Why Sean McVay, L.A. Rams soured on Jared Goff after giving him giant contract

Mike Jones
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Determined to move on from the quarterback they awarded a four-year, $134 million contract to just two seasons ago, the Los Angeles Rams have pulled off a blockbuster deal.

They're sending Jared Goff, two first-round draft picks and a third-round pick to the Detroit Lions in exchange for Matthew Stafford, the Free Press confirmed Saturday night. The deal can't become official until mid-March, when the new league year begins.

The Rams are parting with first-round picks in 2022 and 2023 to get Stafford, who had reached an agreement with team brass to work out a trade as Detroit rebuilds under a new head coach, Dan Campbell, and first-year general manager Brad Holmes. Holmes just joined Detroit after 17 years in the Rams' organization.

Lions' Stafford trade shows how big a rebuild Brad Holmes has on his hands ]

Jared Goff is headed to Detroit.

Los Angeles is forking over eye-popping compensation, but coach Sean McVay and GM Les Snead had publicly signaled their dissatisfaction with Goff, who has appeared to regress since signing that $134 million contract in September 2019.

The Rams have been aggressive in dealing away draft picks for star players since McVay came aboard in 2017. They have dealt first-round picks for wide receiver Brandin Cooks (no longer with the team), cornerback Jalen Ramsey and now Stafford. Los Angeles hasn't drafted in the first round since 2016 and now isn't scheduled to have a first-round pick until 2024.

Goff, the first overall pick in 2016, was an instrumental figure in the Rams’ run to the Super Bowl in 2018, and went 42-27 as the Rams' starter. However, his inconsistent play in the past two seasons frustrated McVay, who runs a quarterback-friendly system.

Goff had 42 touchdown passes and 29 interceptions over the past two years, and his 38 turnovers in 31 games over that span are second-most in the NFL. His QB rating was over 100 in both 2017 and 2018, but dipped to 86.5 in 2019 and 90 in 2020, and his yards per attempt and yards per completion both dropped significantly.

Late in the season, after Goff broke the thumb in his throwing hand, John Wolford played well, and even when Goff returned, McVay started Wolford for the team's wild-card playoff game. Wolford got knocked out of the game with an injury, so McVay had no choice but to turn to Goff, who played well enough to help the team beat Seattle. But the Rams lost to Green Bay the following week.

Asked about Goff’s future following the season, McVay and Snead remained non-committal, saying he was “a Ram, at the moment.”

SEIDEL:Lions' new regime impresses by trading Stafford, emerging with nice options

BIRKETT:After doing Barry & Calvin wrong, Lions were right to grant Stafford's wish

The willingness to mortgage the future to acquire Stafford is intriguing, and in some ways surprising.

Stafford, the first overall pick in 2009, will be 33 this season. For all of his passing yards – he’s the fastest player to reach 45,000 career yards – he has only one Pro Bowl selection for his career and owns an 0-3 record in the playoffs.

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford celebrates after scoring late in the fourth quarter against the Washington Redskins at Ford Field on Oct. 23, 2016.

Yet the Rams see Stafford and his big arm as an upgrade over Goff as they try to remain competitive in a hotly contested NFC West, which features the 49ers, Seahawks and Cardinals.

Stafford has two seasons left on a five-year, $135 million contract signed in 2017.

Stafford is ecstatic over the deal, a person with direct knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports on Saturday.

After years of playing on underperforming Lions teams plagued by talent deficiencies, he now goes to a team with a championship-caliber roster, as well as one of the brightest young coaches in the game.

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