It was arguably the move of the offseason. Despite a third playoff appearance in four years, the Los Angeles Rams weren’t satisfied. After a weekend in Cabo, Sean McVay and the Rams traded quarterback Jared Goff and two first round picks for quarterback Matthew Stafford.
It’s only been six weeks, but the rewards have been obvious. The difference at the quarterback position has been obvious. McVay and the Rams have a quarterback that can do few things that other quarterbacks around the league can do. There are only a handful of quarterbacks, if that, that will even attempt and complete a ‘no-look’ pass.
This week, Jared Goff will make his much-anticipated return to Los Angeles. We can discuss all day the differences and how much better off the Rams are at the positions. We’ll get to that. First, it is very much worth mentioning the good things that Goff did when he was in Los Angeles.
We’ll start with his effect in the community. Throughout his four years in Los Angeles, Goff was a staple in the Los Angeles community. Goff helped fundraise for victims of the Southern California fires and the Borderline Shooting in Thousand Oaks. He went to school to read to kids and even helped renovate a library in Inglewood. Goff wasn’t just a player on the field, but also a big player in the community.
On the field, Goff’s 2016 season didn’t go as planned. However, in 2017 and 2018, he helped reinvigorate football in Los Angeles. In 2018, he went throw-for-throw with Kirk Cousins in a high scoring game against the Vikings. Later on in the year, he outplayed Patrick Mahomes in a 54-51 shootout with the Chiefs that happened very shortly after the Southern California fires. The win against the Chiefs was one that the community needed to help lift its spirits.
In the playoffs, Goff rallied the Los Angeles Rams back from 13-0 against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans against Sean Payton and Drew Brees. It was his throws to Brandin Cooks that set up a touchdown before halftime. It was his throws to Tyler Higbee that set up game-tying and game-winning kick for Greg Zuerlein.
Some called Goff a system quarterback. But it wasn’t McVay those throws and pulling the strings – that was Jared Goff.
In the words of Thomas Rhett, that 2018 season was unforgettable.
It’s also very much worth pointing out Goff’s last win as a Ram. e marched into Lumen Field in Seattle, not starting the game, and gutted out a win with a broken thumb. Not many quarterbacks would do that.
What some have failed to do, is move on from that 2018 season. Somewhere along the line, Jared Goff was not that same quarterback that he was in 2018. Sure, the offensive line can take some of the blame for the 2019 struggles. However, in 2020, it was blatantly obvious that Goff was no longer that quarterback.
Tua Tagovailoa threw for 96 yards in a Dolphins win against the Rams in which Jared Goff looked overwhelmed. The 0-13 Jets forced Goff into mistakes that led to a Rams loss.
Still, some fans held hope that maybe, just maybe, Goff could return to the quarterback that he once was. After all, he was going into his age 27 season. Other pocket passers turned it around in their age 27 season.
Names like Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Phillip Rivers Matthew Stafford all trended up after their age 26 seasons. Goff had similar numbers than Peyton Manning and the others heading into his age 27 season. It must be connected, right? We need to give Goff more time.
However, and it hurts to state the obvious, maybe Jared Goff just isn’t Peyton Manning or other Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Maybe we shouldn’t use raw numbers like quarterback wins, yards, and pro bowls to compare quarterbacks of different eras.
It was like a relationship that had gone bad. Goff truthers were waiting for the slight chance that Goff would maybe return to the player that he once was when the relationship was so good. However, people change and maybe he just wasn’t that player anymore.
Jared Goff is 0-13 without Sean McVay as his head coach. At this point in his career, Jared Goff is who he is. Last season, Goff averaged 6.5 air yards per attempt with the Los Angeles Rams. This season, he’s averaging 6.5 air yards per attempt with the Detroit Lions. In other words, Goff is the same quarterback that the Rams traded away, just with worse receivers. He’s still not pushing the ball downfield and he’s still turning the ball over.
No, Goff doesn’t have a lot of help, but he also hasn’t been playing particularly well on an individual level. Goff has done very little to elevate talent around him. He’s missing open throws and throwing the ball away inexplicably on 4th-and-4. He has eight turnovers this season which ranks bottom-5 in the NFL. Two of those players are rookies Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson, one is Sam Darnold, and the other is Patrick Mahomes. However, Goff doesn’t the individual talent to overcome the mistakes.
Meanwhile, Stafford has turned the ball over four times and has yet to fumble this season.
Matthew Stafford got criticized for padding his stats in the fourth quarter – a false narrative by the way. Meanwhile 697 of Jared Goff’s 1,505 yards (46%) this season have come in the fourth quarter. Only 96 of those yards have come when the Lions have been within seven.
One could argue that Goff just doesn’t have the team around him to succeed in Detroit. However, last year he had the weapons, he had the offensive scheme, and he had the defense. He still made the crucial mistakes and was unable to elevate the team around him.
It would be unfair to compare Matthew Stafford to Jared Goff in their current situations. Comparing Stafford to the offense last year, however, and the change is very noticeable.
The Los Angeles Rams came into this season wanting a quarterback who not only could, but was willing to push the ball down the field. Stafford’s intended air yards per throw is 9.1 which is the sixth-highest mark in the league. As mentioned earlier. Goff’s was 6.5 in 2020.
Additionally, the Rams wanted a quarterback who could elevate and provide value to the offense – not just coast along with it. In 2020, Goff recorded a 0.4 completion percentage above expectation. This season, Stafford has a +1.6 completion percentage above expectation which ranks 13th in the NFL and is the same as Tom Brady. In Pro Football Focus’ Offensive Value Metric, Stafford has scored a 28.48 which ranks seventh in the NFL. That number is almost 10 points higher than Goff’s 19.74 in 2020.
The Rams were also looking for a quarterback who could push the ball down the field. To say they’ve gotten that out of Stafford is an understatement. Stafford has attempted throws of 20 yards or more 25 times this season. Of those, he’s completed 14. His 56% completion percentage on throws of 20 or more yards ranks second in the NFL behind only Kyler Murray. Goff completed 30% of those throws last season and his career high is 44% in 2018.
It would be redundant and tiresome to list every area in which Stafford has been better than Goff. But to make a long story short, the Rams got exactly what they wanted in the quarterback position. Matthew Stafford is playing at, or even at a slightly higher level than Goff was in 2017 and 2018. For what it’s worth, Stafford leads 2017 and 2018 Goff in both metrics above as well.
The Rams are no longer losing games because of the quarterback position. Even when Stafford makes the boneheaded error like the interception in the end zone against Seattle, he’s able to put together an impeccable second have to make it for naught.
This also goes deeper than just the numbers. Stafford is simply making throws that Goff has missed or not even attempted over the last two years.
This miss below came in Week 12 in a 23-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. On 1st-and-10 with a relative clean pocket, Goff overthrew and open Henderson that would have ended in a touchdown. The Rams ended up settling for a field goal. That’s a potential four point swing in a game the Rams lost by three.
Stafford hit this same throw on Sunday. pic.twitter.com/a1OEOlrDc2
— Blaine Grisak (@bgrisakDTR) October 20, 2021
Matthew Stafford hit the same throw to Henderson on Sunday against the Giants in arguably tighter coverage.
Stafford floats it to Henderson Jr. for 6️⃣
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) October 17, 2021
Also on Sunday, Goff missed a similar throw to TJ Hockenson. The Lions went for it on fourth down on the ensuing play. Goff didn’t see Swift open in the flat for the first down and instead threw the ball away for a turnover on downs.
Lions run the raven concept in a cool way. Send Hockenson out of the backfield to run the rail around the pick. Works perfectly but Goff misses the throw. pic.twitter.com/YrlgxJNFzW
— Mike (Sans) (@bengals_sans) October 19, 2021
Again, we could list these types of plays forever. The last one that I’ll point out is the throw to Kupp last week. It’s only Week 6 and Stafford already has a high level of confidence in his receivers. To complete this pass with the coverage that tight is a reason that the Los Angeles Rams made the trade. It’s only going to get better as well as the year goes on.
My favorite play from Week 6. Henderson and Rams OL get protection right. Then look at where CK10 is when MS9 decides to throw this. X marks spot of the perfectly layered throw & reception. Led to first touchdown after being stuck in 1st & 21. pic.twitter.com/Yk6VJs5isO
— J.B. Long (@JB_Long) October 20, 2021
This might be the best throw I've ever seen from Matthew Stafford and perhaps the one that sums up the upgrade Sean McVay and the Rams got at QB. pic.twitter.com/55upf5Lz95
— Johnny Kinsley (@Brickwallblitz) October 19, 2021
The differences between Goff and Stafford are obvious. The Rams clearly got an upgrade at the quarterback position and it will likely only cost them eaten cap space, two first round picks, and a below-average quarterbacks. While the trade will be judged on whether or not the Rams win a Super Bowl, Stafford has shown why the Los Angeles Rams made the trade.
On Sunday, he’ll be going up against his old team for the first time. Even though it’s not at Ford Field in Detroit, it will certainly still be an emotional moment.
On the other side, Goff should absolutely be cheered and given a standing ovation for his contribution to football in Los Angeles. He may not go down as the best quarterback in franchise history. That spot is left for Kurt Warner, Roman Gabriel, and Norm Van Brocklin. However, in that second tier with Jim Everett, Vince Ferragamo, and Marc Bulger, Goff absolutely is at or near the top of that list.