The Lions are facing a huge decision this offseason on their next general manager. And their next general manager will face a huge decision on Matthew Stafford.
Or maybe it'll be up to their next head coach.
Asked about Stafford's future after the Lions fired Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia, owner Sheila Ford Hamp said last week, "Since I’m not the coach, I’m probably not the right person to ask that question to. So we’ll see what the new coach has to say."
The GM hire typically takes precedence in a regime change. But the Lions could opt to go the route of the 49ers, who in 2017 waited for the approval of head-coach-in-waiting Kyle Shanahan before hiring general manager John Lynch. Two years later, the team was in the Super Bowl.
However the Lions proceed, Hall of Fame receiver and NFL analyst Michael Irvin just wants the team to do right by Stafford -- one of the quarterbacks Irvin drafted for his team in the 2015 Pro Bowl. (Stafford wound up winning Offensive MVP as Irvin's squad beat Cris Carter's.) If it were up to Irvin, he'd keep Stafford and hire Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.
"I’ve always wondered, always wondered -- I don’t care what anybody says -- I always wonder what Matt would be with a real head coach, offensive-minded head coach," Irvin told 97.1 The Ticket. "What would he be with Andy Reid? If you can’t get Andy Reid, then I want the closest thing to Andy Reid. You see what I’m saying?
"I want the closest thing to Andy Reid to get my quarterback, who understands defense, who has a great arm, who has great talent, to play with this kind of talent on offense."
From there, Irvin says Bieniemy can handle the rest.
"And then I’m going to ask Bienemy, 'What are your thoughts toward the GM? Who understands how to build the kind of (offense you built) in Kansas City? Who understands how to go find this great speed guy? You got (Kenny) Golladay, so you already got your main receiver, but you still want to get a speedster guy.
"And I’m going to say, 'Hey, Matt Stafford. Your last few years, buddy, we’re going to get the most out of you and build this thing around you the right way.' And I don’t think he’s ever had that."
If Stafford returns for a 13th season in Detroit, he'll be playing under his third GM and fourth head coach, and potentially his fifth offensive coordinator. In his nine full seasons, counting this one, the Lions have had two offenses among the NFL's top five and three in the top 10. Their average ranking: 14.5. Their average ranking over his last six full seasons: 19.5.
A woeful run game is the larger problem here, but Stafford isn't free from blame. Thus the growing sentiment that it's time for the Lions to move on. Tear it down and start over, once and for all.
But Irvin -- a player Stafford once said he wished he could have played with -- wants to see the former first overall pick get over the hump in Detroit. So much so that he brought it up again before the interview was over.
"Guys, I really do, I really do, I hope Matt Stafford gets an opportunity to just see, just see, the backend of a playoff (run) as he’s on the tail end of his career. Because he’s had a phenomenal, phenomenal career and man, he’s had to deal with a lot of changes," Irvin said. "It would be nice just to see that, at least in his latter years."
And maybe Irvin will see it yet -- he just might not see it in Detroit.