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Will Matthew Stafford “bounce back” in 2023 and boost his leaky Hall of Fame case?

How far will Stafford take the Rams following a bad season?

NFL: Los Angeles Rams Minicamp Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams need to rebound from a disappointing campaign and hope Matthew Stafford is ready to do the same. After missing half of last season, Stafford is shooting for another comeback in a career chock-full of them.

Count Charles McDonald of Yahoo Sports as a believer since he named the veteran quarterback as one of five players he expects to bounce back in a big way in 2023. According to his column, this is what McDonald had to say about Stafford:

“When Stafford was healthy last season, he still looked like a quality starting quarterback capable of winning games, but the team around him really struggled. This season, he’ll be getting Cooper Kupp back along with interior offensive lineman Steve Avila, the 36th overall pick in this year’s draft. Stafford won’t be playing with the same level of supporting cast he did when the Rams won the Super Bowl, but it’s better than last season. If any of their receivers past Kupp can develop into a legitimate secondary option, the Rams offense may actually be a tough out.

Regardless, this should be a bounce-back campaign for Stafford, even if it doesn’t result in a playoff berth for the Rams as a whole.”

Watching Stafford return to form would truly be a breath of fresh air for LA. Even if the Rams don’t make the postseason, all that really matters is the health and grown shown by their stars and younger players. Stafford is clearly no stranger to overcoming adversity. His career has been marked by the highest of highs and the most painful of lows. Will that transfer to a bust in Canton once his career is over?

That’s where things get a bit dicey.

The Matthew Stafford Hall of Fame case always had plenty of holes. Some fans expected he was a shoo-in once he won a Super Bowl. Others expected Stafford to play for a few more years to further pad his stats and boost his resume. The rest believe his career was criminally underrated to begin with.

This HOF argument will go on long after the QB decides to hang up his cleats. Stafford projects to be one of the top signal callers in the NFC at least for this upcoming campaign. Despite that, at the moment Stafford belongs in the “Hall of Very Good”, NOT the hallowed walls of Canton. The HOF talk was ridiculous to begin with after just one year in Los Angeles.

Prior to his Hollywood arrival, Matt went 74-90-1 in 12 seasons with the Lions. There’s no doubt that ‘21 will always be a magical year as the NFL finally saw what he could do in the playoffs. Fair or not, Stafford will ultimately be judged by his career in the Motor City. Yes, he was frequently overlooked in Detroit but the losing puts a dent in his case. That and the fact that he was never a dominant QB in the era he played in. Again, he had all the makings of an elite quarterback but the losses hold his candidacy back.

Football is of course a team sport so a win-loss record isn’t based solely on his individual play. Even with a coveted ring, Stafford still holds a career record of 89-101-1. Only two quarterbacks in the Hall of Fame have been inducted with a losing record: Joe Namath and Sonny Jurgenson. Both those men played in an era where playing QB was a lot harder. It’s easy for a signal caller to put up strong numbers in the soft modern era. All they need are the refs on their side if a defender even breathes on them. Eli Manning, a two-time Super Bowl champion beneficiary of the passer friendly NFL, will get into the HOF easily despite a .500 career record.

Much like Stafford, Eli never made an All-Pro team and was in the shadow of elite passers like his brother. Manning led the league in interceptions three times, something Matt only did once. Wait, is that actually something to brag about? Anywho, what’s propelling him to Canton are the two Lombardi Trophies he won by slaying Tom Brady. Not much of anything else, besides being extremely clutch in games his teams had zero business being in and putting up big numbers. Guess Stafford has more in common with the younger Manning than we thought.

Re-opening his case is a messy conversation every time it’s done. I never intended for this post to be a Stafford hit piece. In fact, I’m constantly singing his praises as he was always one of my favorite players long before he joined the Rams. For a Hall of Fame debate to even be remotely considered, it must come once his career is officially over. Anytime before then just opens up a can of worms.

Related: Why is Matthew Stafford is disrespected around the NFL?

Stafford having a strong bounce back year will only boost his chances of a bust in Canton. Him going into the Hall of Fame probably won’t happen on the first ballot or at all. Yet we’ll never know until we watch the rest of his time in LA or elsewhere unfold.

Personally, I find the Matthew Stafford HOF debate enjoyable but tiring. However, I would much rather see him back on the field playing at a high level. Who knows how long he can keep it up so better to enjoy the ride while it lasts.