Is Matthew Stafford an Upgrade Over Jared Goff?

A narrative is defined as any “account of a series of related events or experiences, whether fictional or non-fictional.” Unfortunately in fantasy football, many narratives created about a player, coach, or team are not backed with supported data. Therefore, these would be fictional, or false narratives. False narratives are not hard to find. You might have heard that wide receivers usually take at least three years to break out (they don’t). Perhaps you were told that the new head coach spells bad news for the running back position on that (it doesn’t). No matter what information you may hear being regurgitated as ‘facts,’ it is important to remove yourself from the echo chamber and think for yourself. Even better, find data that supports an opinion before accepting the narrative as truth. Those narratives surround the recent Stafford-Goff trade.

The narrative being told of late is that new Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford is a steep upgrade over Jared Goff. Goff is a broken quarterback, and with Stafford the Rams are top Superbowl contenders in 2021. Unless Stafford is crowned the Most Valuable Player, it will likely be due to a number of other factors outside of just who is throwing the ball. The point I want to hone in on is whether Stafford is a major upgrade at quarterback over Goff.

Per Game Stat Comparison

When we look at cumulative stats for a player, it can be a bit misleading as one player may have played in more games than another. Per game statistics are more helpful to use when comparing the productivity of two players. Wouldn’t you know, Jared Goff has performed rather comparably to Stafford since Sean McVay took over. This data somewhat addresses another narrative, that Matthew Stafford’s production is solely volume-based.

Advanced Stats Comparison

Pro Football Focus is a goldmine of advanced data which gives us greater insights into players than sites before their time. Adjusted completion percentage is one of those extra data points. 

PFF notes adjusted completion percentage (ADJ%) “accounts for factors that hurt the passer’s completion percentage but don’t help show how accurate they are [such as] dropped passes, throw aways, spiked balls, batted passes, and passes where the QB was hit while they threw the ball. The formula: ((Completions + Drops) / (Attempts – Throw Aways – Spikes – Batted Passes – Hit As Thrown)).”

ADJ% can be a helpful tidbit of information to compare both players, as many acknowledge Goff has probably had the better supporting cast the last few years. According to the per game data, Stafford was slightly more accurate on all of his passes, but what about when we account for these ‘extra’ factors?

When taking away those factors outside of the quarterback’s control in order to get a clearer look at accuracy, Goff is superior, especially over the past couple of seasons.

To be fair, Stafford has attempted more deep passes than Goff over the years which would presumably impact his completion percentage. Either way though, neither player is substantially better than the other in this metric.

Was Matt Stafford a Stat-Padder?

It is no secret Detroit failed to consistently win games in the past four years, and often the defense left much to be desired. Since 2017, the Lions defense ranked 21st, 16th, 26th, and 32nd, in points allowed per game. As such, Stafford was often playing while his team was trailing and that forced more pass-centric game scripts. 

In the past four years, Stafford’s ranks among all quarterbacks in stats accumulated while trailing in the 4th quarter or overtime:

  • Completions: 5th
  • Attempts: 3rd
  • Yards: 3rd
  • Touchdowns: 5th

On average, 20% of his entire season production came from these pass-centric game situations, compared to 12% for Goff.

What About Neutral Game Situations?

When the score of a game is within a touchdown, a team usually has their entire playbook available. Opposing defenses are not going to be playing a prevent defense, or scheming solely to stop the pass. In games where the score was within a touchdown, Stafford and Goff again showed comparable per game averages. If Stafford finds himself in more neutral game situations with an improved Rams defense, can we realistically expect him to greatly outperform the production Goff was providing?

Goff > Stafford?

This article is not a piece to argue Jared Goff is a better quarterback than Matthew Stafford. However, the statistical gap between Stafford and Goff appears to be fairly small the past few years in many key areas. While Stafford is being made out to be a substantial upgrade over Goff, it is hard to confidently come to a conclusion looking at the data. 

There are many factors we cannot measure, and instead, will have to take a ‘wait and see’ approach. For example, was Stafford held back by poor coaching in Detroit? Will McVay unlock another level for Stafford with more creative play calling? Maybe, but there is no way to know, or even predict what will occur until we see them together in action. 

I tend to believe the love for Stafford has gone entirely too far, and the hate for Goff is somewhat unfounded. Let’s pump the brakes on the Stafford love, and acting like it is a foregone conclusion that it is ‘wheels up’ for every single Rams skill player. It’s very unlikely that Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and Tyler Higbee all see significant individual statistical improvements in a passing offense that has already ranked 10th, 5th, 4th, and 13th in the league each of the past four seasons. 

Just for fun, let’s enjoy one final blind resume exercise. Is there a quarterback here who’s per game stats substantially stand out from the rest? I don’t think so… and the names of these three quarterbacks may surprise you…

Do you think Stafford is a major upgrade over Goff in Los Angeles? Be sure to find me on Twitter at @_TaylorCornell and let me know. You can check out our site’s page at @JoinOurCircle_. Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube page and meet your Fantasy Intervention Support Group.

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