According to The Athletic’s Stephen Holder (subscription), it was not just the exorbitant draft pick compensation that precluded the Indianapolis Colts from ultimately closing the deal on former Detroit Lions franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford—who ended up going to Los Angeles in a blockbuster trade.
The Colts also internally questioned whether Stafford could take the team to a Super Bowl—which was another consideration entirely:
“But the Colts’ reluctance to make this deal wasn’t merely about the compensation,” Holder writes. “There also was uncertainty about Stafford being the difference between a first-round playoff exit and, say, the Super Bowl, for Indianapolis.”
Which Holder himself even clarified a bit:
Glad you caught that. That was not MY thought. That was a question that was asked internally. And I think it's a fair question. Everyone's answers may vary. https://t.co/hu4fkT4RzD— Stephen Holder (@HolderStephen) February 2, 2021
It’s a fair question too.
The 33 year old Stafford would’ve assuredly been an upgrade over the 39 year old Philip Rivers, who was in the twilight of his playing career, given the 2009 #1 overall pick’s youth, cannon for an arm (even if it came with a little less accuracy), and improved mobility over his theoretical Indianapolis predecessor.
The Colts could’ve made a deeper AFC playoff push with Stafford, and realistically, in my honest opinion, at least an AFC Championship Game appearance—with a well-rounded, complete roster.
Maybe even further with the right breaks—but it’s not a certainty that Stafford leads them to a Super Bowl because he isn’t a Top 7 NFL quarterback right now (although I wouldn’t be surprised if Stafford is a fringe Top 10 league quarterback in Rams head coach Sean McVay’s offensive system going forward).
The ultimate goal is winning a Super Bowl, and if the Colts weren’t completely confident that Stafford could eventually take them to the promised land—then there’s no logical reason for them to meet the excessively heavy price tag (two future first round picks+) that the Rams outbid the rest of the competition on.
Of course, time will tell whether the Colts will be proven right or wrong, but at the same time, it’s not as though Indianapolis wasn’t interested either—just not at that premium cost.