LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Southern California sun pushed through the shutters behind Matthew Stafford on Friday, illuminating the veteran quarterback as he shed some light on his decision to leave Detroit for Los Angeles.
The climate definitely was not the reason he uprooted his wife and four children to join the Rams, but Stafford is clearly feeling a whole lot sunnier these days about his football future.
“I mean, sunshine is not bad,” Stafford said with a laugh. “My little girls don’t really know what’s going on, so we had to trick them and tell them we’re moving to the beach.”
The warm glow of a championship trophy is the real reason Stafford is with the Rams, who traded Super Bowl starter Jared Goff and two first-round draft picks to get a 33-year-old passer who has never won a playoff game in a dozen NFL seasons.
Despite his lack of team success with the Lions, Stafford is widely considered an elite player who rarely had sufficient talent around him in Detroit. Stafford believes that’s no longer a concern with the star-studded, win-now Rams. His NFL legacy is entirely in his own hands, and he welcomes it.
“Something that drew me was that the Rams were a team that were proven winners, had done it quite consistently over the last four or five years, something that was exciting to me,” Stafford said. “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, and you want to win games and be in those big moments, so 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.”
The Rams have had four consecutive winning seasons and three playoff berths under coach Sean McVay. His quarterback for every meaningful moment was Goff, a pillar of the franchise ever since it moved up to choose him No. 1 overall in 2016.
Stafford and Goff both seem grateful for their fresh starts, even if Goff’s next steps appear to take him farther away from championship contention in 2021.
With respected former Rams executive Brad Holmes in charge of the rebuild, Goff is warming to the passionate fan base and wide-open possibilities of life in Detroit after a trade that “builds that chip on your shoulder a little bit,” the California native said.
“I was disappointed for two minutes, and then I spoke to these guys on the phone, and it was like a breath of fresh air,” Goff added. “What I feel every day being here so far is how badly this city wants and needs to win, and wants and needs their football team to win.”
McVay and general manager Les Snead again refused to criticize Goff in their first public comments about the trade, which was agreed upon in January. McVay instead spoke of the deal as a chance to improve the Rams.
“The most important thing was the rare opportunity to acquire a player of Matthew Stafford’s caliber,” McVay said. “It’s really unprecedented, what’s happening with possible franchise guys that are moving. To be able to acquire somebody like him is an opportunity we wanted to be aggressive about pursuing.”
Goff has won two postseason games as a starter, and he returned from injury to lead the Rams’ playoff win at Seattle last January after John Wolford started. The Lions haven’t won a playoff game since January 1992, and they’ve got one postseason victory since they won the NFL title in 1957.
Goff sees opportunity, not an insurmountable history.
“To be in a place that has wanted that for so long, and has been so close but hasn’t been able to get over the top for a variety of reasons, again, I plan to put us over the top,” Goff said. “I plan on that to be my job, is to be the quarterback of this team and put us over the top and get to the playoffs and win multiple playoff games and win a championship.”
Stafford’s goals are the same, but he feels much closer to achieving them in Los Angeles. He realizes the second act of his NFL career is almost certain to be more exciting than the first, and he welcomes the Hollywood spotlight.
“Sometimes feeling that pressure is a positive thing,” Stafford said. “I love that. I want to be playing those big games, those big moments. For me, it’s an opportunity more than anything.”
AP Sports Writer Larry Lage in Detroit contributed to this report.
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