Matthew Stafford/Jared Goff Trade Reaction

Photo Credit: TechnoCodex

The blockbuster trade between the Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Rams that flipped quarterbacks Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff to the opposite roster was one of the most perplexing trades I’ve evaluated in quite some time. The LA Rams traded away their 1st round pick in 2022, their 1st round pick in 2023, their 3rd round pick in 2021, and quarterback Jared Goff, all in exchange for long-time Detroit Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford.

To me, the clear loser of this trade is the Los Angeles Rams. I like Matthew Stafford as a quarterback, but he’s 32 years old, he’s had multiple severe injuries over the past few years, and the combination of his expensive contract paired with the unbelievably expensive price-tag the Rams paid to acquire him will undoubtedly hinder LA’s chances of remaining competitive.

Are we sure that Matthew Stafford is demonstrably better than Jared Goff? I’m not, and I don’t even think that Jared Goff played well this past season. While it’s fair to say that Stafford’s franchise has let him down to an extent, it’s also fair to wonder how Stafford — who’s 0–3 as a playoff starter in 12 NFL seasons — has continuously lost football games over the years. Matt Patricia and Jim Schwartz were each considered one of the weakest head coaches in the NFL when they were in office, respectively, so there’s a solid case to be made that Matthew Stafford has been held back, to an extent, by his coaching staff. Jim Caldwell was the one above-average coach Stafford got to play with, and during Caldwell’s tenure from 2014 to 2017 the Lions averaged 9 wins per season and went to the playoffs twice in those four years, losing both playoff games in round one (Jim Caldwell Record, Statistics, and Category Ranks). So, when Matthew Stafford has had a good NFL coaching staff to work with, he’s around a 9 win, above-average starting quarterback.

I’d argue that Sean McVay is similarly rated to Jim Caldwell as a head coach. In four seasons with Sean McVay, Jared Goff’s regular-season record as the starter is 42–20, which is a win percentage of 67.74 (Jared Goff Stats). To put Goff’s record into perspective, Matthew Stafford’s career regular-season record as a starting quarterback is 74–90–1, which is a 45.12% winning percentage. Even in the four Caldwell seasons, Stafford’s record as a regular-season starter was only 36–28 (56.25% winning) (Matthew Stafford Stats).

Going over some more mainstream statistics; in the past three seasons, Matthew Stafford has started 40 games, a record of 14–25–1 (35.9% winning), a completion percentage of 64.99%, 66 total touchdowns (passing + rushing), 39 total interceptions and fumbles, and a Total QBR of ~62.18 (Matthew Stafford Stats). Jared Goff, in the same three-year stretch, has started 47 games, has a record of 31–16–0 (65.96% winning), a completion percentage of 64.86%, 82 total touchdowns (passing + rushing), 70 total interceptions and fumbles, and a Total QBR of ~57.57. Note that I did not include Goff’s 6 playoff game appearances, in which he went 2–3 as a starter, with a completion percentage of 57.4%, 4 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions (Jared Goff Stats).

Based on the game film and statistics that I’ve evaluated over the past three seasons, Matthew Stafford has been a slightly better QB overall than Jared Goff. However, the notion that Matthew Stafford is two 1st round picks plus a 3rd round pick better than Goff is an absurd miscalculation on the part of the Rams. The bottom line is that both Jared Goff and Matthew Stafford are in the same tier as average to above-average starting quarterbacks. Neither Goff nor Stafford can uplift an NFL franchise without a lot of help. The counter-argument of Stafford not being given any assistance in Detroit simply isn’t true; I’d argue that Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola, TJ Hockenson, and a solid Lions’ offensive line is equivalent, if not better than, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds, Tyler Higbee, and the Rams’ good offensive line. I respect Matthew Stafford’s skill, talent, and willingness to play through painful injuries, but if Matthew Stafford was the elite quarterback for whom the Rams just gave up a fortune, then he would be better than 0–3 as a playoff quarterback in 12 NFL seasons.

This isn’t the first time that the Rams have gotten unnecessarily ambitious with off-season moves in the Sean McVay era. In fact, the last time the LA Rams had a 1st round pick, they drafted quarterback Jared Goff 1st overall in 2016. Now the Rams won’t have a 1st round pick until 2024, thanks to a series of aggressive transactions. Housing enormous contracts for star players without replenishing the roster’s depth with young talent is a difficult method of sustaining winning seasons even with good coaching. The tricky — and ironic — issue for the Rams is that their acquiring of Matthew Stafford has gutted the team’s chances of building a talented and cheap roster with draft picks, and Stafford, like Jared Goff, isn’t good enough to win without a very good situation around him (otherwise he would’ve won more than 45% of his games in Detroit). Another tough pill for the Rams to swallow is that defense, statistically, regresses far more over time than offense does, meaning the Rams’ excellent 2020 defense might be closer to average in 2021 just by chance. It also doesn’t help that their defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, who called the defense at an elite coaching level, has left the Rams’ organization to be the head coach of the LA Chargers. Is Matthew Stafford a better quarterback than Jared Goff? I’d say yes for right now. Was Stafford’s price tag ridiculous? Absolutely. I would’ve stopped the bidding at Goff and a 2nd round pick for Matthew Stafford, let alone Goff, two future unprotected 1sts, and a 3rd round pick. I’ll leave it up to Sean McVay to prove me wrong, but I think that the LA Rams may have just doomed themselves into 7–9 or 8–8 purgatory for the next few seasons, especially given how difficult the NFC West division is.

On a more optimistic note, the Detroit Lions acquired a lot of value in this trade. Detroit already has the 7th overall pick, 41st overall pick, and two 3rd round picks in the 2021 NFL draft, and now the Lions will have a chance to properly rebuild over the next few seasons with multiple 1st round picks in 2022 and 2023, stockpiling their roster with young pieces. I’m not expecting the Lions to be a winning club in 2021, but they have the flexibility to either draft a rookie QB this year or wait until 2022. The Lions now have some much-needed flexibility with regard to how they want to rebuild their roster.

Citations

Jared Goff Stats. (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2021, from https://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/G/GoffJa00.htm

Matthew Stafford Stats. (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2021, from https://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/S/StafMa00.htm

Full 2021 NFL Draft Order. (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2021, from http://www.tankathon.com/nfl/full_draft

Jim Caldwell Record, Statistics, and Category Ranks. (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2021, from https://www.pro-football-reference.com/coaches/CaldJi0.htm

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