Matthew Stafford faces heightened expectations with Los Angeles Rams
Matthew Stafford got what he wanted this past offseason – a fresh start.
Now, the Los Angeles Rams organization – and its fans – will be looking for a whole lot out of Stafford in return.
At the top of the year, Stafford – the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft – was traded to Los Angeles for the No. 1 overall pick from the 2016 NFL Draft in Jared Goff, as well as a few future draft picks, including future first-round picks in 2022 and 2023, a hefty price for the Lions legend.
And considering the haul it took to land Stafford in Tinseltown, a fresh set of lofty expectations figures to follow the veteran gunslinger to Hollywood.
Stafford's career has been an intriguing one.
Long thought to have one of the best arms in the league, Stafford owns a majority of the passing records in Lions franchise history, including passing yards (45,109), passing touchdowns (282) and completions (3,898).
In addition, he is the fastest quarterback in NFL history to reach 20,000, 30,000 and 40,000 passing yards.
However, Stafford's arm-act rarely led to team success in Detroit.
Only four times did Stafford lead the Lions to a winning record in the regular season, and only three times did he guide Detroit to the postseason.
In those three playoff appearances, Stafford was 0-3, with a 63.2% completion percentage, four touchdowns and three interceptions.
Now, he is in a new city, with a new coach, a new group of weapons, and a new set of expectations, with many believing that Stafford is the key to getting the Rams back to the Super Bowl.
McVay and the Rams had put together four consecutive winning seasons under Goff from 2016-2020, and are only two seasons removed from a 13-3 campaign during the 2018-19 season, which culminated with a trip to Super Bowl LIII.
And even though the Rams fell to Tom Brady's New England Patriots with the Lombardi Trophy on the line, Goff and McVay were thought to have arrived as the next, great QB-coach combo, along the lines of Bill Belichick and Brady.
Oh how quickly things change.
Over the next two seasons, Goff would put together an 18-13 record as a starter and the Rams would go 0-1 with Goff as the starter in the postseason.
With that, McVay decided to pull the trigger on bringing in Stafford, in hopes of taking L.A. back to the Super Bowl this season.
Will Stafford be able to live up to the task of helping McVay and the Rams reach their Super Bowl-or-bust aspirations?
Colin Cowherd addressed the topic this week on "The Herd," essentially saying that Stafford got a raw deal landing in Detroit.
"Matt Stafford inherits the worst franchise not named the Cleveland Browns. Got Jim Schwartz – a defensive coach – with a terrible offensive line and no running game. … Matt Stafford, super talented – could not have gotten a worse situation.
"Matt Stafford has been invisible for 12 years in Detroit except for Thanksgiving."
Cowherd compared Stafford's time in Detroit to that of new NBA Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett's time in Minnesota.
"This is very Kevin Garnett. Kevin Garnett was great. We didn't talk about him for 10 years in Minnesota. He goes to Boston and he was the most-discussed big in the game for five years. … Kevin had always been great, but he ended up in Minnesota."
Garnett was drafted with the fifth pick in the 1995 NBA Draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves and spent the first 12 years of his career with the franchise – just like Stafford.
KG was a 10-time All-Star with the Wolves and won the NBA MVP in 2004. He also guided Minnesota to the playoffs eight times, but only once to the Western Conference finals, losing to Shaq and Kobe's Lakers in 2004.
Cowherd continued the comparison game, slotting Stafford's career next to those of Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and Los Angeles Angels megastar Mike Trout, in an effort to prove that situation matters – and that Stafford now has circumstances that will allow him to be successful.
"Some guys get breaks. Dak [Prescott], I love him, but he inherited three Hall of Famers on the offensive line in their prime and Zeke [Elliott].
"Mike Trout is great, but he's invisible with the Angels. What if Mike Trout was with the Yankees and had a Hall of Famer hitting behind him? … Mike Trout, I don't think he's won a playoff series."
While Cowherd stopped short of saying that Stafford and the Rams are poised to wrest the NFC from Tampa Bay, he is in the camp that believes a Stafford-McVay-Cam Akers-Robert Woods-Cooper Kupp-led offense will be a force to be reckoned with, with the ultimate force that is Aaron Donald holding it down on the other side of the ball.
"I'm not an MVP guy. I hate talking about that. But not only will Matt be good – the story's good. … I'm not a big believer in you deserve stuff. You gotta earn it. Kevin Garnett had earned the right to be on a notable franchise. Matt Stafford's earned the right. He got a ‘nothing sandwich’ and I think he's gonna have a terrific year."
The ball is in your backfield, Stafford.
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