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Top-20 LA Rams of 2022: Is Matthew Stafford or Aaron Donald more important to the Rams?

The ultimate showdown that this list was inevitably headed towards

Los Angeles Rams defeat the San Francisco 49ers 20-17 during a NFC championship football game at SoFi Stadium. Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images

As the defending Super Bowl champions, this is the way that it should be for the Los Angeles Rams. The ultimate showdown for the number one most pressing and unanswerable question that there is in the game of football: Is “QB Winz” a fair number?

Is this a team sport or a quarterback sport?

The easy and maybe more p.c. answer is that football is a team sport because it is also undeniably true. Every offensive series is comprised of 10 guys on offense and 11 guys on defense who are not quarterbacks, so how can 95-percent of the field be wrong?

And yet at the same time, the game almost always demands that a team do one of two things: Have a great performance by your quarterback or force the other team’s quarterback to have a terrible day.

In four of the last eight years, Tom Brady has won the Lombardi trophy and he has had a ton of different teammates, and worn different jerseys, in that timespan. Which still doesn’t include the five Super Bowls that Brady reached prior to 2014. The other four quarterbacks to win the Super Bowl in the last eight years are Patrick Mahomes, Peyton Manning, Matthew Stafford, and Nick Foles/Carson Wentz.

In the cases of Manning’s final season with the Broncos and the 2017 Eagles, those teams were not defined by great quarterback play, but by how those teams affected quarterback play whether it was on their offense or by their defense. And even then, Manning is a Hall of Famer, while the Eagles got fantastic play out of Wentz prior to injury and then Foles balled out in the playoffs.

Fans do not track the Super Bowl credentials for ANY OTHER POSITION in the entire sport of football other than quarterbacks.

You can be mad at QB Winz, but you can’t tell me that isn’t true about Super Bowl credentials. It’s why so many people haven’t taken Stafford seriously until now. It’s why careers for players like Jim Kelly and Philip Rivers come with these caveats as starting points: “Great player, no Super Bowl wins.”

Nobody talks that way about Julio Jones or J.J. Watt.

Even in the case of Aaron Donald, there was never any chatter prior to 2021 that Donald is “a phenomenal player, but we can’t take him seriously as a first ballot Hall of Famer until he wins the Super Bowl.” NOBODY thought that. And if they did, how crazy to think that! The greatest player of his generation!

Yet... Not a quarterback.

They are the highest paid in the NFL by a wide margin.

They get the most attention and there is no defined “second place” position.

Most fans can name the #32 starting quarterback in the NFL and reel off competitions between Drew Lock and Geno Smith or Sam Darnold against Baker Mayfield or they have curiosity in the year two development of Davis Mills ... but how many of those same fans could tell you who their 10th favorite tight end is or the top-16 off-ball linebackers or the number one cornerback on all 32 teams?

Football IS a sport that demands unbelievably impressive play from the quarterback position and whether that comes in the form of a Hall of Fame player (Brady), a fantastic playoff run (Joe Flacco, Eli Manning), or a shutdown defense that makes every QB look ugly when it counts (2000 Ravens, 2002 Bucs, 2015 Broncos), you can’t escape how much of this game is about the guy who touches the ball on virtually every play.

But also Aaron Donald is a motherfuckin’ legend.

He had my vote for Super Bowl MVP.

Every previous entry in this series has been about one guy but it wouldn’t be right for me to simply decide who deserves the number one position between these two extremely important players. The L.A. Rams need both Stafford and Donald, so even though I will reveal what my rankings are, as usually, I’m putting the final answers to YOU, the community, to help decide who ultimately gets the number one spot.

#2 - DT Aaron Donald

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

The fact that any player has done THIS is what I fucking live for with football:

I love dominance, greatness, and a display of what it means to have it all AND to give it all. Not to shuck your responsibilities because you have some God given talent. Donald is the ultimate combination of athleticism and brains and commitment, he’s an inspiration and should be a role model, whether that’s intentional or not.

Like most icons, AD did it his own way. While someone like Jalen Ramsey or Cooper Kupp is undeniably elite at their position, Donald has re-defined his position and done things that have never been done by a defensive tackle before. Not even close. There’s something so “Babe Ruthian” and “Wilt Chamberlainesque” about him. He’s a living, active legend.

The only reason that he wouldn’t be number one on any team’s “most important” list, like here, is that the franchise has a great quarterback. The level of difficulty for Donald each season with Jared Goff, then Austin Davis, Case Keenum, and even Foles before him, was simply too hard for any human to overcome. Even humans like Aaron Donald.

But he’s Aaron Donald. If anyone could do it, it’s him. He almost did it!

#1 - QB Matthew Stafford

Here’s Stafford saying, “But actually, I am kinda good.”

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

Like I’m sure millions of Lions fans could relate to, I’m tired of the Matthew Stafford disrespect. I don’t think his on-field mistakes are dramatically different than the mistakes of Brady, Manning, or Aaron Rodgers. Maybe the totality of his game is a level below those players, but this is a sport that requires you have a quarterback who can go out there and win it in the final moments.

We saw that in the playoffs last season with Josh Allen vs. Patrick Mahomes; with Joe Burrow vs. Mahomes; and in each of Stafford’s final three victories against the Bucs, 49ers, and Bengals.

Stafford completed two passes to Kupp for 66 yards in the final minute against the Bucs, plays that were not available to Sean McVay prior to the trade for Stafford. He went 5-of-5 for 53 yards on the final drive of the NFC Championship for a game-winning field goal. And Stafford completed six of his first eight passes on his last drive of the Super Bowl to get the Rams into Cincinnati’s red zone, later throwing the game-winning touchdown to Kupp.

Donald led a dominant defensive effort to force the Bengals to punt or turn the ball over on downs on each of their last five drives. But if the Rams needed four points to win the game, you simply can’t go ask Aaron Donald to go get them for you.

That’s a quarterback’s job. Now the Rams have that quarterback. That guy. He doesn’t have to be the best quarterback in the league, but he has to consistently be better than most of the other players at his position in the NFL. Stafford does that and until L.A. finds someone else who can (which is maybe the hardest thing to do in football because this is the goal of EVERY team), he’s the most important player on the roster.

Poll

Which of these two players is the most important player to the 2022 LA Rams?

  • 73%
    QB Matthew Stafford
    (245 votes)
  • 26%
    DT Aaron Donald
    (87 votes)
332 votes total Vote Now

Previous:

First one out - CB Robert Rochell

#20 - QB John Wolford

#19 - CB Troy Hill

#18 - C Brian Allen

#17 - ILB Ernest Jones

#16 - WR Van Jefferson

#15 - S Jordan Fuller

#14 - LG David Edwards

#13 - RB Cam Akers

#12 - DT Greg Gaines

#11 - RT Rob Havenstein

#10 - DL A’Shawn Robinson

#9 - TE Tyler Higbee

#8 - ILB Bobby Wagner

#7 - WR Allen Robinson II

#6 - OLB Leonard Floyd

#5 - LT Joe Noteboom

#4 - CB Jalen Ramsey

#3 - WR Cooper Kupp