The Shrapnel from Saturday’s bombshell trade of Matthew Stafford for Jared Goff, two first-round picks, and a third-round pick is still being sorted out but the big picture is clear. Jared Goff was never going to be the man to execute Sean McVay’s vision. That seems harsh but it’s something that McVay and the Rams‘ front office finally admitted to themselves.
Now, the salary cap/draft implications are being furiously debated as is the morality of a team giving a guy a four year $134 million dollar contract only to drop him like third period French before it has a chance to kick in. Sure, the extension was the original sin here but sadly the Rams don’t have a time machine so they can’t burn it like it was the script for “Green Lantern”. For McVay, this move now puts the entire success or failure of the offense on him.
Stafford being the man to coax McVay’s offense to its full potential seemed odd to some given Goff had actually won an NFC Championship while Stafford hasn’t won a playoff game at all. He’s been trapped on a Lions team that never properly built around him to the point where he’s only had a 100-yard rusher ELEVEN times in his entire career which is INSANE.
The Lions were poorly run for the majority of his tenure and put him in a position to put up a lot of garbage time stats while more often than not in vain. Some labeled him “Stat Padford” years ago and despite a few playoff appearances, he never really rose to the moment. Now, that isn’t all his fault and at 32 (turns 33 on Super Bowl Sunday), Stafford is still young enough to flip the script on his career. He isn’t as washed as embittered Niners fans who thought THEY were getting him would tell you and he can still chuck the ball deep which is the biggest reason why McVay pushed for him to come to LA, via poolside in Cabo.
As much as Goff meant to the Rams in giving them a franchise quarterback as they moved to LA and helped spark a team that had been a dull husk for over a decade, unfortunately, the awesome Goff that appeared in 2017 and especially 2018, never got better. He got a pass in 2019 because the line was in flux, Todd Gurley‘s knee wasn’t right, and they couldn’t find a lot of balance.
In 2020, Goff started out well enough as the offense had balance again but as the season went on, he relapsed. The turnovers were unforgivable. Yes, some of this is on McVay (we’ll get to him in a minute) but Goff’s decision-making and inability cost them at least five games. If they win two of those games their playoff run is most likely much different. If they win the Jet game and either the second Seattle game or one Niner game they win the west and avoid going to Green Bay in round-two. This potentially means Aaron Donald not getting hurt and thus the defense not being diminished in a round-two game against a shaky Saints team, leading to either a more even clash against the Packers or a home-game against a Bucs team that the Rams beat.
The “what-if” game isn’t fair because there are many variables and timelines that only Doctor Strange can calculate but the fact is Goff put the Rams in a tough position. Does that mean he had to go? To quote Rev. Lovejoy “Short answer yes with an if, long answer no, with a but”.
The window for the Rams to capitalize on having prime Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Jalen Ramsey, and Donald is getting smaller by the day. The Rams have all the pieces to win a title and justify all their wheeling and dealing while giving Los Angeles a Super Bowl, adding to the recent titles won by the Lakers and Dodgers, respectively. Yes, Goff played well in the playoffs with a hurt thumb and no one can take that away from him, but aside from the decision making, there was one part of his game that inexplicably regressed, and that’s the deep ball.
McVay trusted Goff less and less to throw it deep especially on third-down no matter the distance. Yes, McVay abandoned the run too early in games and much like fetch, tried to get the Goff deep ball to happen but it never did.
Stafford offers that and then some. He’s still got a cannon and can also handle pressure better than Goff can. The Rams love bootlegging more than Aldo Raine or Nucky Thompson and Goff couldn’t run them fast enough and thus the defenses snuffed them out. When John Wolford ran the offense it was clear that, like Carol Danvers, the offense was fighting with one hand tied behind its back. Stafford brings that to the table as well. He’s had a lot of practice scrambling in the pocket and creating deep throws out of nowhere. That’s what McVay ultimately wants. He took the job in 2017 because he believed he could salvage Goff and to a degree he did. Unfortunately, there was a ceiling to what Goff could be, and while they say a great coach adjusts their offense to suit the needs of their quarterback, at a certain point if your quarterback is limited you can’t win without everything else operating perfectly.
The Packers game was telling because despite playing damn near perfect, Goff couldn’t keep up with Aaron Rodgers. Yes, if Donald is healthy perhaps the defense slows down the Packers, but seeing Rodgers just being able to zip it all around the field was devastating. Their offensive drives were efficient, methodical, and seemed to always score. Now, Stafford isn’t Rodgers but with the Rams line and running game, he’d at least be able to answer in a game like that one.
The Rams had good drives but they took too much time off the clock and couldn’t get in the endzone as often. The point is, Goff played as well as he could and it wasn’t enough. The image of Donald in tears was the signal that things had to change. He only has so many years to be a Kaiju and his injury was proof he was mortal and the Rams know it would be a black eye on the franchise if he doesn’t win a ring there.
Matthew Stafford isn’t a guarantee to win the Super Bowl, especially with the defense being in a bit of flux given they have to replace damn near the entire coaching staff and will have to once again figure it out linebacker and the corner spot next to Ramsey.
They don’t have a ton of picks or cap space to figure that stuff out so the defense we saw under Brandon Staley won’t be back next year. That’s not to say Raheem Morris won’t be able to capture some of that magic back but it’s certainly a big ask.
Stafford being there means that McVay can now have the exact offense he wants and doesn’t have to hold his quarterback’s hand anymore. The Rams are beyond win now, they’re in WIN YESTERDAY mode, and one way or the other this move cements a big piece of Sean McVay’s legacy.