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COMMENTARY: An old Dawg finds his bone
After 13 seasons in the NFL, former Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Matthew Stafford won Super Bowl 56 with the Los Angeles Rams. (Photo courtesy of Reuters)

No, quarterback Matthew Stafford was not the only former Georgia Bulldog on the Super Bowl 56 champion Los Angeles Rams’ roster, but his 13-year long fight for NFL glory is one to be admired.

For most of his adult life, Stafford has been forced to play with an unjustly large chip on his shoulder.

While he was undoubtedly one of the great quarterbacks to don the Red and Black, the national media were more enthused at the time with a certain golden boy down at the Swamp. 

No matter though, right? Stafford would become the No. 1 overall pick and whoever drafted him would build a team around him, right? Little did he know.

While the Detroit Lions had one of the great wide receivers in Calvin Johnson to immediately give Stafford an offensive weapon, it was clear that he had very little protection on the line and few options at running back.

Not to mention he inherited a team that infamously posted a 0-16 record the year before he was drafted.

Despite multiple injuries early in his career, most notably the separated shoulder he suffered in his rookie season that he played through, Stafford helped lead the Lions to their first playoff appearance in a dozen years in 2011. 

But the dig was only beginning.

Somehow, the man who was only the fourth in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards in a season was not given a team that could progress past the Wild Card round. 

And after Johnson retired following the 2015 season, Stafford would be doomed to lay in the shadow of the other elite quarterbacks in the NFL, on the outside looking in.

After Stafford somehow pulled the Lions to his third playoff appearance in 2016, the gates to champion status looked shut for good. The next four seasons would reflect a 23-32-1 record for a quarterback who was the fastest in NFL history to reach several passing yardage milestones. 

But this is Matthew Stafford. The same man who famously — and audaciously — called off medical trainers on a hot mic during that game his rookie season where his shoulder gave out. 

That decision led to a game-winning touchdown pass as time expired and would forever define his image. The very same mentality is what helped push him and the star-studded Rams to Super Bowl glory.

While the Rams came into this season expected to win the NFC West, the upstart Arizona Cardinals and the resilient San Francisco 49ers gradually began to usurp the media attention. As Kyler Murray and Jimmy Garoppolo started to get the spotlight, Stafford kept grinding.

The 2021 season was certainly not Stafford’s best statistically, but it summed up his character — a scrappy, exciting, and imperfect quarterback with a cannon arm who puts every last ounce of himself on the line for his team.

Cooper Kupp certainly deserved the Super Bowl MVP for his clutch receiving, but there should equally be no doubt that Stafford played a crucial role in the victory. 

It’s also no coincidence that Kupp’s 2021 season efforts broke the yards from scrimmage record set by a receiver previously held by none other than Calvin Johnson.

That final drive was symbolic of Stafford’s time in Detroit. A quarterback relying on a single elite receiver to push the team forward was a recurring theme for Stafford on the Lions. 

Against a stout Cincinnati defense that had rendered the Rams rushing attack immobile, Stafford threw into the inevitable coverage anyway. He would let nothing stand between his team and the Lombardi Trophy. 

The magical connection between him and Kupp proceeded to repeatedly slice through the defense and finish in the only way it could — a game-winning touchdown and an unforgettable moment for the quarterback who always knew he could accomplish what others doubted he ever would.