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Top-20 Rams: John Wolford set to spend another year as LA’s ‘backup plan’

How important is the player who must replace Matthew Stafford in case of emergency?

Jacksonville Jaguars v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

As a quarterback-driven sport, the value of any team’s secondary option can’t be understated. For an example of this, Rams fans need look no further than Kurt Warner in 1999. Or Marc Bulger in 2002.

Or John Wolford for a very brief moment in time at the end of the 2020 season.

Those are three distinct and vastly different examples, but “backup quarterbacks” have represented some of the absolute greatest players in NFL history. Like when the New England Patriots unexpectedly had to turn to Tom Brady in 2001, or when the Philadelphia Eagles banked Carson Wentz’s MVP season on a Nick Foles resurgence in the playoffs, or when the San Francisco 49ers hung onto Steve Young behind Joe Montana for all those years, or even the seasons in which the Los Angeles Rams were sharing duties between Bob Waterfield and Norm Van Brocklin as one of the most dominant football teams in the pre-Super Bowl era.

There are way more examples of Hall of Fame players who started out their careers as presumed backups at quarterback than there are Hall of Fame kickers.

So for as long as Sean McVay intends to keep John Wolford as the Rams’ backup option to Matthew Stafford, that’s as long as Wolford stays as one of the most important players on the roster.

Update: Wolford was originally #19, but had to move down one because of a miscount

#20 - QB John Wolford

The fact that some fans will be perturbed by seeing a backup quarterback’s name on this list over Matt Gay or Nick Scott or Terrell Lewis isn’t lost on me. Before you make your argument against Wolford in the comments section, let me try and make it for you:

  • He might not play at all this season, and we’re hoping he doesn’t
  • He might not even beat out Bryce Perkins for the role
  • He might not even be on the Rams roster by Week 1
  • He didn’t play well enough in his appearances to warrant being a starter somewhere in the NFL

Does that about cover it?

Los Angeles Rams Mandatory Minicamp Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

The funny thing is that most, if not all of the players who don’t rank ahead of him on this list, might also not see the field for offense or defense this season. Matt Gay won’t play any offense or defense. Scott could be primarily a special teamer. Lewis and Chris Garrett and Taylor Rapp and David Long and so on... they’re all in competition with each other to earn roles on the defense.

When you intend to rank the top-20 players on a team, especially a roster like L.A.’s that is often labeled as “top-heavy”, that’s when you run into interesting matters of debate at this point in the list.

But I say interesting only that there is a lot of room for debate, not because these are the hills that you should die on.

My argument for ranking Wolford over several players who excel on special teams and who have the potential to rank much higher on the list with strong seasons on offense or defense is as simple as the fact that the L.A. Rams’ entire season would hinge on his abilities if anything were to happen to Matthew Stafford that kept him out for an extended period. Or even, sometimes, for a short period.

That’s why I also argued on Monday that the Rams should at least be a little involved in the ongoing drama surrounding Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns.

The defining characteristic of this list is not “Who is the most talented?” or even “Who has the most value to the 2022 season?” but “Who are the 20 most-important players on the roster today?”

Stafford is as tough as any quarterback in the league. He is also subject to the same laws of physics as any other football player and during a 17-game season the potential for injury and fatigue can only be heightened.

Wolford is not a player who I would endorse as a starting quarterback. What he has instead is four previous seasons in the NFL, three with the Rams, three years learning from McVay, and one season/postseason/Super Bowl helping Stafford prepare during Stafford’s best career campaign.

That gives him an edge over Bryce Perkins, but should Perkins actually win the backup job over Wolford then the answer here would have to change. I didn’t find Perkins’ audition in the 2021 preseason to look all that close to the type of quarterback play we expect to see on Sundays during the regular season, but I’m also not overwhelmed with excitement when considering what another Wolford start would look like either.

Even as limited as Jared Goff was by the end of his Rams career, the offensive gameplan and philosophy had to change dramatically with Wolford against the Arizona Cardinals. And I would expect that any starts by Wolford would reduce passing production and the impact of Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson considerably.

Hence, considering an immense upgrade to the backup position if L.A. finds themselves in position to add a veteran starter (either Mayfield or Jimmy Garoppolo) should one hit the free agent market.

But whoever the Rams’ backup quarterback ends up being in 2022, it’s going to be a very important role on the team. This window with Aaron Donald, Kupp, Robinson, Jalen Ramsey, Bobby Wagner could be a short one. L.A. could perhaps survive the season without any one of those players for a period of time... but needing to turn to the backup quarterback completely changes the makeup and outlook of the L.A. Rams.

For as long as McVay continues to employ John Wolford as the team’s fallback option, his importance to the Rams will remain greater than that of some other backups, role players, and special teamers.

At least, that’s what I think. Throw your VOTES in to tell me why I’m wrong!


Who is more important to the 2022 LA Rams?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    QB John Wolford
    (64 votes)
  • 67%
    K Matt Gay
    (208 votes)
  • 11%
    S/ST Nick Scott
    (37 votes)
309 votes total Vote Now


#21 - CB Robert Rochell


#19 - CB Troy Hill

#18 - C Brian Allen

Let’s follow-up yesterday’s Rochell poll with one based on the early results.


Who is more important to the 2022 LA Rams?

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    CB Robert Rochell
    (64 votes)
  • 14%
    S Nick Scott
    (33 votes)
  • 56%
    K Matt Gay
    (126 votes)
223 votes total Vote Now