Goff vs Stafford
The Rams traded quarterback Jared Goff, left, to the Detroit Lions on Saturday as part of deal to acquire quarterback Matthew Stafford.
(Associated Press)

The Jared Goff era in Los Angeles has come to an end.

The Rams gave Goff the Brock Osweiler treatment when they traded him alongside two first-round picks to the Detroit Lions in exchange for quarterback Matthew Stafford. The two former number one overall picks serve as interesting foils for one another. 

After a disastrous rookie season with the Rams, Goff has been around for a lot of winning in Los Angeles. He helped lead an offense that ranked 6th in DVOA in 2017 and he won an NFC Championship in 2018 before playing poorly in the Rams’ 10-3 loss to the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. 

Since then, Goff’s struggles have been well documented. He’s yet to prove that he’s capable of making plays outside the structure of an offense, his decision making can be questionable and his conservative playstyle has led to him leaving many big plays on the field. 

Meanwhile, Matthew Stafford may be the least scrutinized quarterback to ever be taken number one overall. You’re more likely to hear someone criticize 24-year old Lamar Jackson for only having won one playoff game in his career than you are to hear someone call out the 32-year-old Stafford for his 0-2 playoff record. Stafford is still a very talented quarterback and he’s been among the 10 or 12 best players at his position for quite a while now. 

If Stafford looks like he did in 2020 he’ll put the Rams’ talented roster in a great position to compete with the best teams in the NFC. Here’s how the two quarterbacks compare and contrast on film:

Why they shipped off Goff

A lot of Goff’s greatest shortcomings were on display during the Rams’ ugly week 15 loss to the New York Jets. It’s worth noting that the Rams offensive line also played poorly in this game but even in moments where he was well protected, Goff still made too many bad decisions. 

3rd and 11 from LA 20 Q1 4:46 

This play is emblematic of Goff’s struggles playing outside of structure. Goff has Cooper Kupp wide open across the middle of the field a few seconds into the play but instead of finding him while he steps up in the pocket Goff tries to scramble against zone coverage and he’s stopped before he can pick up the first down.

In the same situation, I think it’s very likely that Stafford is able to keep his eyes downfield while avoiding pressure and making this play.

1st and 10 from LA 33 Q2 9:59

This is a ball that simply should never have been thrown. The Rams run a version of this concept multiple times a game, every game, and they often do it very successfully which makes Goff’s decision here all the more confounding.

The Jets’ flat defender knows what’s coming behind him and he’s able to sit on the route and pick off Goff. This ball should go to Goff’s late option, Kupp, who does a good job of throttling down in a hole in the Jet’s zone after helping secure the edge for Goff’s rollout. 

2nd and 10 from NYJ 45 Q2 2:06

Goff has another opportunity to find Kupp for a chunk play over the middle but once again he doesn’t make the play. As soon as Goff steps up in the pocket his eyes go straight to his check down. Cam Akers should still catch this pass but at this point, the missed opportunities have begun to really add up.

1st and 10 from LA 49 Q4 10:33

This was a great play call against Cover 3 and Woods is wide open on the wheel route. You simply do not see receivers running this open downfield in the NFL very often. Goff is under pressure after his left tackle takes a significant L, but he still needs to find a way to get the ball to Woods here. Goff looks directly at Woods but when he steps up his eyes go off of him and he checks the ball down to Kupp. The ball is also thrown behind Kupp, forcing him to make a spectacular grab and limiting what he can do after the catch. 

This is unacceptable down six in the 4th quarter against the worst team in the league. Goff needs to either take a hit and make the throw to Woods or find him after he steps up. This play very well could have been a touchdown given how special Woods is after the catch, but instead, the Rams only gain two yards. 

What can Stafford bring to the Rams?

The Rams made this move because they are confident that Stafford will fit comfortably within Sean McVay’s offense while giving the Rams the out of structure playmaking and deep passing attack that they’ve desperately needed.

The Rams have shown the league that they’re operating with a Super Bowl-or-bust mindset and if their defense plays the way they did in 2020 then I think Stafford can get them there.

Week 13 vs Bears 1st and 10 from DET 20 Q1 12:33

Stafford has shown that he’s very comfortable making quick decisions off of play-action. The Rams led the league in play-action pass attempts in 2020 and 2019 and Goff was at his best in LA when making in-rhythm throws off play-action. The quick game off of play-action will continue to be a productive part of the Rams’ offense with Stafford.

Week 10 vs WFT 1st and 10 from WFT 37 Q3 10:18

Stafford’s special arm talent was what made him a projected number one pick when he was just a junior in high school. He makes this outside-the-numbers throw from the far hash look easy. Stafford is capable of doing incredible things, and the upgrade he brings in arm talent as compared to Goff is the biggest reason why this trade raises the Rams’ ceiling.

Week 13 vs Bears 3rd and 10 from DET 28 Q1 5:21

This is an example of a play from Stafford that I don’t think Goff is as likely to make. Stafford feels pressure from his right but he avoids it while staying in the pocket and keeping his eyes downfield. He’s able to deliver a strike to Mohamed Sanu for the first down. I think Goff would probably move to his check down as soon as he felt pressure, leaving the first down opportunity on the field.

Week 13 vs Bears 1st and 10 from CHI 49 Q2 2:33

This is just an outstanding play from Stafford. The concept is four verticals vs cover 3 so Stafford’s initial read is the two seam routes. Stafford avoids pressure to his right, gets off his initial read, notices that his outside go route has a step on the deep-third corner and connects on a 50 yard-plus bomb over three Bears defenders for the score. Once again, Stafford’s arm talent and willingness to keep his eyes downfield while dealing with pressure helps him make high end plays that Goff just doesn’t.

Final notes on Goff

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about what I don’t like in Jared Goff’s game but there are things to be encouraged by. I think having Goff gives the Lions flexibility to pass on a quarterback in this years’ draft or to draft a quarterback wi. I don’t think Goff should be anyone’s franchise quarterback but he’s still competent enough to be a solid “gap year” QB.

I watched a lot of Goff film for this project and he has shown the ability to occasionally drive the ball into tight windows with anticipation like he did here against the Cardinals. Maybe a change of scenery will be good for Goff, if nothing else, I think he will have a long career in the NFL as a high end back up.