It was a Saturday evening, exactly two weeks after the season ended in a divisional playoff loss, and Los Angeles Rams receiver Robert Woods was in disbelief as he read a social media post from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
It said the Detroit Lions were trading quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Rams in exchange for quarterback Jared Goff, two first-round picks and a third-round pick.
"I really just didn't think it was real," said Woods, who played four seasons with Goff. "Seeing it and thinking it was fake and then kind of going and searching and seeing it was true, it really just shocked me."
A swap of quarterbacks in the NFL is uncommon, let alone two who were each selected with the first overall pick in their respective draft classes, Stafford in 2009 and Goff in 2016. In fact, the blockbuster deal marked the first exchange of No. 1 picks in the common draft era.
It makes Sunday's game at SoFi Stadium, when the Rams play host to the Lions (4:05 p.m. ET, Fox), that much more intriguing. It's the first reunion of Rams coach Sean McVay and Goff, his quarterback of four seasons who said this week a "sourness" remains from the trade. Stafford requested a trade from the Lions after 12 seasons and three winless playoff appearances.
"Hopefully he does well," Woods said about Goff, a smile growing, "but not too well."
Rams tight end Tyler Higbee was out visiting friends in St. Petersburg, Florida, when his phone rang.
"'Ty! The Rams traded Jared for Stafford!'" Higbee recalled his dad saying when he answered, as mixed emotions began to overcome him. "Jared's my guy, we came in the same class together, so been with him the last five years, obviously friends off the field, too, but also understand that's part of the business."
Rams receiver Cooper Kupp was at home with family when an ESPN breaking news alert appeared on his phone.
"I remember thinking, initially it just goes to, 'I can't believe this is happening,'" Kupp said. "But I think then the reaction is just the fact, I mean, thinking about my friend who now is moving on."
In Detroit, Stafford's teammates felt stunned, but weren't exactly shocked the Lions traded Stafford, understanding their quarterback wanted a change of scenery.
Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson had a piña colada in hand as he, like Rams coach Sean McVay and Stafford, was vacationing in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, when he heard the news.
"I texted [Stafford] and I called him," said Hockenson, a teammate of two years. "I was like, 'Hey man, I appreciate you.'"
"I was just like 'damn.' I kind of expected that he was gonna leave, but I didn't really know," Lions safety Tracy Walker said. "But, I was just like I wish him the best. It's all love. That's the nature of this business."
Walker picked off Stafford in practice in Detroit, and admitted it's among his favorite memories. What about the chance to pick him off in a game?
"I'm gonna make him sign it just because," Walker said. "It's all good."
How has the trade worked out so far?
Great for the Rams, not so great for Detroit.
The Rams are 5-1, and Stafford has been the catalyst for an exciting brand of football in a city that demands entertainment. He has invigorated McVay as a playcaller and the offense has awakened from a slumber, jumping from No. 23 in scoring last season to No. 5, improving from an average of 21.4 points per game to 29.8.
In Detroit, the Lions are 0-6, the last winless team in the league. They've lost two games on last-second, 50-plus yard field goals, and last Sunday, Goff and the offense trotted off the field to a chorus of boos inside Ford Field.
But it's not just Goff and the offense, ranked No. 27 and scoring an average of 18.2 points per game, that are struggling. The Lions have been dealt a ton of injuries, including to their third-round pick, cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu, who they drafted with the pick they received in the trade.
How has each quarterback performed?
Stafford has provided a weekly highlight reel of deep completions, no-look passes and throws that come within inches of defenders but instead fall perfectly into the hands of a receiver in stride.
"Just [have] all the confidence in him, making every single throw downfield, intermediate, short, screens, no-look passes," Woods said, "... but really just spreading the ball around."
Despite a few slow starts and intermittent periods of inconsistency, Stafford ranks No. 1 in total QBR (75.0) and his 16 passing touchdowns through six games are the most in NFL history in a player's first six games with a team, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Meanwhile, Goff has struggled with minimal help from a supporting cast in the rebuilding phase.
He ranks No. 29 in QBR (32.9), No. 31 in yards per attempt (6.3), and owns the longest active losing streak by a starting quarterback -- nine games, including playoffs, dating to last season. Last Sunday in a loss to the Bengals, he threw for 38 yards in the first half, drawing boos.
But the sixth-year quarterback has faced up to his mistakes and knows he must be better for the Lions to even be competitive.
"There's been good, there's been bad, there's been stuff to work on," Goff said. "Everyone's got their things that they're working on, and I'm no different."
Where can these teams go with their quarterbacks?
With Stafford's big-play potential, the Rams have their sights set on Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13, 2022, in front of a hometown crowd at SoFi Stadium.
"Going back to when this all went down, it was more about the opportunity to acquire Matthew and what we felt like that meant for our football team," McVay said. "... we felt [the trade] was a rare opportunity to acquire a player of Matthew's caliber, that those opportunities just don't come up often."
The Rams have a 96.7% chance to make the playoffs, 16.6 percent chance to appear in the Super Bowl and 9% chance to win it, according to ESPN's Football Power Index.
The Lions, on the other hand, just want to be competitive.
They won't make the playoffs this season, and likely next season, too. But under Goff, they can at least hope to remain in games.
Lions coach Dan Campbell has expressed optimism Goff can lead them to wins, but in reality, even at his best, there has to be a moral victory for Goff to help his team stay in games with their current lineup.
"He's a pure passer, man. He can throw the football and if you give him a minute, give him a little protection and let him see it, I think he can make some pinpoint throws," Campbell said. "He can just slice you up when he gets in a rhythm because he did it to us every year [in New Orleans] and we had a damn good defense."
Who won the trade?
There's no doubt, at least in the short-term, that the Rams came out as the winner.
Stafford provided an immediate upgrade at quarterback and has the tools to lead them to a Super Bowl victory.
However, short of the Rams winning a title while Stafford is under contract the next two seasons, this trade can't truly be evaluated in the short term.
The Lions will draft toward the top of the first round in 2022 (No. 1 if they continue on their current track), and then they'll also make a second first-round selection with the pick sent from the Rams -- likely late in the first round.
In 2023, rinse and repeat, with the Lions likely bound for another early first-round pick, followed by the other first-rounder sent from L.A., likely late in the round.
Giving up those first-round picks could prove costly for the Rams down the road. However, despite mortgaging future first-round selections, if the Rams win the Super Bowl this season or next, consider this trade a massive win in L.A.
And if the Lions can make the most of their four first-round picks over the next two years, it's a win in Detroit, too.