I have over 800 pages of photos to choose from in the editor for Matthew Stafford, and so since I’m sick of using the most recent today I opted to go with the oldest. Behold: Matthew Stafford as a freshman quarterback with the Georgia Bulldogs (pause for effect) in 2006!
Teammates on that Georgia roster included several names that had notable NFL careers that are already over, including Mohamed Massaquoi, Dannell Ellerbe, the defensive end Charles Johnson, and one career that is also still in progress, albeit slowing down, Geno Atkins. Stafford led the Bulldogs to a 9-4 record as a true freshman, including an incredible three-game finish that resulted in wins over #5 Auburn, #16 Georgia Tech (with Calvin Johnson), and #14 Virginia Tech to end the year.
As a sophomore, Stafford dramatically improved his passing stats and also led Georgia to five wins over ranked opponents, including #16 Alabama, #9 Florida, #18 Auburn, #22 Kentucky, and #10 Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl. The Bulldogs finished the season number two in the polls, but lost early season games to unranked South Carolina and Tennessee.
In his final collegiate season, Georgia entered the polls at #1 thanks to Stafford’s outstanding ability to match the hype he had coming out of high school (5 stars, #1 QB/#6 overall in the country by ESPN and Rivals, #1/#5 at Scout) and he was of course the Heisman favorite.
But despite a 4-0 start, Georgia slipped from #1 to #3 after USC beat #5 Ohio State to move up to the top spot and Oklahoma rose up to #2 with three high-scoring victories behind Bob Stoops and eventual Heisman quarterback Sam Bradford. Then on September 27, Georgia fell behind 31-0 at halftime to an Alabama team that started the season ranked #24 because second-year head coach Nick Saban had not yet proven to voters that college football was going to be changed forever thanks to him.
That 41-30 win propelled Alabama to #2 and forced Georgia to slip to #10. Three weeks later, a 20-year-old Stafford notched wins over Tennessee, #22 Vanderbilt, and #11 LSU, setting up a premier matchup against #5 Florida led by Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, and Aaron Hernandez. The Gators won the game 49-10 and Stafford had his worst game since his freshman season, throwing three interceptions.
The Bulldogs finished the year 10-3 and Stafford entered the NFL draft as the unquestionable top prospect available. The Detroit Lions had the number one pick in the draft following their historic 0-16 season. It seems improbable that any team could have snuck over the Lions to secure the rights to Stafford but one team came very close to doing so (pause for dramatic effect)
The St. Louis Rams.
If Rams kicker Josh Brown hadn’t made a 49-yard field goal against Washington in Week 6 and if the Lions (whose defensive coordinator in 2008 was future Sean McVay assistant head coach Joe Barry) had managed to secure one win, then it is possible that the Rams-Stafford connection could have happened over a decade ago.
Detroit lost to the Vikings 12-10 in Week 6 on a last second field goal by Minnesota kicker Ryan Longwell. The Vikings had to convert second-and-20 with Gus Frerotte at quarterback on the final drive and did so thanks to a 42-yard pass interference penalty by Lions corner Leigh Bodden. The Lions also blew fourth quarter leads against the Bears and Vikings (again) later in the season.
Detroit selected Stafford and while it would be easy to lament Jason Smith for years, the next desirable player to come off the board after Stafford was maybe Michael Crabtree at 11 or Brian Orakpo at 13. It was truly Stafford-or-Bust in the top-10 that year and the Rams came within a couple of Week 6 field goals from not going “bust.”
But now the year is 2021 and Matthew Stafford is finally on the Rams. He’s just not in St. Louis. Now, how about talking to his buddy Geno Atkins?
How much more confident are you about the LA Rams 2021 season with Stafford replacing Jared Goff at quarterback?
How much MORE confident are you about the Rams 2021 season because of Matthew Stafford?
This poll is closed
4 (it’s night and day!)
3 (more confident)
2 (the difference is negligible)
1 (I’m less confident)