Column: Rams need to get with reality and shut down Matthew Stafford for season
The Rams might technically still be in contention, but who are they kidding?
Their season is over.
Matthew Stafford’s should be too.
In a videoconference Monday, coach Sean McVay told reporters that the 34-year-old Stafford continued to be evaluated for a concussion he might have sustained the previous day in a 27-20 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
Here’s something that doesn’t require any further evaluation: Stafford shouldn’t return to the field this season.
The fact that Stafford has exhibited concussion-like symptoms for the second time in three weeks should be an Aaron Donald-sized stop sign for the Rams, who have nothing to gain and everything to lose by playing their Super Bowl-winning quarterback again.
Stafford was put in the NFL’s concussion protocol two days after a Nov. 6 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and missed a Week 10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. He was cleared Friday to play against the Saints, only to have to be evaluated for another concussion after a second-half sack.
Matthew Stafford’s season is up in the air as the Rams evaluate the quarterback’s second concussion in three weeks. A game at Kansas City looms.
There is now evidence linking concussions to the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.
This NFL season has already produced terrifying images of Tua Tagovailoa on his back with his hands raised and his fingers twisted.
The time is now for the Rams to take a knee on their season.
Regardless of whether Stafford is put on injured reserve or again in the concussion protocol, the Rams should declare his season over.
“I’m not going to be reckless and we’re going to be really smart with Matthew,” McVay said. “That’s kind of where I’ll leave that.”
Being smart would take the player’s history into consideration. Stafford played through injuries with the Detroit Lions, he played through an elbow pain last year, and the bet here is that he will try to play again this year.
The Rams have to save him from himself.
McVay sounded as if he understood what was at stake.
“I think you want to be really careful with that,” McVay said when asked about Stafford’s potential availability for the upcoming game in Kansas City. “It’s going to be about the person first and foremost.”
Say what you want about owner Stan Kroenke and the Rams, but they have done right by their players since moving the team back to Los Angeles.
They have rewarded players who outperformed their rookie contracts with multiyear extensions.
They signed Stafford to a four-year deal after he won them the Super Bowl last season.
Ending Stafford’s season would be a figurative waving of the white flag for a franchise that has prided itself on its resilience but would also give the Rams an opportunity to show what they’re about.
The decision would be in the best interest of Stafford, who has a wife and four daughters.
The decision would also be in the best interest of the Rams, even though losing games wouldn’t result in them picking near the top of the draft next year. While the Rams traded their first-round pick to the Lions as part of Stafford deal, they have Stafford under contract for three more years.
What would be the point of exposing Stafford to any further risk this year?
All-Pro wide receiver Cooper Kupp is recovering from an ankle operation and will be on injured reserve for at least three more weeks. The Rams are unable to run the ball.
Rams-Saints takeaways: L.A.’s defense could not control the Saints and quarterback Andy Dalton, and moving forward, will Matthew Stafford be replaced?
Sending Stafford back to the field would basically make him a sitting duck behind an injury-ravaged offensive line that has already allowed him to be sacked 29 times, which is tied for fifth most in the NFL.
“It’s tough,” McVay said of being without Kupp, and, now, possibly Stafford. “Those guys are really the foundational parts of how you kind of have it built. ... When those guys aren’t out there on the field, you’re never replacing two players like that.”
McVay is right. The Rams can’t replace Stafford, and they have already proven they can’t protect him on the field. They only way they can shield him from further damage is by keeping him off it.
Go beyond the scoreboard
Get the latest on L.A.'s teams in the daily Sports Report newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.