In 2001, Kurt Warner topped some of his stats from 1999 in a good way. Others, less good. But Warner won his second MVP award that year in spite of throwing 22 interceptions because for the first and only time in his career he led the NFL in passing yards: 4,830 of them, the most in Rams history.
Voters also probably liked that he led the league in completion percentage, completions, touchdowns, yards per attempt, passer rating, won 14 games and anything else that is relevant.
Warner’s franchise record has stood for two decades, even as changes to the league have made it easier for quarterbacks to rack up huge gains in the passing game, but the acquisition of Matthew Stafford — and the 17th regular season game — means that 2021 could be the year that it falls.
That’s a question I saw brought up on the NFL Network this week — “Will Stafford break the franchise record for passing yards?” — and analyst Charles Davis predicted that he would.
The closest any Rams quarterback has come to topping Warner’s record is Jared Goff in the 2018 and 2019 seasons. But even though Goff threw 15 and 80 more pass attempts, respectively, than what Warner had in 2001, he still fell more than 100 yards short both times.
During his ‘99 MVP campaign, Warner threw 41 touchdowns passes on only 499 attempts, another franchise record that still stands and another one that Stafford could break.
Stafford has twice thrown for over 4,900 yards in his career, though each of those seasons came at the beginning of the previous decade. He did average 312.4 yards per game in 2019, but missed half of the season and a second 5,000-yard season wasn’t meant to be.
Sean McVay probably maximized the abilities of Jared Goff within the Rams offense when he threw for 4,688 yards and 32 touchdowns in the 2018 Super Bowl season. But consider that Goff’s touchdown rate of 5.7% from 2018 is much lower than the 8.2% that Warner had in 1999 and the 6.6% that he had in 2001. Goff’s touchdown rate dropped to 3.5% in 2019, then hung at 3.6% in 2020.
Stafford threw a touchdown on 6.5% of his throws in 2019 and 4.9% in 2020. But the Lions had many of the same receiver issues that the Eagles have had, but with a small fraction of the publicity about it. Stafford now joins a Rams offense and coaching staff that has proven far more than any version of the Lions he worked with over 12 years in Detroit.
If Stafford had a season similar to 2020, then the 17th game would not put him near 4,900 passing yards. Stafford had 4,084 yards and 26 touchdowns last season, though number one receiver Kenny Golladay was injured and missed most of the year, while Matt Patricia was fired as head coach midseason.
Passing yards are not especially important as it pertains to winning and it is not a great sign when the quarterback has a high number of attempts. So this isn’t to say that Stafford’s goal is to throw for 5,000 yards on 600 attempts. But even Tom Brady had to throw 610 attempts last season — second-most in the league — and the Bucs offense turned that into 40 touchdowns. A rate of 6.6%.
McVay acquired Stafford with a vision in mind to fully run the offense through the quarterback and the talent’s of the quarterback. Realistically, this is the first time in McVay’s head coaching career that he has had the opportunity to do that. This isn’t a dig against Goff. The Rams got two MVP-caliber seasons out of Todd Gurley during Goff’s two best seasons. And when Gurley couldn’t perform at that level anymore, a new offense emerged and it was one that was far less efficient and prolific.
So the Rams traded two first round picks, a third, and Goff for a quarterback. That’s a definitive statement that LA will not be taking the opportunity to impact the game out of Stafford’s hands. Will that result in 4,900 passing yards and 42 touchdowns though? Even with the 17th game?
Or is Warner safe?
Will Matthew Stafford throw for more than 4,830 yards in 2021?
This poll is closed