At the time of the trade news back in late January, many fans expressed a belief that Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff were far too close in value for the LA Rams to have traded two future first round picks to the Detroit Lions, along with their former franchise quarterback. Through their first offseason in their respective camps, both Stafford and Goff have proven that they are not equals.
The most important way for Rams fans to evaluate this question is through the presence of Stafford at training camp in Irvine this year. Day in and day out, positive reports about Stafford’s arm, talent, and leadership have permeated through the media via both plays he makes on the field and quotes his teammates and coaches give after practice. Though Stafford and Goff are both former number one overall picks, the reasons why Stafford came with such a high price tag — despite being seven years older and suffering a back injury in 2019 — were obvious.
His play over the last 12 years, while not resulting in any playoff wins, was impressive enough for him to last TWELVE SEASONS WITH THE DETROIT LIONS.
Nine of the top 12 passing yardage seasons in Lions history (which goes back 92 years) belong to Matthew Stafford. Had he not been injured in 2009 and 2019, Stafford could easily have had 11 of the top 12. Between Bobby Layne (1950-1957) and Stafford (beginning play in 2009), the longest-tenured starting QB for Detroit was Joey Harrington (2002-2005) and few quarterbacks managed to last longer than two seasons for the hapless franchise looking to find its way.
I personally believe that general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell are the right choices to lead the Lions back towards the “Bobby Layne days” of the 50s, when they won three championships, and I also fully endorse Jared Goff as a bridge quarterback between today and the time when Holmes drafts a quarterback in either 2022 or 2023 — but if you needed more evidence for why the Rams gave up two first round picks for Stafford, you can also look over to Detroit’s training camp.
Stafford has been a noticeable upgrade in Los Angeles already, but it may be just as important that Goff has proven to not be as consistently good in Lions camp as his predecessor was for 12 years.
In a mailbag segment for mlive.com, Detroit Lions beat writer Kyle Meinke could not help but mention that while Jared Goff “throws a pretty ball,” he’s not going to give the team the same level of consistency that Stafford did for over a decade:
Q: Now that you’ve seen Goff in action, what are your expectations for him and the team this season? — @stannahmontana1
A: He’s not Matthew Stafford, that’s for sure. This is my ninth training camp in Allen Park, and I’m just so used to seeing consistent quarterback play all over the field in the summer. That hasn’t been the case with Goff.
Make no mistake, he throws a pretty ball. He has good arm strength and mechanics too. It’s easy to see why he once was the No. 1 overall pick. But he also makes more mistakes than Stafford did, and definitely doesn’t push the ball down the field like Stafford did.
Meinke adds the caveat that the receivers unit isn’t what it used to be either, and his effusive praise of tight end T.J. Hockenson likely means that Goff will be pitching it to him more than any other player this season. But Meinke sees Detroit headed into a “game manager offense” situation and that “we’re seeing a lot of checkdowns to the short field in camp.”
That limitation is likely what got Goff sent to Detroit in the first place, along with LA’s right to make a first round selection in 2022 or 2023. Given expectations based on the change at quarterback, the Rams are optimistic that they won’t be as desperate to make a day one selection as their trade counterparts.