Rams QB Matt Stafford on brink of redirecting his reputation at Super Bowl LVI

It’s been “a whole lot of fun” for Stafford and the Rams since they rescued him from the prolonged misery of playing for the Lions.

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Matthew Stafford is 15-5 as a starter this season, including the playoffs.

Matthew Stafford is 15-5 as a starter this season, including the playoffs.

Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

Here’s how wonderfully things are going for former Lions quarterback Matt Stafford now that he’s in Southern California and getting ready to lead the Rams into the Super Bowl: As he sat down for his first media session of the week, he was so delighted by the temperature of the room that he couldn’t contain himself.

“It’s beautiful,” Stafford said. “It’s [expletive] perfect.”

Then he glanced around and muttered, “Hope nobody heard me say that.”

They did, and it’s fine. That line about the room describes Stafford’s entire situation in Los Angeles.

The Rams rescued him last March after 12 mostly meaningless seasons with the Lions. Asked to compare his changing teams late in his career to Tom Brady jumping from the Patriots to the Buccaneers, Stafford laughed. It’s not nearly the same.

“He won a bunch of Super Bowls,” he said of Brady. “I was unable to win a playoff game.”

Stafford gets a chance to cement himself as a champion Sunday when the Rams host Super Bowl LVI in their home stadium against the Bengals.

The Bengals are the upstart. They opened the season with 125-to-1 odds to win it all — worse than the Jaguars — and were one of just five teams to lose to the Bears. They won the AFC North at 10-7 and pulled major upsets over the Titans and Chiefs to get here.

The Rams? They had everyone’s attention the moment they landed Stafford.

A little over a year ago, they were unsatisfied after going 10-6 and losing in the second round of the playoffs. They had everything but the quarterback — virtually the opposite of where the Lions stood. So the teams swung a deal that made sense all around:

† The Lions got two first-round picks to help with yet another rebuild.

† The Rams got a necessary upgrade at QB that vaulted them into contention.

† Stafford walked into ideal infrastructure for the first time in his career. He loved how well-outfitted the Rams were. He had one of the NFL’s best offensive lines, an elite crew of skill players led by MVP candidate Cooper Kupp at wide receiver and the No. 1 defense in the NFL. While he made no assumptions about winning a Super Bowl, this was clearly going to be the best shot he’d ever had.

“I was pumped about being able to get to L.A.,” he said. “Some things I had to get used to — just about everything. It was a totally different situation for me and my family, but . . . it’s been a whole lot of fun.”

Anyone who questioned how good Stafford really was as he toiled with the Lions got a resounding answer when he took the field with Kupp, Robert Woods, Odell Beckham Jr. and others in coach Sean McVay’s brilliant offense. Stafford threw almost as many touchdown passes this season (41) as Jared Goff threw for the Rams over 2019 and 2020 combined (42).

It was a dramatically different kind of acquisition than the Bears desperately going after veteran quarterbacks Nick Foles and Andy Dalton the last two years. This was the best season of Stafford’s career, and like Kupp, he’s a top MVP candidate in a race everyone expects Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to win.

Stafford threw more touchdown passes than Rodgers (37) and averaged more yards (287.4 to 257.2). Rodgers set himself apart by throwing just four interceptions in 535 dropbacks vs. Stafford’s 17 picks — propelling him to an NFL-best 111.9 passer rating, nine points higher than Stafford. But for once, it’s Rodgers sitting home watching Stafford on TV in the playoffs.

And Stafford certainly is thrilled by that after sitting at the bottom of the NFC North all those years. From the time the Lions drafted him No. 1 overall in 2009 until they mercifully sent him to the Rams, they had the NFL’s seventh-worst record. Stafford went 7-13 vs. the Packers, 11-9 vs. the Bears and 8-13 vs. the Vikings. All the while, he was seventh in the NFL in touchdowns and yards.

It might have felt pointless at the time, but all the losing made Stafford resilient and determined. It also made him a good personality to add to the Rams, who have done nothing but win since McVay took over in 2017.

“I bring a little bit of a unique perspective to this team because of the success they’ve had — I obviously didn’t have that,” Stafford said of going 74-90-1 and losing three playoff games by a total of 41 points in Detroit. “It’s made me the player that I am, the teammate that I am.”

He thought back to those years of frustration in November when the Rams went winless for the month and fell two games behind the Cardinals in the NFC West.

“There was plenty of time in Detroit where we were having a tough stretch,” he said.

Other than some outlier seasons, his whole tenure there was pretty much a tough stretch. Not being able to lift the Lions out of the misery has always been a stain on Stafford’s career.

Now, in a situation that’s “[expletive] perfect,” he’s on the brink of erasing that.

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