It’s not Ken Stabler for Dan Pastorini. Still, the trade that, if consummated, will send Matthew Stafford to the Rams and Jared Goff to the Lions will add plenty of intrigue to the coming football season.
Let’s start with Stafford. Through 12 seasons in Detroit, he’s made it to the playoffs three times, and he’s never won a playoff game. Is it him, it is the players around him, is it the coaching?
Stafford had Calvin Johnson, one of the best receivers of the generation. Stafford had four seasons with Jim Caldwell, who made it to a Super Bowl with Peyton Manning.
Was it Stafford, was it the players around him, was it the coaching?
Stafford has seemed at times to be unable or unwilling to embrace the leadership realities of the job. Is it him? Could he have done something differently? And if he was so bothered by the inability of the team to put a winner around him, why did he stay for so long?
Part of the answer will come as Stafford steps onto a roster where he will be embraced as an upgrade over Goff. If the Rams continue to compete for playoff berths and to win playoff games (Goff won three in the last three seasons, to go with Stafford’s goose egg in a dozen), it will be fair to conclude that Stafford was trapped in a spot where the mess around him kept him from thriving.
The other part of the answer will come from Goff. How will he do with the Lions? From Goff’s perspective, per a source with knowledge of the situation, he’s “ecstatic” to get a fresh start and to escape an environment that had become “toxic” in L.A. It’s believed by many that the league has adjusted to the Sean McVay offense, and that McVay needed to blame that development on someone other than himself. If that sounds familiar, it should; many believe that McVay’s mentor, Raiders coach Jon Gruden, has behaved the same way for years with his quarterbacks.
And so the performances of the two quarterbacks and their teams, taken together, will shed plenty of light on whether the decline in L.A. resulted from McVay or from Goff — and whether the dysfunction in Detroit lands on the shoulders of Stafford or those around him.
Meanwhile, the Rams and the Lions will play in 2021. Both quarterbacks will have ample motivation in that game to prove that it wasn’t him, but them.