Dan Orlovsky and Drew Stanton say Rams got a gem in Matthew Stafford

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Sam Farmer
·5 min read
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NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - DECEMBER 20: Quarterback Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions drops back to pass against the defense of the Tennessee Titans during the second quarter of the game at Nissan Stadium on December 20, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Quarterback Matthew Stafford drops back to pass against the defense of the Tennessee Titans on Dec. 20 in Nashville. (Wesley Hitt / Getty Images)

The Rams gave up an arm and a leg to get a franchise quarterback.

And got the right arm of Matthew Stafford in return.

Wise move. That’s the opinion of Dan Orlovsky, at least, a retired quarterback who backed up Stafford in Detroit and spent a training camp with the Rams in Sean McVay’s first season.

Orlovsky, who now works at ESPN, is one of the best up-and-coming analysts in the business, a guy who spent 12 seasons in the NFL, playing for Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Tampa Bay and back to Detroit, before finishing with a stint at Rams camp.

He knows what the Rams are getting in Stafford, for whom they traded quarterback Jared Goff and three draft picks — two firsts and a third.

“It's absolutely perfect for Matthew, going to L.A.,” Orlovsky said Sunday, the morning after the trade. “Matthew should have been in this style of system for many years, it just didn't happen. He is best when he gets to hold onto the ball for a little bit of time and uses his explosive arm to make incredible, wow throws. He's a way better athlete than people think on the perimeters, even at his age.

“Fit-wise, it's perfect for Matthew. It's perfect for the Rams.”

Quarterback Drew Stanton, who played for the Lions from 2007 to 2011 and backed up Stafford for three seasons, said Sunday that reads that other quarterbacks might dismiss because the throwing windows were so tight were fair game for Stafford.

“He would say say, 'No, I can get the ball in that window, I know I can,’” Stanton said. “And he would do it. Consistently.”

Stanton, currently a practice squad quarterback for Tampa Bay, says Stafford processes what he’s seeing so quickly and with such ease, it’s as if the game unfolds in slow motion for him.

“People like Matthew and the Russell Wilsons of the world, when they’re scrambling, or when Matthew’s even in the pocket, things are just slow for him,” Stanton said. “He sees things before they happen. He can put the ball in different places. He can open windows or close windows with his eyes.”

One of the big differences Stafford will notice right away, Orlovsky said, is the Rams have a running game.

Quarterbacks Matthew Stafford and Drew Stanton talk before a preseason game.
Quarterbacks Matthew Stafford, left, and Drew Stanton talk before a preseason game on Aug. 29, 2019, in Cleveland. (Ron Schwane / Associated Press)

“Matthew in the last six seasons has averaged 89 yards rushing, his team,” he said. “The Rams averaged 126 last year. That's huge. Matthew's had a 100-yard back 11 times in 12 seasons. The Rams had a 100-yard back five times last season.

“Just that alone, you're going to see life so much easier for a quarterback. It's absolutely perfect.”

By Orlovsky’s appraisal, the Rams have a two-year window for their best chance to make a Super Bowl run, and are one move away from becoming the complete package. They need a receiver who can stretch the field, and he sees Detroit receiver Marvin Jones as an ideal fit. Jones, who caught nine touchdown passes in three of the last four seasons, is due to become a free agent this spring.

“If I were them, I’d go sign Marvin,” Orlovsky said. “I think it makes a ton of sense. Matthew and he have a great relationship. They obviously have a great rapport on the field. I think Marvin Jones would be that person.”

As first impressions go, the most striking aspects of Stafford are his accuracy and ability to throw all the required passes.

“The arm is anything you could ever cross your fingers and hope for when it comes to a quarterback's ability to make throws,” Orlovsky said. “Can you throw the ball 65-plus yards down the field? Absolutely. Can you throw the ball 24 yards on an absolute rope between defenders? Yes. Can you throw the ball up over a defender but get it down before somebody closing comes? Yes. Can you drop it down sidearm and be accurate because you need to? Absolutely. Can you throw on the run? Yes.

“Everything that you could want is in the right shoulder.”

But Orlovsky said Stafford was even more impressive as a teammate.

“One of the best people I've ever met. Legit,” he said. “That's the thing that gets lost with him a lot. He's an incredible person with this great heart, an absolute savage competitor.

“I was talking to a coach yesterday who is in on the quarterback market and was asking about him. I said, 'His greatest quality is he can be two people at once. He knows he's the guy. He knows he's The Man. He has this aura about him that 100% knows he's The Man. And at the same time, he has a great ability to just be a guy. Like just one of the guys.’

“I think there's quarterbacks that can get their teammates to walk 90 out of 100 steps on the journey with them. Maybe 95 out of 100. His teammates will walk 100 out of 100 for him.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.