Carlos Monarrez: Lions should trade Matthew Stafford to BroncosJanuary 12, 2019 10:31am

Jan. 11-- DETROIT-Good riddance, Vic Fangio.

The Chicago Bears lost their excellent defensive coordinator this week, when the Denver Broncos hired him as their head coach. Under Fangio this season, Chicago's defense was third overall and first in scoring. Needless to say, the Bears' loss is the Detroit Lions' gain.

So good riddance and good luck, Vic.

And now that you're out of the NFC North, how about a little horse trading for a certain quarterback you're fond of?

That's right. Matthew Stafford.

The stars could align for a trade that works out well for both teams. The Broncos need a quarterback. The Lions need an edge rusher, and though general manger Bob Quinn believes Stafford could win a Super Bowl in Detroit, he could easily find another quarterback to fit Matt Patricia's careful, balanced, ball-control offense.

Denver could trade perennial Pro Bowler Von Miller, because the relationship has soured between him and general manager John Elway. And the Broncos could throw in Case Keenum to fill the Lions' void at quarterback.

How bad is Miller's relationship with the Broncos? Let's put it this way: When someone's mom gets involved, it's bad. Gloria Miller wasn't going to sit by and let Elway blame her son, so she attacked Elway at ramming speed on Instagram. She called him "the problem" and then asked the Dallas Cowboys to trade for her kid by hashtagging them and owner Jerry Jones.

If the Broncos deal Miller, he can be the transformative defensive star for the Lions that Khalil Mack was with Chicago this season. Miller, 29, could push the Lions' defense from good to great, possibly even elite. And make no mistake. Patricia is building the Lions around his defense.

As for Fangio, what he and the Broncos need-besides group counseling-is a proven quarterback. And Stafford, whom Fangio holds in high esteem, fits the bill. Fangio faced Stafford twice a year for four seasons and in November 2017 he showered Stafford with praise.

"(Stafford) qualifies as one of the top quarterbacks in the league," Fangio told Chicago reporters. "And I say that because there's really no one way to play him. When you've become a great quarterback, it's because there is no one way to play it. He's good against pressure, he's good against three-man rush, he's good against different types of coverages. So you just have to mix it up with him."

On Thursday, the Broncos introduced Fangio and he said all the right things without committing to anything. Especially noteworthy was the way Fangio parroted of Elway's recent line on Keenum by calling him the starting quarterback "right now."

Keenum struggled in his first year in Denver. He doesn't look like the right fit with the Broncos, who fired coach Vance Joseph and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. Keenum isn't tied to Fangio, and Elway didn't come close to giving him a vote of confidence.

Fangio and Elway know they need the right quarterback, not a quarterback for "right now." And Stafford could be the right guy.

There's a chance the Broncos, who are flush with draft picks and have the 10th overall pick, could draft a quarterback. But this year's class is weak.

The only sure thing the Broncos will do is attempt to address one important reality. Above everything, they have to score a lot of points to keep up the offensive juggernauts in the AFC West. The Kansas City Chiefs led the NFL with 565 points and the Los Angeles Chargers tied for sixth in the AFC with 428 points. Denver scored 329 points, 11th out of 16 AFC teams.

Is Keenum going to score all those points? Is Dwayne Haskins? Is Nick Foles?

So here's what I propose: The Lions should trade Stafford and a third-round pick to Denver for Miller and Keenum. Stafford and Miller's cap numbers are similar this year. The two-year, $36 million contract Keenum signed last year is trickier, though Denver would get significant cap relief by trading him and the Lions wouldn't be tied to him long term.

And before you send me hate mail about Keenum and how terrible he is, did you think he was terrible last season, when he threw the Minnesota Miracle pass to Stefon Diggs? Or when he led the Vikings to the NFC title game? Has he been terrible while posting a 6-3 career record against the NFC North?

Keenum's biggest problem this season was that he didn't have Pat Shurmur to call the offense and get the most out of him. With the Lions, that wouldn't be a problem. The Lions could promote or keep quarterbacks coach George Godsey, who was Houston's QB coach in 2014 when Keenum played well and led the Texans to two late-season wins.

In fact, Keenum might be exactly what the Lions need in their desire to be a ball-control offense as part of Patricia's philosophy of complementary football. Keenum hasn't come close to Stafford's gaudy yardage numbers, but their statistics in meaningful categories like completion percentage, interception rate, yards per attempt and passer rating are similar.

"And teams that can run the ball, stop the run, control the game towards the end of the season are really, I think, the teams that will have the most chance to win," Patricia said last week.

The Lions don't need a gunslinger like Stafford to run their hum-drum offense. It's like asking a Ferrari to tow an apple cart in first gear. Stafford needs to open the throttle. He's a stallion that needs to run free. Maybe even a Bronco set loose in greener pastures.

___

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