Why does LA Rams QB Matthew Stafford struggle like Jared Goff did last year?

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

We saw what a difference a veteran quarterback like Matthew Stafford could make in this LA Rams offense when the season began. Matthew Stafford set a tremendous pace for NFL quarterbacks, and his ability lifted the other players on the team to flirt with or set career highs. This was the best of all worlds.

The LA Rams brought plenty to the table. The team had a capable rushing attack, a stable filled with veteran talented receivers, and a potent defense that could keep the team in the game against even the most formidable opponent.

Matthew Stafford brought plenty to the table too. He had a strong passing arm, the ability to evade the pass rush, the ability to read the defense and know where to throw the ball, and most importantly, he had a far better track record of ball security.

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The combination seemed like the best of both worlds. Suddenly the Rams offense was scoring in less than a minute on huge passing plays. Deep pass plays to Van Jefferson and DeSean Jackson electrified the offense and brought new hope to the fanbase who lobbied for years to upgrade the most important offensive position.

The Rams were clicking, and the warning signs of bad special teams play, the inability to stop the run and the lack of a running game on offense were all pooh-poohed as the team rocketed to a 7-1 record.

Why complain about success? The Rams had dropped just one game, to the NFC West rival Arizona Cardinals, then the best team in the NFL. And the Rams held onto the hope of getting better all across the roster as chemistry, communication, and game experience improved as the season progressed. This was the LA Rams season, and the team was well on its way to realizing that dream.

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Perhaps the blame game didn’t fix a damned thing

Suddenly, the lack of a running game, the poor special teams’ play, and the inability to shut down rushing offenses became more than a warning sign. It reached critical mass and grounded the LA Rams aerial assault as effectively as Super Bowl LIII. The problem? This was never supposed to happen this year.

Everyone blamed former quarterback Jared Goff for wilting against determined smash-mouth defenses like that of the Miami Dolphins, the San Francisco 49ers, and the New York Jets in 2020. It was a quarterback who could not diagnose defenses, who could not throw the long ball, and who was too prone to cause turnovers that held this LA Rams team back.

In the past two games, Matthew Stafford has completed 57 of 89 passes for 537 yards, two touchdowns, and four interceptions. He has also been sacked seven times for 60 yards. He is averaging 6.0 yards per attempt, a 64 percent completion rate, a touchdown rate of 2.2 percent, and an interception rate of 4.5 percent.

Different teams. Different quarterbacks. Same result. What really changed?

The more things change, the more they stay the same

This time it wasn’t Jared Goff forced to pass his way out of the hole. It wasn’t Jared Goff throwing 65 times against the smothering Miami Dolphins defense. This wasn’t Goff struggling to put just 16 points on the scoreboard against the San Francisco 49ers. This time it was Matthew Stafford throwing 48 times against a smothering Tennesee Titans defense. This time it was Matthew Stafford struggling to put up 10 points on the San Francisco 49ers.

This isn’t the time to replay past mistakes or lay the blame at the feet of Goff, Stafford, or even the offensive brain trust, head coach Sean McVay. The only way to fix this is to push back on bad offensive decisions and align the talent and the strategy. It’s quite clear that the more things change, the more things stay the same.

The LA Rams offense has systemic problems.

Defensive coordinators can figure out the LA Rams offensive strategy eventually. That time of when they find the way to neutralize the Rams aerial assault happens far more rapidly than expected. Yet even when it happens, the Rams stare in the utter disbelief that anyone in the NFL can be as smart as they are, and simply refuse to change strategy.

It doesn’t matter who you put behind center.  If the defense is playing all-out pass defense but the offense continues to throw 40+ times a game, it won’t end well for the Rams. If you want to talk about accountability, then we need to stop lying to ourselves. The offensive game plan has led the team to two horrendous losses. If you want to see how the LA Rams need to turn this around? Check out the 2020 NFL Season Week 14 game plan against the New England Patriots.

This team is tough enough to win physical games. The team simply needs leaders who can commit to doing so.

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