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Was Jared Goff actually as good as Matthew Stafford in Week 1?

How the stats are misleading fans who didn’t watch the games

San Francisco 49ers vs Detroit Lions Photo by Amy Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The LA Rams have moved on from Jared Goff. The fans have moved on from Jared Goff. But for some writers who have slammed their stake in the ground that Matthew Stafford is no upgrade to LA’s former quarterback, Sunday’s games didn’t end up serving as the final nail in Goff’s coffin that it should have. In fact, some writers are actually using Week 1 as evidence that the Rams made the wrong move by trading for Stafford.

Not even a third-party website’s article shared on Facebook by your aunt could be further from the truth.

On Tuesday morning, Deadspin’s Rob Parker posted “It’s still just Matthew Stafford” and made the following arguments against LA’s deal of two first round picks and Goff for the superior signal-caller:

Let’s not ignore history or act brand new. The Rams already had a Pro Bowl QB who led them to the Super Bowl. It’s the guy they now call a bum: Jared Goff. He was traded with a boatload of draft picks for Stafford in the offseason.

And that bum, by the way, had an impressive debut for the Detroit Lions, with 338 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

In Goff’s debut with the Lions, he finished with 338 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception, as outlined by Parker. What’s left out here?

Goff had 57 pass attempts.

338 yards on 57 pass attempts (the third-highest total of Goff’s career, behind the 68 passes in a loss to the Bucs in 2019 and 61 passes in a loss to the Dolphins in 2020) for an average of 5.9 yards per pass attempt.

Through one week, Jared Goff now ranks 28th in yards per pass attempt across the league.

Matthew Stafford ranks second, averaging more than double the amount of yards per attempt.

To measure a quarterback’s single-game success by passing yardage totals is like comparing F1 racers not by who is fastest in the race, but by who had to travel the most amount of miles to get to the track.

It’s not the total amount of passing yards that tells the story of a quarterback’s day, year, or career; it’s about what happens on each pass attempt.

In that respect, Matthew Stafford surpassed Jared Goff with his second throw in a Rams uniform:

The Rams traded Goff for Stafford in large part due to the fact that in a passing league — in a deep passing league that is faster at wide receiver than ever and most benefits offenses that can throw it beyond 20-30 yards — the latter has been a superior threat to the former on a consistent basis.

Stafford was able to find Van Jefferson for a 67-yard touchdown almost immediately, and therefore the Rams were nursing and maintaining a lead from the jump.

Meanwhile in Detroit, a more accurate reality of Goff’s performance shows that it was built off the heels of trailing by multiple touchdowns to the San Francisco 49ers.

Let’s look at Jared Goff’s first drive with the Lions:

Goff’s first throw reads as a 22-yard completion to tight end T.J. Hockenson, but as was often the case in LA, the throw was a short one that was turned into a long gain by the receiver and the defense.

Detroit had first-and-10 at the 49ers 43 almost immediately, but Goff could only gain six yards on two passes and eventually the Lions turned it over on downs at San Francisco’s 35.

Amazingly, 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo mishandled the snap on the first offensive play of the game for his team and Goff got it right back in San Francisco territory. Here’s his second drive:

Goff’s first deep pass attempt was incomplete to rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown. His next throw went eight yards behind the line of scrimmage and was immediately snuffed out by 49ers linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair for a huge loss. Goff couldn’t gain any yards on third down and Detroit kicker Austin Seibert missed his 51-yard attempt.

When the 49ers got the ball back at their own 41, running back Raheem Mostert gained 20 yards on his next two carries, George Kittle took a pass 23 yards, and four plays later, backup quarterback Trey Lance threw a touchdown to Trent Sherfield to give San Francisco the lead.

Goff would have seven pass attempts on Detroit’s third drive, which ended up going 82 yards and resulting in a touchdown to Hockenson.

But all seven of Goff’s attempts were short throws.

On the touchdown drive, Goff was six-of-seven for 41 yards, with every pass being a high-percentage short throw.

Stafford’s first three drives with the Rams:

8-of-11, 144 yards, 1 TD, three deep shots

Goff’s first three drives with the Lions:

9-of-13, 61 yards, 1 TD, one deep shot, one sack for a loss of 10

Stafford was averaging 13.1 yards per attempt through three drives, as compared to 4.7 yards per attempt by Goff; 3.9 net yards per attempt when you account for the sack.

To say that they were “equals” isn’t just untrue, it’s fascinating.

It is fascinating what box scores will make people believe when they didn’t watch the game, but even then, at least play logs tell a greater story than the total of what happened after four quarters. Except that what happens over the course of four quarters is not an accurate picture because as all “garbage time” arguers will remind you, it’s easier to eat up pass defenses in garbage time.

Better yet, we know that by watching the games, Stafford was more accurate, threw a prettier ball, and was less reliant on help from his teammates, though it is help from his teammates that is finally helping to create a more representative picture of Stafford’s game after 12 years in Detroit.

More from Parker:

And for Goff individually, he had two seasons under Rams coach Sean McVay with higher QB ratings (100.5 in 2017 and 101.1 in 2018) that were higher than ANY season where Stafford played at least 10 games.

Hence, Stafford, 32, isn’t adding anything the Rams haven’t had in the past.

If passer rating is your barometer for success, then fear not Parker, Stafford leads the NFL through one week and posted a career-high on Sunday, so it’s odd that this could be “still just Stafford” when he sets new marks in so many key categories.

How did Goff’s next drive go?

On Goff’s fourth drive, he went 3-of-3, gaining only 15 yards and setting the Lions up for another field goal.

On Stafford’s fourth drive, 2-of-2 for only seven yards and a nine-yard loss on a sack.

Though Stafford only had four drives in the first half, Goff had six thanks to...Jared Goff.

On Goff’s fifth drive, he completed a short pass to Hockenson for a gain of 10, then completed a short pass to D’Andre Swift for a loss of one. On third-and-8 and situated at his own 32, Goff threw a pass directly to 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw; so, I guess, that was his second touchdown pass for the Lions.

The pick-six gave the ball right back to Detroit and Goff was sacked for a loss of six and then completed a short pass for seven yards that wouldn’t have counted because of a penalty but the 49ers declined it because “Who cares?” at that point.

Jared Goff’s first half with the Detroit Lions:

15-of-20, 92 yards, 1 TD/1 INT, two sacks for -16 yards

Yards per throw: 4.6

Net yards per throw: 3.7

Comparisons to Matthew Stafford: “Really?!”

On Stafford’s first drive with the Rams, he gained seven yards on his first attempt and 67 yards on his second. So, to sum up: MATTHEW STAFFORD LITERALLY HAD MORE NET PASSING YARDS ON HIS FIRST TWO THROWS THAN JARED GOFF DID DURING HIS ENTIRE FIRST HALF.

The second half for Goff was different, but how different? Not right-away different, that’s for sure.

Here is Goff’s first second half drive:

Goff started with good field position but went 0-of-3, only gaining a first down via penalty.

Here is Goff’s eighth drive of the game, which actually resulted in a 43-yard touchdown pass to Swift. Wow, 43 yards, must be a deep throw?

Nope, Jared Goff went three-of-four, all short passes, and his 43-yard touchdown pass actually took 50 yards when you account for the fact that Swift had to catch it seven yards behind the line of scrimmage.

That touchdown by Swift cut the 49ers lead down from ... 28 to 21.

And through three quarters, this is the number of deep attempts by Goff: One. Incomplete.

It wasn’t until the first play of the fourth quarter that Goff would have his second incomplete deep pass attempt. On the next play he was sacked and Detroit punted.

Down 41-17 and needing to do anything it takes to cut the 49ers lead down, Jared Goff stepped onto the field with 9:53 left and a mission to get down the field. Quickly! The answer was that Goff went 5-of-7 passing on the drive, turning it over on downs. The number of deep throws?

ZERO.

Back to Stafford ...

Matthew Stafford’s first half with the Rams:

10-of-13, 151 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 1 sack

Matthew Stafford’s first drive of the second half:

2-of-3, 75 yards, two deep throws, one touchdown to Cooper Kupp

Through Stafford’s first five drives with LA, he had thrown for 226 yards on 16 attempts.

In Jared Goff’s first second half with the Lions, he threw for 246 yards ... on 37 attempts.

Still trailing 41-17 with 5:45 remaining, Goff threw 13 total passes, two of which did not count because of defensive pass interference. Of Goff’s 11 throws that counted, 10 were short. The lone deep throw was incomplete to Quintez Cephus.

Though Goff completed nine-of-11 attempts on the drive and scored a touchdown on a 1-yard run by Jamaal Williams, he also took nearly FOUR MINUTES off of the clock by doing so. The Lions converted a two-pointer and cut the lead to 41-25 with 1:53 remaining.

Detroit then needed to recover an onside kick just to get Goff back on the field for more short passes.

Against a soft San Francisco defense that wasn’t expecting to be in this position late in the game, Goff had his best statistical drive, going five-of-five with a touchdown to Cephus. He had one deep attempt on the drive and to his credit, it was a perfect throw.

It’s just that, you know, the Lions were down 41-17 a minute ago and this is miracle time.

That miracle nearly happened. Now only down 41-33, Detroit got the ball back with :52 seconds left after a Deebo Samuel fumble that should have been a game-sealing first down. Instead, Goff got a chance to tie the game, if he could just get the Lions down the field quickly.

By no other reasoning other than the fate that would force him into it, Jared Goff’s next four pass attempts all went down as “DEEP” throws. Were it not for an onside kick recovery and then a Samuel fumble, Goff would have ended the day with really just one deep pass attempt. The stats now show that Goff had at least four more deep attempts, but these only came as an act of desperation, not as an act of war.

Goff went 2-of-4 on those deep throws, gaining 45 yards, which is still 22 yards fewer than Stafford-to-Jefferson’s welcome party in the first quarter. Jared Goff’s final stat line told one way (“338 yards, 3 TD”) is certainly not indicative of Goff’s play as told another way (57 pass attempts, over 50 of which were short, and leading an offense that lacked the explosiveness and talent to take advantage of the 49ers’ constant miscues) and I think it would be a disservice to NFL fans to lie to them about how these two quarterbacks played in Week 1.

Matthew Stafford actually was amazing. His stats are a symptom of his play.

Jared Goff actually was dead weight on Detroit’s offense. Desperation and mistakes by the other team were the only catalysts towards higher totals.

Rob Parker’s headline about the comparison was that “It’s still just Matthew Stafford.”

I guess actually that’s something that I can agree with. It’s still Matthew Stafford, but he has new digs.

And it’s still just Jared Goff, too.