Detroit Lions

Don't Buy Into the Revenge Game Narrative

Photo Credit: Robert Deutsch (USA TODAY Sports)

Revenge games in sports offer an opportunity for everyone to gather around, regardless of personal fan allegiance, and soak in an atmosphere filled with animosity and drama. Jared Goff was traded from the Los Angeles Rams in the offseason to the Detroit Lions. Conversely, Matthew Stafford went from the Lions to the Rams. While the Rams had to sweeten the pot by adding first-round picks for the trade to be accepted, Sunday still doesn’t have the feel of a revenge game.

We’ve seen what payback spots look like. Brett Favre in a Minnesota Vikings uniform waltzing into Lambeau Field in 2009 to face the Green Bay Packers. The front office for Green Bay moved on without Favre, and after a year with the New York Jets, he forced his way to Minnesota. Why? Revenge.

Boos rained down at Lambeau Field, but Favre got the last laugh as the Vikings won 38-26. The pettiness, the genuine disdain dripping from Favre at that moment in that game, was visible from a mile away.

This year we saw another example when Tom Brady returned to Foxborough and faced the New England Patriots. It wasn’t a personal vendetta Brady had against fans in New England or owner Robert Kraft. It was about wanting to go in and stick it to his former coach, Bill Belichick. While it was all coach speak and player platitudes leading up to the game, there was a clear sense of a “Let me show you” spot shining on Brady.

Sunday between the Rams and the Lions does not have those vibes.

The only thing to cling to as the pot tries to get stirred is that Goff still feels a little “sour” about how the trade went down, per DailyNews.com.

“There was some disrespect felt towards the end, there was some sourness there towards the end, and you still feel that, you still have that chip on your shoulder,” Goff said.

Favre and Brady likely felt the same way. And while they carried that attitude into their familiar-face-in-a-different-place game, Goff views it differently.

“When the game starts, if I let any of that come into how I’m going to play the game, it’ll be selfish,” Goff said. “And I’m gonna play the game just how I would any other game, and, to be honest, I’m not worried about feeling some type of way once the game starts.”

For what it’s worth, Rams head coach Sean McVay has mentioned his regrets about how the trade went down and how Goff found out.

On Monday, Rams coach Sean McVay said he felt some regret about the way the trade happened, coming together so quickly that reports of the agreement on Jan. 30 caught Goff and others off-guard.

“He’s a quality, class act. You know he’s always going to be honest, but he’s going to …” McVay said, trailing off as he discussed Goff. “He’s a great kid. He’s a great guy. I really enjoyed the time with him.”

Also, going against any revenge-game narratives is the Rams/Lions team aspect.

LA is 5-1 and a legitimate Super Bowl contender. They were good with Goff at quarterback, and they are great with Stafford. Meanwhile, the Lions are 0-6 and have fielded one of the worst rosters — maybe the worst — in all of the NFL this year.

Vikings-Packers is a rivalry standing alone. Having Favre wear the purple was a cherry on top. The Patriots replaced Brady two years later with rookie Mac Jones. Rookie vs. GOAT was an added subplot to Brady returning to New England to face the Patriots.

Stafford and Goff both come off as pretty chill guys and have carried themselves that way throughout their careers.

As for Stafford’s part in all of this, he isn’t taking the bait either when asked about what it will be like facing the Lions.

“As far as comparing it to Detroit, I’m not going to do it,” he continued. “I just know that I’m having a blast playing a bunch of football with some great players and great coaches. I loved my time in Detroit. I loved all the experiences that I had — some of them were tough, but they helped mold me into the player and the person I am today. I spent some really meaningful time in my life, both on and off the field, in Detroit and I really enjoyed all of it.”

Sunday’s game will be fascinating nonetheless. The outcome seems predictable, but these are two franchises in different places right now. Yet, it’s still Matthew Stafford, a fringe Hall of Fame player facing his former team, and it’s Jared Goff competing against former teammates who he helped get to a Super Bowl appearance in February of 2019. That alone carries some weight, but not nearly enough for this to be made into anything it’s not. Rams/Lions, Stafford vs. Goff is not a rivalry game in Week 7.

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