 2021 season, an Arians-Stafford marriage could make a ton of sense for both sides.
For now, Arians will be content with beating Stafford’s Lions on Saturday, a victory which would clinch the Bucs first playoff berth in 13 seasons.
Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft