LA Rams’ best strategy is to shut Matthew Stafford down for season

Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports /

The LA Rams are sitting dead last in the NFC West at 3-8. Their playoff chances are slim for the defending Super Bowl LVI Champions, who are in the midst of the worst Super Bowl hangover in NFL history.

Injuries have derailed the chances for a repeat championship performance. The Rams have started 11 different offensive line combinations in 11 games – an unprecedented and astounding statistic. Reigning Super Bowl MVP WR Cooper Kupp is currently on Injured Reserve after suffering a high ankle sprain. WR Allen Robinson – who’s been disappointing but would be the de facto lead receiver without Kupp – will be undergoing season-ending foot surgery.

Maybe the most devastating of these is the myriad of injuries facing QB Matthew Stafford.

An injury to a quarterback can derail a season more dramatically than one to anyone else. Take the 2010-12 Indianapolis Colts. They were a Super Bowl contender with QB Peyton Manning in 2010. They managed only two wins in 2011 when a neck injury cost Manning his season. In 2012, their top overall pick rookie QB Andrew Luck led them to 11 wins and a playoff berth.

Matthew Stafford hasn’t been ‘right’ all season

LA Rams starting quarterback Matthew Stafford entered the season with what many NFL insiders referred to as “bad tendonitis” on his throwing elbow, an injury Rams fans hoped the gritty quarterback could play through. He missed Week 10 against the Arizona Cardinals with a concussion, a game in which LA Rams star wide receiver Cooper Kupp (who nearly set the record for most receiving yards in 2021) managed just (-1) yards in three quarters before his season-ending injury. Stafford was placed in concussion protocol again mid-game the next week and missed the Kansas City game over the Thanksgiving weekend altogether. The Rams lost all three games without him.

Whether it’s a concussion or an injury to the neck or back – which reports now indicate that the Rams believe it to be a neck stinger – the Rams need to shut down Stafford for the season.

It’s true that the Rams don’t own their own first-round pick (it was part of the Detroit Lions trade package that brought Stafford to the Rams last year), which means that tanking this season only offers minimal immediate help to the team’s future. But they traded their future for a chance at a title or two with Stafford; they can’t risk the injury getting worse when 2022’s best-case scenario might be only a total of five or six wins.

It’s not Matthew Stafford’s elbow that LA Rams need to worry about. light. Must Read

Stafford needs to get 100 percent for 2023

Even healthy, he won’t have his top two weapons and will be stuck behind a makeshift offensive line. He’ll be put in a situation to fail and, more importantly, a situation to take further hits and risk more injury. It makes little sense to hold the starters out of preseason to avoid injury risk, but send out a starting QB behind a decimated offensive line now.

Reports out of the Rams organization have been mixed, with some reports suggesting that the Rams don’t have plans to shut down Stafford, while other reports about the Rams indicate that currently, everything is uncertain if he’ll play again in 2022.

It’s a strategy that Stafford likely won’t love. He didn’t miss a single game from September 11, 2011, to November 3, 2019 – the seventh-longest streak of consecutive starts by a quarterback in NFL history. He became a hero to Detroit fans in his rookie season when he stormed back on the field with a separated shoulder, against the urges of team doctors, to throw a game-winning touchdown against the Cleveland Browns. He’s proven to be a player who elects to suit up whenever he’s physically able.

Whatever Stafford says about it, head coach Sean McVay and the Rams need to make the right decision. The best strategy for the Rams to end 2022 is to rest the 34-year-old quarterback as his offensive line and receivers get healthy, keep rookie Bryce Perkins in the starting lineup, and remember learn a lesson or two from the Arizona Cardinals and Miami Dolphins spend big money on backup quarterbacks.

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