Matthew Stafford overcame the Detroit Lions’ dysfunction to quarterback the Los Angeles Rams to a Super Bowl 56 appearance in their own beautiful stadium.
While Stafford gave his all to Detroit for over a decade, all he could manage was three NFC Wild Card berths and not a single postseason victory in Lions uniform. With yet another change at the helm coming in the Motor City, he used his Atlanta area connection to link up with Sean McVay to do big things in L.A. In year one together, they have the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl.
Simply put, no player did more of a complete 180 in terms of his perception this year on the field than Stafford. As it turned out, he was exactly what the Rams needed to potentially win their second Lombardi Trophy in franchise history, this time in their own place. Many people thought the Rams would be good, but getting to the Super Bowl as the No. 4 seed is simply incredible.
Fate would have it they will face the other No. 4 seed in the Cincinnati Bengals here in two weeks.
Matthew Stafford leads the Rams to the Super Bowl in his first season in L.A.
It was never a matter of talent when it came to Stafford. The former high school standout from Highland Park, Texas was the top quarterback recruit in his class. He opted to play for Mark Richt in Athens, where he set the SEC on fire with his howitzer of a right arm from 2006 to 2008. Had there been a College Football Playoff in 2007, Stafford and the Dawgs may have come out on top.
With no championships or division titles on his resume, Stafford went from the lion’s den in the SEC to the dog house of the NFL. Detroit could not win a single game the year prior to his arrival. Injuries may have slowed him down initially, but Michiganders quickly learned what SEC fans already knew: The dude can ball. Unfortunately, the organization he tried to carry let him down.
Dubbed with the not-so-nice nickname of “Stat Padford”, Stafford seemed destined to live a life of empty-calorie passing stats and annual losses in the early-afternoon window every Thanksgiving Day. On the wrong side of 30, something had to change before it was too late. Fate would have it a former Rams executive in new Lions general Brad Holmes would give the old Dawg a bone.
The Lions knew they had to rebuild. The Rams knew they needed an upgrade at quarterback over the talented, but inconsistent Jared Goff. Holmes and Rams general manager Les Snead struck up a deal. Stafford would go to the Rams, while Goff and a boatload of picks would go to Detroit. While the Lions played hard this year, it was the Rams who epically battled for championship glory.
Despite losing twice to the San Francisco 49ers this year, including the regular-season finale, the Rams stumbled into the NFC playoffs as the No. 4 seed. They knocked off another divisional foe in the Arizona Cardinals in the finale of Super Wild Card Weekend. After that, Stafford hit Cooper Kupp to end the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ title defense and maybe send Tom Brady into retirement.
It was only fitting the same 49ers would try to beat McVay’s Rams for the third time this season and the seventh time in a row in this NFC West rivalry series. In a game that went down to the wire, Stafford put the Rams offense on his back and helped propel them to victory. It was a total team effort, but he was the superior signal-caller over Jimmy Garoppolo when it mattered most.
As the confetti settles on the turf of Stan Kroenke’s most wondrous creation, we should sit back and come to the realization that Stafford is one win away from eternal football glory. Yes, he has to go up against Joe Burrow and the Bengals, but maybe all that heartache and pain he suffered in Detroit will inspire him to do the improbable: Win the Rams’ first Super Bowl in Los Angeles.
While this is not Stafford’s coronation as an elite NFL quarterback, he is now the fresh prince to win the Battle of Los Angeles over the Chargers for the next wave of Angeleno football fans.