The Los Angeles Rams pulled off a blockbuster trade with the Detroit Lions. But does the trade for Matthew Stafford leave the Rams any better off?
At this time in his career, is Stafford even an upgrade over Goff?
Matthew Stafford turned 33 years old the day before I wrote today’s post. And his predecessor, Jared Goff, is a good 6 years younger. This means the Rams obviously believe Stafford is an upgrade.
But should you take the bait?
If you’re trying to decide whether the Rams make a good futures bet, you need to ask yourself about more than just the quarterback position. Sure, Stafford has put up decent numbers throughout his career.
But remember that the Rams play in the NFL’s toughest division. Also, they gave up a lot for Stafford. Meaning the pressure is on that they are in win-now mode.
Let’s explore this quagmire further.
Is Stafford an Upgrade?
In 2020, Stafford put up gaudy numbers. He averaged 7.7 yards per pass attempt, threw for 26 touchdowns as opposed to 10 interceptions, threw for over 4,000 yards, and posted a 96.3 quarterback rating.
But he won just 5 games.
Let’s look at Goff’s numbers.
Goff averaged 7.2 yards per attempt, threw 20 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions. He also threw for 3,952 yards in 15 games instead of the 16 that Stafford started. He posted a 90.0 quarterback rating.
But, Goff finished the season at 9-6 (John Wolford started and won the week 17 game against the Arizona Cardinals).
However, while Goff has been to the Super Bowl and has won a few playoff games since his rookie year in 2016, Stafford is 0-3 in the playoffs. Sure, Stafford’s numbers put Goff’s to shame. But who is the winning quarterback here?
Now, let’s be fair.
Stafford had the dishonor of playing for the Detroit Lions. A team that has been knocked around for the greater portion of 6 decades.
But there is also the age factor. And although a 43-year-old just led his team to a Super Bowl Championship, Stafford probably won’t play until he reaches Tom Brady’s age.
Unlike Brady, Stafford has been beaten, battered, and banged up throughout his career. On the opposite end, Brady has suffered just one serious injury back in 2008. Other than that, Brady has barely made it into the weekly injury report. Stafford often makes annual trips, despite starting most of the time.
How durable is Stafford compared to Goff?
The latter of whom has only missed 2 games since his second season in 2017. The year after he started on a part-time basis in 2016.
What does the trade for Matthew Stafford, in which the Rams gave up first-round draft picks in 2022 and 2023, tell us?
Rams Are in Win-Now Mode
They are obviously in win-now mode.
And it’s clear that everyone’s job, including that of head coach Sean McVay, is on the line.
And McVay has done an excellent job since taking over for the Rams in 2017. But in the NFL, it’s Super Bowl Championship or bust. Every coach in the league is on a short leash. And although McVay has yet to experience a losing season, his seat just got hotter.
He didn’t win with Goff.
So the team went out and got Stafford.
If he doesn’t win with Stafford over the next 2 to 3 seasons, expect change.
Unfortunately, Stafford hasn’t even won a division title despite his 12 years serving as a franchise quarterback in the NFL.
That should tell you a lot before you place a futures bet on the Los Angeles Rams.
Their quarterback may win you a championship in fantasy football. But your ‘Blinks’ (hey, I’m not creative with fantasy football names) who just won the title and the championship belt you’re boasting on your mantle doesn’t reflect reality. Stafford wins plenty of championships in fantasy football.
But he has won nothing in real life.
And starting in 2021, they’re asking a lot from the Rams and Sean McVay regarding Stafford. Stafford’s supposed to be “the guy” who can take this team back to the Super Bowl. Sooner than later. Because you don’t trade two first-round picks for an aging quarterback unless you expect to win now.
Just as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn’t sign a 43-year-old quarterback (42 in March 2020) to build a team around for the next 5 seasons. They signed Brady because they knew he was the last puzzle piece they needed to win the Super Bowl.
The Rams are in the same boat here in 2021.
But unlike Brady and the Bucs, the Rams have a lot more competition within their own division. Which alone may keep them out of the playoffs.
The NFC West
Unfortunately for the Rams, they’re playing in the same division as some of the NFL’s best football teams.
The Seattle Seahawks are always in contention to win a division title. And although the Rams knocked them out of the 2020-21 NFL Playoffs, the Seahawks still snatched the division and so long as they have Russell Wilson at quarterback and Pete Carroll manning the ship, they’re always a thorn in the Rams’ side.
If it wasn’t for an injury bug, the San Francisco 49ers would’ve finished better than 7-9. The team has forged an identity of running the ball, throwing when necessary, and winning games with a strong defense.
Obviously, an injury bug will change that and it left the Niners in the NFC West’s cellar. It won’t happen again next year unless the team suffers another rash of injuries. But don’t count on it.
The Arizona Cardinals are the wildcard. They won a few games they shouldn’t have in 2020. And they’re probably just one solid draft away from making serious noise, not just in the NFC West, but in the NFC. If the Cardinals give the offense another playmaker, the entire division is in trouble.
The only knock with Arizona is their love for Kliff Kingsbury. The college-esque coach suffered losses that involved poor game planning, low success after timeout rate, and clock mismanagement. But if he learns from those mistakes, the Cardinals will also contend.
Unfortunately for the Rams and Stafford, it seems like déjà vu. For Stafford, anyway. Having come from a stacked NFC North to a stacked NFC West.
Will Stafford finally break those demons and win the first division title of his career?
History says no.
Defense Wins Championships
Now, for the upside.
The Los Angeles Rams had one of the best defenses in football in 2020.
Something Stafford never had with the Detroit Lions. So if you think this post has bashed Matthew Stafford and that the Los Angeles Rams are a poor futures bet, think again.
Let’s face it. Stafford has put up numbers that could even be Hall of Fame worthy down the road. He’s certainly going into the Lions’ Hall of Fame or Ring of Honor. In fact, he’s a shoo-in.
But one major reason Stafford never even sniffed a division title or a playoff win is because he always dealt with poor defense. It’s almost like every single coaching staff he ever had relied on him and his offense.
Only once did the Lions allow under 300 points during Stafford’s tenure. That came in 2014, when they allowed 282 points, good for just 17.6 points per game.
Their second best year regarding points allowed during Stafford’s time in the Motor City?
It happened in 2016, when they allowed 358 points, or 21.9 points per game. They finished 9-7 that season, and it was the penultimate season for former head coach Jim Caldwell. Who also manned the ship when the Lions allowed just 282 in 2014.
It shows just how many points Stafford needed to put up to keep his team in games.
Fortunately, the Rams allowed just 296 points in 2020. An improvement from the 364 points they allowed in 2019.
They also have the best player in football, per Pro Football Focus, in defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Yeah, finally a ranking where quarterbacks don’t dominate the top spot. And they also have arguably the best corner in football in Jalen Ramsey.
And you can place a safe bet the Rams defense should only get better. They had a lot of younger players lining up on defense in 2020. So expect an even greater version of the Los Angeles Rams defense in 2021.
And that will work wonders for Matthew Stafford.
The Los Angeles Rams are taking a gamble in trading for Matthew Stafford. And the only year you should worry about placing a futures bet on them is the current year, given their loss of draft capital for 2022 and 2023.
Also, the trade for Stafford shows us that the team has entered win-now mode. Rams brass wants a championship, and they’re pulling out all the stops.
But Stafford has never won a division title. He’s only made a handful of trips to the playoffs, winning none of them. And here he is at 33, entering possibly the last laps of his career. The odds aren’t in his favor.
Unless you count that stingy defense. And if you’re placing futures bets on the Rams, you must believe they will win games on defense.
Do you like the Rams for a futures bet in 2021? Let us know in the comments.
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