The Los Angeles Rams significantly upgraded at the quarterback position to start their offseason. Prior to the Super Bowl, the Rams traded quarterback Jared Goff in exchange for quarterback Matthew Stafford.
While the Rams were fine with Goff, there’s no doubt that Stafford from a talent perspective is more talented than Goff. Pair him with a play caller like Sean McVay and you have a quarterback who is primed for an MVP type season.
As it currently stands, Stafford has the fifth best odds behind Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Josh Allen, and Russell Wilson to win MVP next season. But what will it take exactly for Stafford to win MVP with the Rams next season? The Rams haven’t had a player win MVP since Kurt Warner won the award in 2001.
Despite giving up a lot of picks in the trade, what is exciting is that the Rams did get a player that is capable of winning an MVP award. At his best, Stafford is a top-10 quarterback in the NFL and in the right offense, he can elevate into the top-5. There are a handful of quarterbacks that have the arm talent that Matthew Stafford has.
Fans can point to his wins and his playoff failures, but doing so would ignore the obvious. Doing so would ignore the facts. While wins are important and quarterback wins aren’t a totally useless stat, it does take away from the situation that some quarterbacks are in.
Jared Goff won 44 games since being with the Rams in 2017. Are we to say Goff is better simply because he has more wins against Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers? Put those quarterbacks on the Rams this season, and Los Angeles doesn’t go 10-6. Instead you might have ended up with a 14-2 football team or better.
Matthew Stafford has only had four winning seasons in 12 years and made the playoffs three times. To act like that’s all on Stafford is ignoring the situation. In those 12 years, he’s also gone through three head coach and front office changes. Had he stayed in Detroit, it would have been his fourth.
In 12 years, the Lions has 11 100 yard rushers. That’s less than one 100 yard rusher per season. His most productive running back was a washed up Reggie Bush in 2013.
Last season, the Lions won just five games. That was a team that was without their number one wide receiver for all but five games and had the 32nd ranked defense. Despite that, the Lions won five games and of those five games, Stafford led a game-winning drive in four of them.
You can point to quarterback wins, but without Matthew Stafford, there is a good chance that the Lions are 1-15 not 5-11. That value.
Stafford has only played in three playoff games and gone 0-3 in those playoff games. However, in the three playoff games with Stafford under center, the Lions averaged less than 57 yards per game on the ground. The defense also allowed more than 442.7 yards per game. Since 1940, NFL teams have a 0.105 W-L% when they rush between 47-67 yards and allow between 412-472 yards in a playoff game.
Now, Stafford will get something he’s never had. Help and organizational competence.
Players around the NFL know how talented Stafford is. The Lions quarterback led Detroit to their best record since 1991. He’s on of only three quarterbacks to throw for over 4,750 yards in a season multiple times. The Lions have put together a streak of losing that is almost as impressive as the Patriots streak of winning.
It’s a lot harder to put up huge numbers when your team is bad—and a lot easier when you have a great head coach and are surrounded by talent. With the Rams, Matthew Stafford will have a top-5 head coach in Sean McVay. His wide receiver duo of Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods are a top-10 duo in the NFL. Stafford’s defenses have never had one premier talent, let alone two of the caliber of Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey.
McVay took Jared Goff and turned him into what some considered a fringe top-10 quarterback. This was after an 0-7 disastrous rookie season in which Goff didn’t look as if he could be saved. Goff went on to have the second and third best passing seasons in franchise history.
For the first time since his rookie season, the Rams felt like Goff was holding them back and he couldn’t be saved. With Stafford available, they knew he provided a significant upgrade.
Is it far off to say that a better talent in Stafford could surpass that? Or that Stafford could even surpass Warner’s mark of 4,830 yards?
Former Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur left the Rams and eventually ended up in Green Bay with the most talented quarterback in the NFL in Rodgers. McVay saw won LaFleur could do with Rodgers first-hand in the final game that the team played this season.
For the first time in two years, we could see the Rams offense of 2017 and 2018. If that’s the case and Stafford does put up 4600+ yards, 30+ touchdowns, and the Rams do end up with 13 wins, not only will the trade for Stafford be considered a success, Stafford will be recognized for the things he was never recognized for in Detroit.
Detroit had bad protection and were without their number one receiver for all but five games. The Lions still ranked 14th in passing DVOA. Despite a much better supporting cast, the Rams ranked 20th. Stafford has an ability to thrive under pressure and take advantage of his all-time great arm talent. This alone will make Sean McVay’s life as a play caller much easier.
Stafford gave the Lions his best effort and elite play for a long time and they failed to take advantage. The Rams are going into 2021 with a championship or bust mentality. Some might not think that Stafford isn’t truly a top-10 quarterback. However, having McVay in his corner could allow him to play like one – similar to Goff in 2017 and 2018.
If the Rams take advantage of Stafford, he’ll be in the MVP conversation.