Les Snead on Rams QB switch: ‘Chance to bet on going from good to great’
New Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford remembers the comeback. So does Rams coach Sean McVay.
In 2016, McVay was offensive coordinator for a Washington team that scored a touchdown with just over a minute left to take the lead against the Detroit Lions.
“I immediately thought, ‘They left us too much time,’ which was great,” Stafford recalled Friday.
Stafford led the Lions down the field and passed for a touchdown, completing one of the 38 game-winning drives he has engineered during his 12-year career.
“He broke my heart,” McVay said.
Now, Stafford and McVay are working together.
Matthew Stafford might not have the glitz and glam of Hollywood, but the strong-armed quarterback is just what the Rams need to get to a Super Bowl.
The January trade that sent quarterback Jared Goff, two first-round draft picks and a third-round pick to the Lions for Stafford became official this week. The Rams are confident that Stafford, the No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft, can lead them to a Super Bowl title.
“Excited to take on this next chapter,” Stafford said during a video conference with reporters.
Stafford, 33, has passed for 282 touchdowns, with 144 interceptions, while playing in offenses that — other than Hall of Fame receiver Calvin Johnson — lacked many stars.
“He’s got a great way about himself where you can feel he’s got a great quiet confidence but a humility that’s refreshing,” McVay said. “I think his teammates are really going to love him.”
Stafford said he was excited for the opportunity to play in McVay’s system. He has spoken with several Rams players, including receivers Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods.
“They just do an outstanding job of getting open,” Stafford said. “It’s pretty impressive to watch those two guys. They both do it in their own unique way. They both have an understanding of the game that’s pretty impressive.
“You can just see it. It jumps out on the tape. It jumps out from afar when you’re watching TV.”
Even as a sixth grader, and up through the ranks, Matthew Stafford’s hometown buddies in Texas realized the quarterback would be a star.
Because of COVID-19, NFL teams are expected to conduct offseason programs virtually for the second year in a row. McVay and Stafford indicated that would not be a problem for Stafford. The Texas native “strikes me as an extremely intelligent guy that would be a quick study” to pick up the offense,” McVay said.
Stafford did not sound overly concerned.
“It will be an interesting opportunity and challenge to get to know these guys as fast as I can and make sure they get to know me so that we can go out there and play as a team and go win some games,” Stafford said.
In his first two seasons as Rams coach, McVay was regarded among the NFL’s elite play-callers. But the offense regressed statistically the last two seasons, so the Rams are banking it will be reborn with Stafford executing McVay’s calls.
Stafford said he was excited to play in McVay’s system.
“Part of what makes him a great play caller and all great play callers is having trust in the quarterback,” he said, “and hopefully I can build that over time, and he can trust me to go out there and make plays.”
With Goff, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft, the Rams made the playoffs three times in McVay’s four seasons. They advanced to the Super Bowl in 2018, and to the NFC divisional round last season before losing to the Green Bay Packers.
After the defeat, McVay said Goff was the quarterback “right now.” About a week later, general manager Les Snead said Goff was the quarterback “in this moment.”
On Friday, McVay and Snead said there was not a specific moment when they decided to move on, though Snead indicated that the mobility backup John Wolford displayed in the regular-season finale against the Arizona Cardinals played a role. McVay and Snead framed it as a trade that that was too good to pass.
Matthew Stafford and Clayton Kershaw grew up playing sports together in Texas, but in high school they eventually played just football and baseball, respectively, after sharing gridiron and diamond time.
“It’s more a reflection of the opportunity to acquire Matthew than anything else,” McVay said.
Said Snead: “Chance to bet on going from good to great at that position.”
Snead, the Rams general manager since 2012, recalled scouting Stafford and attending his pro day workout at Georgia before the 2009 draft, when Snead worked for the Atlanta Falcons.
“That ball was coming out of his wrist with a lot of velocity, a lot of accuracy in it, and it’s something that is stamped in my brain for and it’s still there,” Snead said. “You could feel that ball, you’re like, ‘OK, this is different. This is different.’”
Twelve years later, Stafford was available. After last season, the quarterback and Lions reportedly mutually agreed it was a time for a change. Snead and McVay said they were immediately interested when news of the situation broke.
Snead said he contacted new Lions general manager Brad Holmes, who had been the Rams director of college scouting director for the previous eight seasons.
“I remember calling Brad and going, “Hey, welcome to the GM club, per se,” Snead said.
As the second day of free agency began Thursday, the Rams had yet to make additional moves to upgrade the personnel that will surround Matthew Stafford.
Stafford, who had suffered three first-round playoff defeats with the Lions, said the Rams were an intriguing landing spot.
“We had kind of spoken about trying to get to a place where the team was ready to have success in short time,” he said. “So, obviously the Rams are a team like that.”
How Stafford’s skill set changes the offense will be determined as McVay learns more about a player who has a reputation for toughness and performing well under pressure.
“You’ll see us implement things that he’s comfortable with,” McVay said. “Even if it’s stuff that you haven’t maybe seen from the Rams.”
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