Matthew Stafford will finally define his NFL legacy with LA Rams

Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports /

The LA Rams, without their deliberate effort, have placed a fork into the career path of veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford. In the past, he has been a quarterback without the benefit of a dependable running attack. So his offenses over the years have been about passing the ball down the field. While that set the defensive focus upon defending the pass, it also ensured that the passer would get his throws.

The Detroit Lions have had successful seasons with Stafford under center, but they were not a successful team under his leadership. His career-winning record is 74-90-1. But to be honest, that is only part of the story.  The NFL narratives tend to give quarterbacks too much credit in victory, and too much blame for any defeat. Stafford did his part, throwing for 45,109 yards (that’s over 25.6 miles) and 282 touchdowns with 144 interceptions.

After all that production, after playing as a starting quarterback for 12 NFL seasons and 165 NFL games, we truly cannot pinpoint with any accuracy just how good he is. On one side of the room, there is a host of NFL experts, analysts, and current NFL executives, coaches, and players who swear that Matthew Stafford is a uniquely gifted talent. Clearly, the LA Rams and a majority of current head coaches and NFL general managers belong to this group.

Tap those Stafford preseason takes

But there is the other faction, the more verbal faction that is stuck on the win-loss record, or their own favorite player, and they are unwilling to budge from their own cemented-in-place opinion.

To be perfectly honest, there are flaws in the armor of Stafford’s statistics. Playing for an underwhelming team may not promote facing the toughest and stiffest defensive efforts from the opposing team. Playing from behind allows the opportunity for comeback victories, but it also gives more likelihood that Stafford has faced more than his share of NFL prevent defenses.

Did defenses suffer letdowns after running up the score on the Lions’ defense, and then played softer against Stafford as the minutes ran out? Was there some percentage of Stafford’s yardage that was gifted to him by defensive backs playing 20+ yards off the line of scrimmage, and was that percentage greater than the norm?

Sorting it all out

It’s all too much to sort out in one season. But the LA Rams have an alternative option for Stafford this year. The Rams offensive game plan is one of the toughest offenses to run.  Stafford was hand-picked by the Rams head coach Sean McVay to run this offense. Now, the rest is up to Matthew Stafford. Did they miscalculate the fit? Did they overestimate the player? Did they overcomplicate the 2021 offensive playbook to take advantage of Stafford’s talents?

Or will this go off without a hitch, and the Rams offense will truly rebound as one of the most explosive score-producing offenses in the NFL? After all, the story so far is that the Rams offense would be much better with a better quarterback, and after lobbying the owner to approve a trade for Matthew Stafford, there should be no excuse.

Yes, I’m optimistic. 5000 passing yards and 40 touchdowns out of Stafford this season would not surprise me in the least.  He may do less. He may do more.

We’ve talked at length about what Matthew Stafford brings to this offense, and what this offense can unlock for him in terms of weapons and firepower. But we failed to gravitate to one of the most important aspects of Stafford this season.

Matthew Stafford is one of the most competitive players in the NFL. He’s thrown for a winning touchdown despite going back onto the field with a separated shoulder. He’s shaken off injuries that have benched lesser players for months. Now, that same competitive spirit will be firing up the offense in each huddle. What will Stafford’s NFL legacy become?

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We’ll all know at the end of this season.  Until then, we’ll just need to pass the popcorn and enjoy the show.