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Are Matthew Stafford’s struggles any different than other top quarterbacks?

Even the best NFL teams rise-and-fall with their QB’s play.

Los Angeles Rams v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Football fans know the trope, “the NFL is a quarterback driven league”. Hell, I’ve used it myself many times and honestly believe it. As cliché as it is, it’s just as accurate. Win-loss results are often directly correlated to how the team's quarterback performs.

In 2021, Matthew Stafford has been a perfect example of that.

But he’s not alone, the fortunes of all NFL teams hinge on the performance of their respective quarterbacks. To be sure, the more complete teams are better equipped to overcome bad QB play and sometimes, a QB’s bad play is versus a an inferior opponent who just cannot capitalize on it.

Taking a simple average of the top 32 NFL Quarterback Rating numbers, 91.6, as a median performance and using stats from Pro Football Reference, let’s take a look at:

  • The win-loss record of teams currently in the playoff hunt when their quarterback is less than average, say under a QB rating of 85.0.

This is a Rams fan site, right?

So let’s get started with Matt Stafford. He’s 1-2 with seven interceptions. His triumphs and travails have been cussed and discussed at length on Turf Show Times.

Current NFL division leaders

  • Aaron Rodgers is 1-1 with three ints. Not even the best QB in the league is immune to losing when he struggles. He was really bad in the opener versus the New Orleans Saints.
  • Tom Brady is 1-2 with three ints. The GOAT had stinkers vs. WFT and the Saints. A winning field goal in the last two minutes, helped deodorize his play vs. the New England Patriots.
  • Dak Prescott is 2-2 with six ints. The Cowboys used two defensive scores to beat WFT and four turnovers and an INT return beat the Saints.
  • Patrick Mahomes is 4-3 with eight ints. He’s been wildly inconsistent this year. Two of those wins were close calls vs. WFT and an Arod-less Green Bay Packer squad.
  • Joe Burrow is 0-3 with seven ints. Aside laying three eggs, Burrow has been solid in former Rams WR/QB coach Zac Taylor’s offense.
  • Ryan Tannehill is 3-4 with nine ints. Tanney had another loss just .2 over the proscribed rating limit. The Titans are barely holding on, losing three of their last five games.
  • Josh Allen is 1-4 with seven ints. How big are his struggles in losses to playoff rivals New England and the Indianapolis Colts? Not to mention a clunker vs. the Jacksonville Jags.
NFL: DEC 26 Steelers at Chiefs Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Teams on the bubble

  • Kyler Murray is 0-3 with five ints. Two of those losses were against division leaders Green Bay and Los Angeles, but the third was vs. the bottom-dwelling Detroit Lions.
  • Justin Herbert is 0-4 with seven ints. After Herbert’s Jekyll and Hyde season, Chargers need help to make the playoffs. The killer was a tough OT loss vs. the Kansas City Chiefs in week 15.
  • Carson Wentz is 2-2 with 3 ints. Wentz’s two dud losses were against the Tennessee Titans, the team one game ahead of them in the AFC South.
  • Jimmy Garoppolo is 0-2 with three ints. His availability, because of injury. may make his inclusion moot. JimmyG had two other losses where his rating was just over the limit.
Los Angeles Chargers v Houston Texans Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Improvement is easier said than done

Well, in Stafford’s case, don’t throw pick-sixes is the obvious answer. When you get past that, there are some simple fixes for both Staff and Rams coach Sean McVay. And of course any opinion blog piece must have all the answers.

McVay needs to keep himself and Stafford on track

Run the offense, it has a historical record of productivity and success. Make opponents defend the whole field, spread the ball amongst the skill players (example: don’t make Cooper Kupp the “go to” guy on every jet sweep). If Staff can’t throw it 60 yards anymore, don’t put him the position to try. Concentrate on formations and movement that provide numerical advantages, create mismatches, and get the Rams game breakers into space.

Matthew Stafford needs to take command and control of the pocket

He’s shown a willingness to check down, keep it up, there are very few situations where a deep interception is as good as a punt. Ofttimes, discretion is the better part of valor, take the sack. The offense has proven it is adept at creating chunk plays that can make up lost yardage. If the pocket breaks down and check downs or throwing it away are not options, take the five yard scramble. Just don’t forget to go into your slide or duck out of bounds.

McVay knows how to manage a struggling quarterback

In the past, the Rams head man used the run game, play action, and the no-huddle, hurry up scheme to re-energize Jared Goff and the offense when it started to bog down. Don’t give Stafford so much respect that he’s above reproach. Yes, he’s a proven veteran, but this is McVay’s offense and he needs to stay in Staff’s ear about its intricacies.

Handling a QB’s struggles

The numbers shown above, 15 wins against 32 losses with 68 interceptions, show that when QB’s stumble, so do their teams, no matter the pedigree.

Last Sunday vs. the Vikings, Stafford and the passing offense lumbered. I thought McVay did a fine job of controlling the game’s flow, putting his struggling QB in position to succeed, and most importantly, win.