In some ways, NFL teams and fanbases can be a lot like that friend you have who makes terrible romantic choices. No matter how many times you explain to them that no, they can’t “fix” that person, or “save” them, they still try. And it always ends in tears when said romantic prospect turns out to be what they’ve always been. But you’re still there to watch them ugly cry into their IPA.
You can’t say the Rams and their fans didn’t think they couldn’t “save” Matthew Stafford when they gave up the boat to pry him out of Detroit. And it’s easy to think that every player who puts on the Honolulu Blue of the Lions needs saving. That if they’re given just the right care, shown the right love, shown what is possible outside of Ford Field, that they’ll unveil buried treasure.
But there’s a reason that Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson just up and retired instead of trying to go somewhere else, their souls broken by just being a Lion. There is no salvation. They can’t be good to anyone else. There is no partnership that will wash away the scars and psychoses. Best to just steal themselves away from everyone. No more heartache.
Sure, there are far worse places for the Rams to be than 7-4, two wins behind first-place Arizona. The inept Jaguars and struggling Seahawks are still on the schedule for L.A. And the NFC is still wide open. The Vikings are always capable of falling over into a trash can, kicking their legs cartoonishly in the air while upside down and blinded. So maybe 10 or 11 wins are still in the cards. Maybe a playoff berth. The rest of the NFC, beneath the division winners, seem intent on treating the wild-card spots like someone vomiting in the middle of a party.
But this is what Stafford is. It’s empty calories. The numbers always look good, because he always seems to find himself in the spot to have to “fuck it, chuck it, FOOOBAWWWW” a lot. Sometimes he can do that just enough to author a comeback win, which erases anyone’s urge to ask why he found himself in that hole in the first place.
Sure, he got three playoff berths out of the Lions, which in Detroit is a Cortez Gold amount. Though he didn’t win any of them and only played well in one of them. And only won more than 10 games twice in 12 seasons. Sure, it was the Lions, and the conclusion was always that no one could carry them out of the morass. Just been hanging out in the wrong crowd, the next team says.
But it’s also Stafford. When you need him to be good to great, the most you can hope for is enough to break your heart. Look at this year’s slate. Beating up on the remedial class of the league, getting his ass handed to him by the Titans or Niners or Packers until it’s too late. But he might put together a couple of fuck off catch-up drives to make the numbers look good. The numbers always look good with Stafford. But they never mean anything.
Some will argue he had to throw the ball 50 times a game in Detroit because they only had a series of failed guide dogs at running back, if that. It’s not entirely untrue. But you keep piling up the excuses for Stafford until you realize the Jenga tower is leaning precariously over your head.
The shell is there with Stafford. The width and depth. From a distance, it looks like a quarterback that can take a team places. It’s got the right shape, looks good in the right light. Get up close though, and you see it has no depth. It’s a cardboard cutout. Push on it with a couple of fingers and it falls over.
He’s a Lion. That doesn’t come off no matter how many lovely dates and weekends away you put together.
A shoutout to Nashville SC last night, who bored everyone to death in their MLS Eastern Conference semifinal game against Philadelphia Union and dragged a 1-1 sumo wrestling exhibition to penalties. and then proceeded to miss every single one they took. All four. They became the first MLS team to miss four penalties in a shootout.
This here’s the last one by Walker Zimmerman, which landed somewhere near Trenton:
Believe me when I tell you the other four were no better. Hany Mukhtar and Anibal Godoy crept the first two down the middle in a fashion they were hoping the keeper wouldn’t wake up and were easily saved by Union keeper Andre Blake. You know it’s a shit penalty when the keeper can catch it. Alex Muyl preceded Zimmerman’s penalty by also sending his after some passing aircraft.
If you’re going to spit it, don’t half-ass it. Be Nashville, and dive face-first into the septic tank.