The biggest move that the Los Angeles Rams made last offseason was the trade for quarterback Matthew Stafford. However, not only was it a big move, it was also a risky one. The team already had a serviceable quarterback in Jared Goff. They had shown that they can win with him, making the Super Bowl in 2018. As 2019 and 2020 showed though, Goff alone could only take them so far.
That thought process triggered the move for Stafford. With that said, Stafford came with his own question marks. While the talent was obvious as was the football intelligence, Stafford had been on a losing franchise for 12 years with minimal team support. We know the narratives at this point. Stafford never won the big one in Detroit, had suffered his fair share of bumps and bruises, and made just one Pro Bowl.
Would Stafford’s individual success be able to translate to a better team. After trading away two first round picks in addition to Goff, the Rams needed it to. Through the first five games it has. In fact, it can be argued that the Rams got exactly what they traded for: Matthew Stafford playing at a MVP level.
Let’s play a friendly game of “Name that Player:”
Player A: 4-1, 1,587 yds, 12 TDs, 3 INTs, 113.2 Rating
Player B: 4-1, 1,374 yds, 13 TDs, 2 INTs, 109.7 Rating.
Player C: 3-2, 1,271 yds, 11 TDs, 5 INTs, 99.1 Rating
Player D: 5-0, 1,513 yds, 14 TDs, 2 INTs, 112.7 Rating
Can you name the players?
Player A is Matthew Stafford this season with the Los Angeles Rams. The other three?
Aaron Rodgers last season when he won MVP is Player B. Player C is Lamar Jackson in his MVP season in 2019. Lastly, Player D is Patrick Mahomes‘ MVP season through five weeks in 2018. Stafford has the most yards and the best passer rating out of any of them.
It’s not just that Stafford is outperforming past MVPs through five weeks either in some areas. While Justin Herbert, Josh Allen, and Kyler Murray currently lead the MVP discussion, Matthew Stafford should absolutely be in the conversation. Looking at the numbers of those quarterbacks through five weeks:
Justin Herbert: 4-1, 1,576 yards 13 TDs, 3 INTs, 104.7 Rating
Josh Allen: 4-1, 1,370 yards, 12 TDs, 2 INTs, 102.5 Rating
Kyler Murray: 5-0, 1,512 yards, 10 TDs, 4 INTs, 113 Rating
Based on the raw numbers that a lot of the MVP voters will look at, Stafford is leading. The Rams quarterback has the most yards and outside of Murray, has a passer rating almost 10 full points higher.
It doesn’t stop there though. When looking at the deeper analytics, Stafford ranks at or near the top in a majority of those categories as well. On a completion percentage above expected plus efficiency per play level, Stafford trails just Kyler Murray in the MVP discussion.
Highest-graded QBs through 5 weeks:
1. Tom Brady
2. Russell Wilson
3. Justin Herbert
4. Kirk Cousins
5. Ryan Tannehill pic.twitter.com/QNOGIwshbn
— Computer Cowboy (@benbbaldwin) October 11, 2021
It doesn’t just stop with numbers such as completion percentage over expectation and EPA. While those numbers show how much Stafford is adding to the offense and his overall efficiency, they don’t necessarily show his overall value. According to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, Stafford leads the entire NFL with 35.2%. In other words’ he’s playing 35.2% better than the average quarterback. That number is almost 10% higher than Patrick Mahomes at 26.9%.
Stafford also ranks second in DYAR which gives the value of the quarterback’s performance compared to replacement level, adjusted for situation and opponent and then translates it into yardage. The Los Angeles Rams quarterback has 542 yards more than the average quarterback in his situations and trails only Tom Brady. In ESPN’s QBR, Stafford also trails only Tom Brady.
Updated list of relevant Matthew Stafford rankings after 5 games with Rams.
INT% (16) pic.twitter.com/iXyEprC9Bx
— J.B. Long (@JB_Long) October 12, 2021
To show just how valuable Stafford is to the Rams offense, we’ll take a look at Pro Football Networks OVM (Offensive Value Metric). In OVM Stafford ranks ninth with a score of 28.96. Among those in the MVP conversation, Stafford trails only Murray who has a score just .26 points ahead of him and ranks eighth.
As mentioned, it’s hard to find a metric in which Stafford isn’t at or near the top. And if he’s not at the top, he’s at the very least close with those who are also considered the leaders of the MVP conversation. The even more impressive part is that Stafford is doing this among the league’s top competition.
Stafford best game to this point arguably came against the defending Super Bowl champions. Stafford’s second half against the Seahawks on Thursday Night was almost flawless. Many asked if Stafford was capable of winning the big game. He’s not only won them, but he’s played well in them.
— Tej Seth (@tejfbanalytics) October 8, 2021
Four of the Los Angeles Rams’ first five opponents were in the playoffs last year. The Rams are 4-0 in those games. In those games, Stafford has 1,305 yards, 10 touchdowns, two interceptions, and has a passer rating of 140.0.
The NFL leaders in Week 5 are rarely the same leaders of the MVP conversation through Week 18. Had that been the case last year, it would have been Allen or Mahomes who won the award, not Rodgers. Stafford needs to be able to keep up this level of play through the entire season.
And while individual awards are nice, it’s been a bad omen for those looking to win a Super Bowl title. The last time a quarterback won MVP and the Super Bowl in the same season was 1999. Of course, the quarterback that season was Kurt Warner and the team he played for was the Rams.
Matthew Stafford was given the challenge of proving that he could elevate his play and the play of the Rams offense. The Rams needed not just a quarterback that they could win with – they had that in Jared Goff. They needed a quarterback who they could rely on when given more responsibility in the offense. The Rams didn’t just need Stafford to outperform Goff, they needed him to perform among the league’s best. Through five weeks, he’s shown that.