He’ll be wearing royal blue and yellow tonight for the Los Angeles Rams, but it will be tough not to be reminded of his days in Honolulu Blue and silver when Matthew Stafford takes his first playoff snap against the Arizona Cardinals.
Stafford, who spent 12 seasons with the Detroit Lions, will be at quarterback for the Rams as he looks for his first career postseason victory. (He had three shots with the Lions, falling to the New Orleans Saints in 2011, the Dallas Cowboys in 2014 and the Seattle Seahawks in 2016.) The Rams are favored by 3½ points, so the odds are in his favor. (Meanwhile, the Lions now have the NFL’s longest active playoff victory drought – at 30 seasons – after the Cincinnati Bengals’ victory Saturday.)
It’s a tough call for Lions fans: Do they root for the QB who brought the franchise out of its 0-16 hole following the 2008 season, or for the Rams to lose and improve the Lions’ second 2022 first-round NFL draft pick?
Whichever way Lions fans go, Stafford’s start will place him in a … well, not elite, but certainly select club: He’ll be just the fifth former Lions quarterback since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 to take a playoff snap after his time in Detroit.
Here’s a quick look at how the previous four fared after departing Detroit:
2006: Jeff Garcia
With the Lions: Signed in 2005 to challenge (or replace) Joey Harrington under coach Steve Mariucci, Garcia broke his leg in the preseason, though, and appeared in six games with the Lions, completing 59% of his passes for 937 yards, three touchdowns and six interceptions, for a 65.1 passer rating (his only season below 75).
After the Lions: Garcia landed as a backup with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2006, took over for Donovan McNabb as the starting QB in late November and led Philly to the playoffs with five straight wins. His semi-hot hand continued in the playoffs, as he was 17-for-31 for 153 yards and a touchdown in Philly’s 23-20 win over the New York Giants in the wild-card round. The magic ran out the following week, in a loss to the Saints. (Garcia led Tampa Bay to the playoffs the next season, but the Bucs lost, 24-14 to the Giants, in the wild-card round.)
2000: Gus Frerotte
With the Lions: Frerotte was solid in 1999, his lone season with the Lions. Taking over from an injured Charlie Batch, he completed 60.8% of his passes for 2,117 yards, nine touchdowns and seven interceptions as the Lions squeaked into a wild-card playoff spot. (Frerotte was 24-for-46 for 251 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions in Detroit’s 27-13 loss to Washington.)
After the Lions: It was off to Denver in 2000 to compete with ex-U-M QB Brian Griese. Frerotte took over in mid-November and led the Broncos to four straight wins, earning the wild-card playoff start against the Baltimore Ravens. He wasn’t nearly as good against Baltimore’s Super Bowl-bound defense, however, going 13-for-28 for 124 yards and an interception in a 21-3 loss.
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1995: Rodney Peete
With the Lions: The Lions’ sixth-round pick in 1989, Peete spent five seasons competing for the starting job with Erik Kramer and Andre Ware. The USC product passed for 8,164 yards (12th in franchise history), 38 touchdowns and 49 interceptions while taking 62 sacks in 47 games before the Lions released him and signed free agent Scott Mitchell.
After the Lions: Peete landed with the Dallas Cowboys in 1994, with only a couple snaps in mop-up duty in a playoff win over the Green Bay Packers. But he started for the Eagles in 1995 and got the ultimate revenge against the Lions: A 58-37 win in the wild-card round in which he went 17-for-25 for 270 yards and three touchdowns en route to a 143.3 passer rating. After the win, Peete called it, "the best feeling I ever had after a game." Nine months later, when the Eagles took down the Lions in the regular season, 24-17 — and Peete completed 25 of his 30 attempts for 284 yards and a touchdown, plus a rushing TD — the QB was able to make a joke: “Maybe we ought to get Detroit on the schedule all the time."
1994: Erik Kramer
With the Lions: An after through when he signed from Atlanta, Kramer led the Lions to the playoffs in 1991, and was the winning quarterback in their 38-6 victory over the Cowboys on Jan. 5, 1992 — the franchise’s only postseason victory since 1957. In three seasons (25 games) in Detroit, Kramer completed 55.2% of his passes for 3,408 yards, 23 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. He too departed — for the division rival Chicago Bears — after the 1993 season when the Lions splurged on Mitchell.
After the Lions: After missing most of the season, and the Bears’ playoff opener against the Minnesota Vikings, with a separated right shoulder, Kramer returned as a backup for their divisional round matchup against the 49ers. It … did not go well. The ex-Lion entered after a first half in which starter Steve Walsh went 10-for-19 for 78 yards and two interceptions, resulting in a 30-3 deficit. Kramer was better — 19-for-28 for 161 yards — but took four sacks while leading the Bears to two garbage-time TDs (one passing) against the eventual Super Bowl champs.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Matthew Stafford set to join club of ex-Detroit Lions playoff QBs