There is a vocal group of Rams fans who are prepared to argue that LA Rams starting quarterback Matthew Stafford is fine, and that what we are witnessing on the football field on game day is either not what is really happening, or simply a product of our own bias that prevents us from seeing objectively.
But the numbers say otherwise. And for the most part, numbers don't lie.
I'm not suggesting that the LA Rams need to move on from veteran QB Matthew Stafford just yet. I'm simply stating the obvious: If you compare what Stafford is doing this year to his average season performances, something is amiss. He is not the same guy under center. And the Rams offensive strategy really needs to start taking that into account.
Yes, Stafford is playing in pain
The injury to Matthew Stafford has been common knowledge for some time and was initially reported by NFL Insider Jay Glazer on October 1, 2023.
Since that time, Stafford has continued to play. But he has done so in pain, and the results have been noticeable:
4 gms Before Hip Injury: 103 of 166 (62.0 %) for 1,229 yards, 3 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, 9 sacks,
3 gms After Hip Injury: 50 of 90 (55.6 %) for 679 yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception, 7 sacks
What jumps off the page in the rapid and measurable decline in passing accuracy. It was that decline that prompted me to revisit the 2024 NFL Draft quarterback class. The pushback from that article had nothing to do with quarterback prospects. Fans were outraged because I dared to suggest that a seasoned veteran quarterback who is playing in pain has shown a decline in his throwing accuracy and his passing yards per game.
Stafford needs help to push the offense
But that is exactly what the numbers say.
Some have pointed to the number of dropped passes by the Rams wide receivers as the cause of the decline, and exonerated Stafford with that evidence.
But it works both ways, doesn't it? I know that we have seen replays and highlights from both Puka Nacua and Tutu Atwell for their part in making circus catches. Much like bad penalties, over the course of a season, dropped passes and highlight reel catches tend to even out.
So what must the Rams do? The Rams cannot go into games believing that any road to success includes commiting Stafford to sling 40+ passes in a game. Until his hip fully heals, the Rams must insist that Matthew Stafford limits himself to a game manager. That formula can work, as that is the path that the San Francisco 49ers have taken with their starting quarterback, Brock Purdy.
I don't think that recognizing a problem and taking appropriate steps to correct the problem is a bad thing. Successful teams make adjustments, and it's time for the Rams to do exactly that. Right now, the Rams' offense is simply not scoring enough points to win consistently.
The LA Rams should not simply stand back as Stafford struggles, and continue to take the same course of action until it works. I think that the Rams could help out the entire team if they embrace the fact that this is a big physical offense that can commit to running the football to open the passing lanes.