Barry Sanders Says Matthew Stafford Coming Back in 2021

Read more on what Barry Sanders told SiriusXM NFL Radio about Matthew Stafford's future in Detroit and the Lions' head coaching search.
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Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions, the only organization No. 9 has played for since he was drafted No. 1 overall in 2009, are on the verge of an amicable divorce this offseason. Or are they? 

Lions legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Barry Sanders doesn't share the sentiment, and instead expects Stafford to be back for a 13th season in the Motor City in 2021. 

"My understanding is that he’s completely and certainly planning to come back. The guy’s still playing at a high level. It’s great to see him this year remain healthy," Sanders said in an interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio Wednesday. "So yeah, I mean, maybe that’ll be the thing that he needs or that he can benefit from. But, I know that he’s still playing at a high level, and so I would think that he would figure into any future plans for anyone coming in here." 

Sanders provides update on team's coaching search

Sanders, who is a part of the franchise's advisory committee for hiring its next head coach and general manager, also shared some interesting comments regarding the status of the team's coaching search during the interview. 

According to Sanders, former Detroit Pro Bowl linebacker Chris Spielman, who was hired in December to be a special assistant to team president Rod Wood, is "kind of heading the search," and a college coach being tabbed as Matt Patricia's replacement shouldn't be ruled out. 

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"From what I understand, there’s definitely some college coaches involved in our process of who Chris (Spielman) is looking at," Sanders said. "He’s taking a good look at both. And so yeah, to answer your question, there’s some great college coaches out there that could step in and do the job. And obviously, there’s offensive and defensive coordinators in the league, as well, that are being looked at. So, that’s kind of how we’re looking at it." 

Recently, Iowa State's Matt Campbell and Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald have been bandied about as college head men that could step up to the NFL ranks one day -- and sooner than later. 

However, neither of them has interviewed for the Lions opening as of yet, and so far in the hiring process, the organization has failed to bring in a single coach from the college ranks for an interview. 

Detroit's present list of interviewed candidates is the following: Former Cincinnati Bengals head man Marvin Lewis, Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Lions interim head coach Darrell Bevell, San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, New Orleans Saints tight ends coach/assistant head man Dan Campbell and Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. 

Detroit is set to conclude its first round of interviews Friday when it meets with ex-N.Y. Jets head coach and current Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles

No matter if the franchise's next head man comes from the collegiate or pro ranks, Sanders believes that the individual must be someone who commands the "respect" of his players and is able to "reach" them.

As he put it, Patricia's successor should be "someone who can really speak to the players and really meet them at their level. I mean, you have, in a given locker room, you have wide ranges of ages and experiences and talent levels, and even levels of motivation, so that you can have someone that can really reach these guys and get them to understand it is a great opportunity coming to a program where maybe you haven’t won. But, you can establish that reputation."

Sanders has a point. 

The organization's next head coach better garner the respect of his players over time and be able to connect with them and get them to play hard for him. 

If not, the Lions run the risk of having a repeat of the failed Patricia tenure.

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