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Lions QB Jared Goff says trade from Rams will 'never leave me'

Sunday's Super Wild Card Weekend showdown between the Los Angeles Rams and NFC North champion Detroit Lions is chock full of storylines.

One doesn't have to look too far back in the past, or scan down the roster beyond quarterback to find the connections. Jared Goff and Matthew Stafford are forever tied together because of the 2021 trade that sent the former to Detroit, and the latter to Los Angeles, where he won a Super Bowl at the end of the 2021 season.

Goff certainly hasn't forgotten the life-changing deal, and the disrespect that came with it.

"Of course," Goff told ESPN on Wednesday. "I think it'll never leave me, and I think that's a good thing."

The Rams shipped Goff and picks to Detroit in exchange for Stafford in a deal that produced an instant (and necessary) upgrade under center, supplying Rams head coach Sean McVay with the veteran quarterback he so desperately desired after he concluded he could never win a title with Goff. Ahead of their wild-card matchup, McVay admitted the manner in which Los Angeles sent Goff eastward wasn't the cleanest.

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If anything, it was an emotionless dumping of Goff in pursuit of a title.

"The thing that I'll never run away from are mistakes that I've made in previous instances," McVay said, via ESPN. "But when you look back on it, the gratitude for those four years, all the good memories that we had. And then when you end up making a change, that ended up being difficult. And could it have been handled better on my end? Absolutely. And I'll never run away from that.

"But the further you get away from it, the more that you try to grow as a man, as a person, as the leader that you want to become. He deserved better than the way that it all went down. I'll acknowledge that. And I think he knows that, too. And I'm not afraid to admit to those things, but I think we're all better being able to look back on those things. And I do have more appreciation for him as time goes on."

McVay won the title he sought with Stafford, guiding an all-in Rams team to football glory in Super Bowl LVI. The nightmarish season that followed forced McVay to pay a hefty price, but a year later, he's led the Rams back to the playoffs with a healthy Stafford, who is playing some of the best ball of his career -- a career that began in and lasted in Detroit for 12 seasons.

Stafford's run with the Lions ended only because it it seemed he likely wouldn't have a chance to seriously chase a title in Detroit before his career was through. Sensing this, Detroit sent him west, receiving a haul of draft capital in return. Goff was included in the trade as a replacement for Stafford, but wasn't considered to be much more than a bridge quarterback to the Lions' next face of the franchise.

Since then, Goff has enjoyed a remarkable renaissance under Dan Campbell and offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, finishing second in passing yards (4,575) in the NFL this season -- nine places ahead of Stafford.

Nearly three years after the trade, the two teams will clash in a place Stafford knows well. Each has plenty to prove, starting with Goff. Nothing would be more satisfying to him than winning a playoff game for Detroit. Taking down his former coach -- whom Goff still credits for helping him graduate to the pro level -- would be the cherry on top.

"Obviously, we had our differences there at the end, but he's a great coach," Goff said of McVay. "He's a guy that taught me a lot. ...

"I so badly want to win a playoff game for this city that hasn't had one in so long. We've got a home playoff game for the first time in so long and that's so much more important than anything personally for me. I want to be a part of this win and do my job the best of my ability."

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