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Matthew Stafford won’t win MVP, but he deserves more credit than he gets

Rams QB Matthew Stafford is getting overlooked again, and that’s probably how he likes it

NFL: Washington Commanders at Los Angeles Rams Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams have won four of their last five games and enter the home stretch of the season in a strong position for a wild card spot, facts that would fantasy if not for the perennially-underrated Matthew Stafford. Look at all the players who the Rams put around Stafford this year, their coaching changes, and his effort to throw 12 touchdowns in the last four games and you’ll see that while the rest of the world continues to talk about other quarterbacks, a guy who has as many Super Bowls as he does Pro Bowls is getting overlooked again.

Matthew Stafford, MVP? Why is that so crazy?

Matthew Stafford, 2023

Over the last four games, Matthew Stafford has 12 touchdown passes, second-most in the NFL behind Brock Purdy. For the season, Stafford has 21 touchdowns, nine interceptions, and he’s the only quarterback in the NFL who has not fumbled.

Going into this week, prior to getting blown out by the Bills on Sunday, Dak Prescott was considered the heavy favorite for MVP. Prescott has 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions with two fumbles. Is the difference so great that one is the “favorite” to win MVP and the other won’t finish in the top-10? Stafford may not even get a single vote.

Is the difference that big?

Josh Allen has 26 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, with four fumbles. Tua Tagovailoa has 25 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and 12 fumbles. Jalen Hurts has 19 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and eight fumbles.

While I would not argue that Stafford’s having a “great” statistical season, I would argue that his season isn’t that far below the production of quarterbacks regularly cited as being deserving of the MVP award. Stafford is not a rushing threat like Hurts and Allen, but that may only heighten his case for being so valuable: He doesn’t fumble the football, he doesn’t rely too heavily on his mobility/escapability and take negative yards, he does have to do more with his arm than most quarterbacks and he still may have the best arm in the league.

Four games ago, it would have been ludicrous to argue Stafford as MVP. But he has 12 touchdowns added to his tally now. That’s why we play 17 games, not 13.

Supporting Cast

Without over-emphasizing supporting cast comparisons, Purdy does have an All-Pro left tackle, an All-Pro running back, an All-Pro tight end, and two receivers with a legitimate case for being top-10 at the position. He’s also got an offensive play caller who is regularly cited as the NFL’s best.

Normally, I wouldn’t want to spend too much time talking about such comparisons, but specifically when arguing for a player who is “most valuable”, certainly it is warranted to talk about each individual situation.

Stafford has A.J. Jackson at left tackle and he’s had Joe Noteboom at right tackle with Rob Havenstein injured recently. Neither of those tackles could be starting in 2024 or under normal circumstances. Though Cooper Kupp is a recent winner of the OPOY award, partly thanks to Stafford, he probably hasn’t been fully healthy in any game this season and Kupp wasn’t very effective in October and November.

Puka Nacua is having one of the best rookie seasons in NFL history, itself a credit to Stafford’s ability to deliver the football to the right person, with the right amount of touch, at the right time, with accuracy: Nacua’s one game with Brett Rypien, he had four catches for 45 yards on eight targets. With Stafford, his yards per target rate is almost twice as high and his catch rate is 15% points higher.

If you were being really generous and saying that Kupp compared to Aiyuk and and Puka compared to Deebo, for whatever reason, you’d still be left with George Kittle/Tyler Higbee, Christian McCaffrey/Kyren Williams, and a much-less experienced and proven offensive line.

Furthermore, Williams has missed three games, while McCaffrey has missed none. Higbee has missed time, while Kittle has missed none. Kupp has been hobbled and missed games, while Aiyuk has missed one and Samuel has missed two.

I would imagine that after Sunday, Brock Purdy will be the new leader for MVP and that Stafford won’t be mentioned. Is that fair? I don’t know about fair, I just assume that’s how it will be and I don’t agree with it.

Rams in playoffs?

I was wrong about the 2023 L.A. Rams. I predicted before the season that they would do more pushing for the top pick than the playoffs, and I was wrong. I not only underestimated the young players and acquisitions, like Puka, Kevin Dotson, Byron Young, Ahkello Witherspoon, Michael Hoecht, and so on, but also the veterans.

Especially Stafford.

His self-admitted “disconnect” with L.A.’s young roster has maybe done more good than harm and the Rams are 7-7 with a realistic chance to make the playoffs. I was wrong about them.

Better yet, the Rams are 7-6 with Stafford and that is more wins with L.A. than Joe Burrow (5-5) had with the Bengals. It’s more wins than Geno Smith has had with the Seahawks. It’s a better winning percentage than Kirk Cousins (4-4) had with the Vikings. It’s not an amazing record by any means, but I think it’s an amazing record for the 2023 Rams!

The offensive line entered the season with Coleman Shelton and Dotson as really the second-most experienced offensive linemen after Havenstein. The Rams traded Jalen Ramsey, Allen Robinson and cut Leonard Floyd, Bobby Wagner. Sean McVay’s “ain’t got time for that” to get rid of players who weren’t with the program, more specifically like Robinson and Cam Akers, has dramatically increased the speed of the franchise’s development.

L.A.’s confidence in Stafford, Kupp, and Aaron Donald to take an even bigger leadership role for the NFL’s youngest and most inexperienced roster is a big reason for their surprising .500 record and late season playoff push.

I don’t think Purdy is being asked to do anything like that.

I don’t think any quarterback in the NFL, except for maybe Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen, are asked to do more for their franchises. And are Mahomes, Allen currently having better seasons than Stafford? I don’t think so.

No credit

It’s perfect that when Cam Newton got in hot water with the media this week for noting that there were only five “game changers” in the NFL, he named Mahomes and Allen, alongside Rodgers, Lamar Jackson, and Joe Burrow.

He must think Matthew Stafford is a game manager.

One Pro Bowl in 15 years and I never got the sense that Stafford cares or even wants to be honored. That’s another reason why he won’t be this year. But he deserves it.