Matthew Stafford could absolutely be the best quarterback in the NFC and only the season before last, he was a Super Bowler coming off of 41 touchdown passes. My position on Stafford going into the 2021 season was that he was a huge upgrade from Jared Goff and being under-appreciated by most around the league.
Even last season, despite worse statistics and missing half of the season, Stafford displayed the arm talent and yes, decision making that sets him apart from most players at his position who have simply proven to be worse than he is.
But there’s a very important part of that sentence that can’t be overlooked: “Quarterbacks who have proven to be worse than Matthew Stafford.”
As the NFC is currently setup, most of Stafford’s counterparts in the conference haven’t proven what they are at this point. Some will be worse. But there’s a chance that quite a few of the younger players—and every expected starter in the NFC is younger than Stafford—could take that next step to make the competition more difficult than most expect.
That’s partly because six teams are transitioning to new starting quarterbacks in 2023.
The Commanders are putting their faith in Sam Howell, the Packers in Jordan Love, the Falcons in Desmond Ridder, the Bucs in Baker Mayfield, the Saints in Derek Carr, and the Panthers in Bryce Young.
Two years ago, all six of those teams had worse starters than the Rams with the exception of Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers. What if, say, two of those six new starters turn out to be good? That’s a slightly more difficult field than it was in 2021.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Among the other NFC teams, we know that since 2021, the Eagles have upgraded from Carson Wentz to Jalen Hurts, the Bears have changed out Mitchell Trubisky for Justin Fields, the 49ers are turning the reins over to Brock Purdy, and the Seahawks may have traded Russell Wilson at exactly the right time.
What if Fields and Purdy turn out quality seasons in 2023? Then that could be two more NFC offenses that are better off than they were two years ago. Similarly, Geno Smith made the Pro Bowl with Seattle in 2022, maybe another year under his belt and a couple added weapons this offseason will give him an advantage.
Then you’ve got Kyler Murray shedding himself of Kliff Kingsbury once he returns from his torn ACL, Daniel Jones going into year two with head coach Brian Daboll, plus Dak Prescott, Jared Goff’s new-look next to OC Ben Johnson, and Kirk Cousins maybe getting better under former Rams OC Kevin O’Connell.
If we’re looking at how things have shaken out in the past, then yes, Stafford could be the best, second-best, or third-best quarterback in the conference. That would not surprise me, but L.A. has to do a better job of protecting him and we have no idea what shape the Rams offensive line will be in next season.
But if some combination of Bryce Young, Desmond Ridder, Jalen Hurts, Justin Fields, Kyler Murray, Daniel Jones, Brock Purdy, Derek Carr, and Jared Goff, just for examples, end up having good seasons, then we could be witnessing the transformation of the NFC quarterback landscape right now before our very eyes. It means that McVay and Stafford both have to step up in 2023, or the conference’s quarterback hierarchy could leave them falling behind.
Which quarterbacks in the NFC do you expect to be ranked 1-2-3 when we’re going into the 2024 season? Let us know in the comments and whether Stafford will be on the Rams and in the top-three.