NFL, from hell to heaven: Matthew Stafford’s human victory in the Super Bowl

A miracle in the City of Angels. Something true, markedly human, has finally quenched the Rams’ thirst for a ring that seemed haunted after years of chases, moves and trades. In one of the driest and most counterfeit places in America, where things never arise spontaneously, but are assembled following the most disparate and artificial methods and simulations. In a place where, for example, there are no genuine sources of water. You have to import them from the mountains of Nevada, from the melted snow, from the sunken water in the lakes, through pipes of hundreds and hundreds of kilometers, all different in materials and routes, all destined to reach the magical city.

Stafford and the rest: the fate of the Rams

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Even the sources that led to the success of the Los Angeles Rams, inevitably, were many and the result of different paths: Jalen Ramsey, bought by the bankrupt Jacksonville Jaguars, has reconfirmed himself as one of the best cornerbacks in the league. Aaron Donald, drafted in the first round by the franchise that was still named after the city of St Louis, has always been one of the most dominant players in the game.

Cooper Kupp (L) and Matthew Stafford of the Los Angeles Rams

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Then Cooper Kupp, the receiver chosen in the second round and elevated to the well-deserved title of Offensive MVP with 16 touchdowns and 1,947 receiving yards. Not forgetting linebacker Von Miller’s purchase of goldweight this season from the heights of the Denver Broncos, or the signing of misguided Odell Beckham Jr., picked up off the streets after fleeing Cleveland. There are so many ways to build a list worthy of a ring. Los Angeles brought them all together in one project. The source capable of sprouting more hope among the channels of the City of Angels was undoubtedly that of Matthew Stafford.

From Georgia to Motor City

It took the former Lions quarterback just one season to lift the second Lombardi Trophy in Rams history, the first in his career. But his story is anything but instant success. It is a story of waiting, of drama, of frustration. A story that cannot be built with the intentionality of Californian tycoons or Silicon Valley visionaries. It is a story forged and kept alive by an innate and priceless character and talent. A trip, the most convoluted of all those mentioned above, which could only start from the Detroit Motor City. In 2009, Stafford joined the Detroit Lions. with the first overall pick in the draft after triumphant seasons at the University of Georgia. An election that, at the time, sounded like a sentence. Because those Detroit Lions weren’t just the worst franchise last season. They were the worst franchise ever..

Matthew Stafford

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They had finished the previous season with the humiliating record of 0 wins and 16 losses. A dysfunctional franchise, whose technical lack in the roster masked the much more serious abysses at the managerial and organizational level. A franchise on which, in order not to lose anything, what seemed real weighed damn: In 1958, Lions quarterback Bobby Layne was sold to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Angered by Detroit’s decision, Layne reportedly declared that the Lions would not win for another 50 years. In 2009, 51 years after that alleged sentence, Stafford first appeared in Ford’s crib. The curse had not yet been lifted. The lions hadn’t even come close to winning anything in those 50 years. And although time had caused the macumba to run out due to natural causes, Detroit was far from seeing the light.

The city itself had become, over the years, a veritable powder keg. Looted, abandoned, impoverished. Amidst the rust of a city to be saved, Stafford raised himself as messiah. Your connection with Calvin “Megatron” Johnson it came to the people of Detroit like a breath of fresh air. On the blue shipwreck, Stafford managed to rewrite numerous records: he became the youngest player to surpass 20,000, 30,000 and 40,000 yards, the player with the most passing yards in his first 100 games and the youngest to reach the least 5 touchdowns in a game (In 2009, in his rookie season, against the Cleveland Browns).

Despite the grim and systematic roster regression around him, Stafford proved to be one of the most talented quarterbacks on the NFL stage. But it was never enough. In the 12 years spent in the Motor City, Stafford managed to take the Lions to the playoffs only 3 times. They were eliminated in the first match on all three occasions. His talent was gradually eroded by incompetence and cancerous sports cultures. But then why stay so long? Why dedicate an entire career to Detroit?

Broken Back and Wife’s Tumor: Stafford’s Resistance

Obviously, what he received in exchange for the city cannot be explained on a sporting level. The human level must be investigated. Because the city of Detroit has always supported Stafford and his family, especially in the darkest of times. In 2018, Stafford competed in the season finale with multiple microfractures in the spine. Literally a broken back. It was the unconditional cheers of the Leonese fans that kept him on his feet during the last matches. The Stafford chants did not stop even in the last game, when the Lions left with a meager 6-10. The spinal injury was just one of many injuries Stafford suffered over the course of 12 harrowing seasons, physically and psychologically.

Matthew Stafford

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To complicate everything, like a bolt from the blue, the conditions of his wife Kelly. In 2019, Kelly Stafford was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Suddenly, the mother of his 4 daughters was in danger of death. The two had met back in the days of the Georgia Bulldogs: in college, Matthew was a five-star quarterback and Kelly a cheerleader. They married in 2015 and built a family piece by piece from the rubble of Detroit. Not even the news of the tumor could break the tenacious amalgam that the Staffords showed on and off the pitch. Kelly left the operating room after 12 hours, beginning a long period of rehabilitation.

Accompanying Stafford during the longest and most fragile months of his existence, were also the people of Lions. Banners, choirs, general affection. An entire city took over the family affair of its field marshal. Kelly recovered in record time.

It is never too late

At 33, rewarded by the new warmth of a city, Stafford finally decides to change the air, on the hunt for supreme glory. Decisive was a vacation on the promontory of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. There, Matthew and Kelly met Sean McVay, the Rams’ brainy head coach. There was an instant rapport between Sean and Matthew. They had a particularly cerebral and manic way of processing football. Both are human recorders of plays, patterns, and statistics. And the Rams were looking for a quarterback. A few days later, the decisive trade was finalized: Stafford to the Rams for quarterback Goff and two first-round draft picks.

Los Angeles after a boring Super Bowl lost 13-3 to the Patriots by Tom Brady in 2019, they decide to go all-in. Stafford, for the first time in his career, is surrounded by an elite roster, both offensively and defensively.

The Rams close the regular season with a 12-5 record: Matthew throws for 4,886 and 41 touchdowns, with a passer rating of 102.9. McVay has found his perfect weaponand the road to the Lombardi Trophy is triumphant: Los Angeles sequentially eliminates Kyler Murray’s Cardinals 34-11, archives Tom Brady’s career by eliminating Tampa Bay 30-27 and then secures the end zone in the next two games against San Francisco. (20-17) and finally against the Bengals of Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase (23-20).

Rams in the Super Bowl

Eurosport Photo Credit

In the Super Bowl against the Ohio Tigers, Stafford commands the winning drive from first to last snap, with one minute and 25 seconds left on the clock. The pass to Cooper Kupp sends the Rams all-in. And it crystallizes Stafford’s career in the Olympus of the best of all time, at the dawn of his 34 years.

I hug him with his wife Kelly, in the midst of the tumult mixed with sweat and confetti at SoFi Stadium, is the end of a painful adventure, lived deeply, inevitably bathed in tears of gratitude and exhaustion. And bathed by the imported waters of Los Angeles, which since 2009 made a man embark without knowing it on an odyssey that lasted more than 10 years, towards a triumph capable of finally quenching the thirst of an entire city.

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