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Stafford to Rams

Minnesota Vikings v Detroit Lions - NFL Football Game Photo by Amy Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Bucs’ HC Bruce Arians has been saying recently of QB Tom Brady how “one man” can make a huge difference for a franchise. Apparently, the LA Rams and HC Sean McVay have been paying attention. They believe that QB Matthew Stafford can punch their ticket to future Super Bowls. Already the Vegas oddsmakers now list the Rams has having the 3rd best odds of playing in next year’s Super Bowl.

Obviously, the Rams gave up quite a haul in order to acquire Stafford, who turns 33 in a couple of weeks. In essence, the Rams traded 3 1st round picks (Goff included) and a 3rd round pick. Obviously the huge key in the deal was the Lions willingness to include Jared Goff (and the plus $100M he is due over the next 4 years) in the deal.

Critics of this deal will question why the Lions, who are seeking a fresh start and team makeover with maverick HC Dan Campbell, would want to make Goff their QB, when they have the #7 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft where 4 QBs (Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Trey Lance) are projected to go in the top 10.

Enter the Lions’ new GM Brad Holmes who was the Ram’s Director of College Scouting. He had a big hand in drafting Jared Goff in 2016. Not only that, according to detroitqockcity.com:

Holmes’ ability to scout out talent that will last in the league is astounding. Only 3 of the Rams’ draft picks since 2016 are no longer in the NFL today. While that is already impressive enough, add to that the fact that the Rams haven’t had a first-round draft pick in the past 4 years.

As stated in The Athletic($), this is a guy who has “repeatedly found game-ready talent in the middle of the draft, year over year.” As far as the draft goes, it seemingly can’t get much better than that, right? Oh, but it can. Holmes has been credited with a hand in drafting 25 pro-bowlers in his time with the Rams.

Wow —- 25 Pro Bowlers whom Holmes has had a hand in drafting. This is hugely impressive.

What is kind of bizarre when you think about it is how the Cardinals with higher draft picks last year struggled to even get IsaiahSimmons on the field, while the Rams hit home tuns with RB Cam Akers (R2) and S Jordan Fuller (R6), while getting a solid contribution from WR Van Jefferson (R3).

Even though Jared Goff struggled in a number of close games the past two years, his career record is 42-27 (42-20 under McVay) and 2-3 in the playoffs (with a Halas Trophy and Super Bowl appearance in 2018). Moreover, what Dan Campbell should like about Goff, aside from Goff’s excellent winning percentage, is his toughness, which was in full display in Week 16 at Seattle this season when he dislocated a finger while banging it on a defender’s helmet, and then popped it back into place so that he wouldn’t have to miss a snap.

Matthew Stafford’s career record is 74-90-1, plus 0-3 in the playoffs. Obviously, Stafford had to endure a number of head coaching changes over the past few years, which have stifled the Lions’ chances in recent years of making the playoffs.

However, Matthew Stafford now has a golden opportunity to succeed under offensive savant Sean McVay in an offense that features RBs Darrell Henderson Jr. and Cam Akers, WRs Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp , Josh Reynolds and Van Jefferson, plus TE Tyler Higbee. Furthermore, Stafford will have the luxury of being on a team that this past season boasted the #1 defense in the NFL.

What will be fascinating to see is whether Stafford at his age can show off the kind of mobility that Sean McVay likes from his QB in running their patented bootleg and waggle play action plays. Stafford ran an impressive 7.01 3 cone back at his Combine in 2009 —- thus, if he still has that kind of short area quickness, then he will be just fine in running the complete version of McVay’s offense.

Last year, while talking with former Cardinals and Lions QB Kyle Sloter, Kyle raved about Matt Stafford’s weekly preparation and in particular, Stafford’s outstanding command and knowledge of his pass protection calls at the line of scrimmages, based on the defensive alignments. Stafford’s experience in making pass pro calls, should help the Rams because they struggled to protect Goff on a consistent basis on passing downs.

For the Arizona Cardinals and their fans, it is going to be a big challenge this off-season for the Cardinals to make the kind of personnel moves that will give them a stronger chance to compete for the NFC West title or a Wild Card berth in the playoffs.

Thus far the Rams have made the biggest splash —- albeit at quite a cost. Like the 49ers, however, the Rams have to hope they can maintain the success of their defense, now that their stellar 2020 DC, Brandon Staley, is the HC of the 2021 Chargers, while the 49ers’ tour=de-force 2020 DC, Robert Saleh, is the 2021 HC of the Jets. And hey —- now that the Seahawks fired their free wheeling 2020 OC Brian Schottneheimer, they replaced him with the Rams’ passing game coordinator Shane Waldron. Lots of changes here, which hopefully the Cardinals, with the right off-season moves, can take advantage of.

At this point only time will tell whether the Rams got fleeced by their former Director of College Scouting, who is now presiding over the Lions’ den.