Matthew Stafford has some heavying lifting to do, attempting to master Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay’s complex playbook quickly so he can make a smooth transition once offseason work starts in May.
Now that the trade that sent Stafford from Detroit to the Rams last month is official, the 33-year-old signal caller can truly begin his intense preparation.
“The biggest thing for me right now is to make sure I dive into this offense,” Stafford said. “Learn it as quick as I can. Get to know my teammates and make sure when we hit the ground running, I’m ready to go. And I can play fast and free and play to my highest ability.”
Stafford said former Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s offense is much different than McVay’s, so there will be a steep learning curve.
Adding to that challenge, Stafford said, will be likely limited contact with teammates this offseason due to COVID-19 protocols and having to learn a new offense through virtual meetings.
However, McVay believe Stafford is up to the challenge.
“First of all, you know, he’s a great competitor, plays the position at an elite level,” McVay said. “For anybody that’s been around him, when you talk to those people, what they say about him -- that says as much as anything. Then, just being able to evaluate his body of work, even going back to Georgia, the 12 years in Detroit -- toughness sees the field well, can progress, great movement in the pocket can make all those throws.
“Just being able to get to know him a little bit, 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. His teammates are really going to love him. You listen to what some of his teammates have come out and said about him and that’s really consistent, whether it’s coaches, teammates you can’t help but love this guy and really excited to get to work with Matthew.”
Stafford’s already started that process. He looks forward to getting on the field with his teammates for offseason work in May. He’s talked to some of them, including Aaron Donald, Andrew Whitworth, Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods.
Stafford said he’s eager to work with both Kupp and Woods, both excellent route runners that can make plays after the catch.
“They just do an outstanding job of getting open,” Stafford said. “It’s pretty impressive watching those two guys go. They both do it in their own unique way. Both have an understanding of the game that’s pretty impressive. You can see it; it jumps out on tape and from afar when you’re watching the TV. And then once they get the ball the do a great job of running after the catch, which is huge in this league.”
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Stafford said he’s not concerned about negotiating a long-term deal and is fine playing out the final two years of his contract. He has not been approached by the Rams to restructure his deal to free up more cap space, but is open to those conversations.
“I’m just going to play and let all of that other stuff take care of itself,” Stafford said.
Stafford had just four winning seasons in 12 years with the Lions, going 0-3 in the postseason.
He’s taking over the reins at quarterback for a franchise that advanced to the Super Bowl three seasons ago and has reached the NFC Divisional round in two of the last four years with McVay as head coach.
With next year’s Super Bowl taking place at SoFi Stadium, some NFL observers believe Stafford could be the final piece for the Rams, who had the No. 1 defense in the league last season.
No pressure, right?
“It’s exciting,” Stafford said. “It’s something that drew me as I guess a tradable asset at some point, that the Rams were the team that were proven winners, had done it quite consistently over the last four or five years. So, something that was exciting to me.
“Obviously, being on the other end of that, not having too many playoff chances under my belt is frustrating. It’s tough. You play this game for success as a team. You want to win games and be in those big moments. I’m excited to hopefully have that opportunity. That isn’t guaranteed to us, just because it happened in years past, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen again. We’ve got to go out there and earn it and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure we earn it.”
For now, Stafford has time to get his wife Kelly and four daughters settled into Southern California. It will have to be somewhere close to the beach -- that’s how he convinced his daughters to move from the Motor City to Los Angeles, according to Stafford.
And Stafford said he looks forward to watching good friend and old high school teammate Clayton Kershaw pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“I’m excited to watch him do his thing,” Stafford said, with a laugh. “He’s obviously been a great player for a long time. I’m excited to hopefully get out to Dodger stadium and watch him do his thing and be in the stand for that.”
Stafford said he’ll have to get used to living in a city full of celebrities like L.A.
“I am not a celebrity, Hollywood type of guy,” Stafford said. “But listen, I’m going to be focused on football when I’m here. If I run into somebody cool, I’ll let you know.”