If protected, LA Rams QB Matthew Stafford is truly elite

Los Angeles Rams  Matthew Stafford
Los Angeles Rams Matthew Stafford / David Eulitt/GettyImages

The LA Rams are more than happy with the job that veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford has done with the team in his two seasons so far. In his two seasons, the wiley pocket passer has led the Rams to a record of 15-11 in the regular season, and a perfect 4-0 record in the postseason. Before arriving to the LA Rams, his record was 74-90-1 in the regular season, and 0-3 in the postseason. No matter what else can be said of the Rams and Stafford relationship, it's quite clear that they have a very positive symbiotic relationship right now.

It's easy to forget that fact in the face of Stafford's 2022 NFL season struggles, a season in which he could only lead the team to a 3-6 record, even as he suffered one less quarterback sack than the previous year, despite playing in eight fewer games. What we learned was a pretty basic fact about Matthew Stafford. To get the best from him, the LA Rams need to do a much better job of protecting him.

The LA Rams clearly have taken that lesson to heart, committing two of 14 draft picks to shore up the team's offensive line, and emphasizing that point by selecting the first interior offensive lineman off the board with the 36th overall pick in TCU's versatile offensive lineman Steve Avila. So let's jump to the assumption that the Rams' offensive line is back and that they can protect Stafford once more. What exactly will that look like?

All-Time Single Season Passing Record is possible

Now, keep in mind that Matthew Stafford holds the LA Rams All-Time Single Season Passing Record, which he set in his first year with the team in 2021. He holds the record for passing yards at 4,886 and is tied for the number of passing touchdowns at 41. That's pretty impressive for his first season. But if you think back, Stafford was benched twice in blowout games, sitting out the entire fourth quarter of contests where the score was so lopsided, the Rams took their foot off the gas.

That likely won't happen in 2023. The Rams defense is a huge question mark, and the team has only a couple of starters returning from last year's defense. If the Rams plan to hold opponents is not based on young players who will be promoted to starters on this defense, then the alternative is to start rookies.

That means that the team will be engaged in a lot of shootouts, perhaps leading to a ton of fourth-quarter comebacks. The most fourth quarter comebacks in a single season for LA Rams quarterbacks is four and is shared by five Rams quarterbacks: Jared Goff (2018), Jim Everett (1989), Marc Bulger (2003), Sam Bradford (2012), and Norm Van Brocklin (1955).

Comebacks Incorporated

Matthew Stafford put up three 4QCs in 2021. But he could be the engineer of many more than that this season. That is the opinion of Good Morning Football host Peter Schrager, who has touted veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford as his second-best clutch quarterback in the NFL today. He was raked over the coals for that take, but here is his defense.

Schrager has done his homework, and the truth is that Matthew Stafford has been in this type of situation before, hasn't he? Throughout his career with the Detroit Lions, Stafford was accustomed to a team that played from behind, struggled against stronger rosters, and had to manufacture wins out of risk-taking and a bit of luck.

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The LA Rams may not have intended to do so, but this team is stronger on offense than defense this year. Likewise, the team is banking on the offense outscoring opponents, rather than winning low-scoring games in the trenches. But if he is protected, the LA Rams could pull off some upsets, and in the process dictate the NFL Playoff picture for the NFC, and perhaps the NFL.

If protected, LA Rams QB Matthew Stafford is truly elite. His first season proved that. Now, the LA Rams simply need to protect him, and I believe they have the right offensive linemen to do that.