When the LA Rams completed a blockbuster trade to acquire Matthew Stafford from the Detroit Lions for Jared Goff and draft picks, the hope amongst Sean McVay, Les Snead and the rest of the organization was that he would be the missing piece to winning a Super Bowl.
Well, after just one year, they were all proven right.
The Rams went 12-5 in Stafford’s first season in 2021 and eventually won the Super Bowl after beating the Arizona Cardinals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals in the playoffs.
Stafford was a huge part of that Super Bowl run, making plays that Goff simply couldn’t in the year prior.
The contract extension
The Super Bowl run earned Stafford a lucrative extension with the Rams, signing a four-year, $160 million deal last offseason despite being 34 years of age.
The extension made a ton of sense considering Stafford delivered in his first season with the team and the window was still open to continue competing.
Unfortunately though, Stafford’s second season in L.A. didn’t go nearly as well.
The quarterback dealt with an elbow issue all offseason that didn’t allow him to throw and limited him in training camp. While he opted not to have surgery, it was clear that Stafford wasn’t at 100% and that didn’t allow him to build chemistry with his weapons ahead of the 2022 season.
Then once the season started, Stafford’s offensive line crumbled in front of him. Injury after injury occurred, and as a result, Stafford and the Rams offense struggled.
L.A. wound up finishing 5-12, a complete flip from the 12-5 2021 season, and missed the postseason with Stafford only playing nine games due to concussions and a neck contusion.
After such a rough season for him personally and the team, the idea was floated around that Stafford would retire this offseason. He ultimately decided that he wants to keep playing though and will be the Rams’ quarterback moving forward with McVay also returning as head coach.
That’s obviously great news for a Rams team trying to get back in postseason contention in 2023. But with the way the last two seasons have gone, it begs the question…
Has McVay and Stafford pairing lived up to expectations?
I think the obvious answer here is yes for 2021 and no for 2022.
Stafford had one of his best individual seasons as a pro in 2021. He completed a then career-high 67.2% of his passes for 4.886 yards and 41 touchdowns. He did lead the league with 17 interceptions, but that was just the nature of an ultra-aggressive Rams offense.
The Rams were a top 10 offense in just about every category and Cooper Kupp had a historical season at wide receiver with Stafford throwing to him and McVay calling the plays.
It’s hard to criticize anything that pairing did in 2021 outside of the interceptions. The goal of every team is to win the Super Bowl, and the Rams accomplished that in their first season with their new quarterback.
McVay-Stafford regressed in year 2
Again though, 2022 was a much different story. Stafford continued completing a high percentage of his passes with a new career-high at 68%, but the overall production decreased drastically.
Stafford went from 8.1 to 6.9 yards per attempt, 287.4 to 231.9 passing yards per game, 102.9 quarterback rating to 87.4 and a 2.41 touchdown to interception ratio to 1.25. The Rams’ offense predictably struggled, going from top-10 in just about every category to the bottom third of the league.
I already mentioned all of the injuries the Rams dealt with on the offensive line, and that is absolutely an important factor in all this. That’s not to say that Stafford and McVay are without blame here though. Both had down seasons in 2022 by their own standards, and they would be the first to admit it.
To make matters worse, the Rams struggling in 2022 led to them sending the No. 6 overall draft pick to the Lions to complete the Stafford trade. And Goff is coming off a career season, looking like the franchise quarterback the Rams originally thought he would be. What a crazy turn of events.
Overall though, you still make the Stafford trade 100 times out of 100 if you’re the Rams. You already have a championship to show for it!
As far as living up to expectations though, Stafford and McVay currently have a 50% success rate. That means there is a lot riding on the 2023 season, which very well could be the last for both.