NFL

Matthew Stafford probably one Super Bowl from Hall of Fame

There are eight quarterbacks in NFL history with 50,000 yards and at least one Super Bowl win. 

Tom Brady. Drew Brees. Peyton Manning. Brett Favre. Ben Roethlisberger. Eli Manning. Aaron Rodgers. John Elway. That’s three Hall of Famers, four locks and Eli Manning. We’ve all heard the debate on Eli Manning’s HOF candidacy by now, and he has a chance to make it eight-for-eight. 

Matthew Stafford is at 49,995 career yards, which is 12th all-time. He’s five yards and two wins this postseason — both of those Los Angeles Rams games would come at home, too — from being in that group above. 

And ready or not, with two more Rams wins, get ready to start talking about Stafford as a Hall of Famer. Because it’s hard to believe he wouldn’t get in, based on history. 

Should Matthew Stafford be a Hall of Famer?

A lot of counting stats and a Super Bowl practically make you a Hall of Fame lock. On top of that, Stafford’s case would be unique. 

First, let’s keep going down the list of all-time passing yards. Joe Flacco has 41,269 yards, a Super Bowl ring and is unlikely to get any real Hall of Fame consideration. He has the most passing yards ever for a quarterback with a ring and no real Hall of Fame case. Russell Wilson has 37,059 yards, a ring and he has a chance for the Hall. Phil Simms is at 33,462 and not in the Hall. Everyone else with at least 30,000 yards and a ring is in. Stafford will get 60,000 yards with three more good seasons. He might reach 70,000. 

Stafford has about 50 percent more yards than Simms and he’ll be just 34 next season. He’ll lap Flacco too. If Stafford wins a championship, the only realistic comparison to Stafford in terms of a Hall of Fame argument would be Eli Manning. We’ll see if Manning gets in, but it would be unprecedented if he didn’t. 

It would also be unprecedented if Stafford didn’t get in if he gets a Super Bowl title. Especially since the first 12 seasons of his career would be entirely excused. 

Can Matthew Stafford win a Super Bowl in his first Rams season? (AP Photo/Alex Menendez)

Making the case for Stafford

It’s not hard to figure out what would happen if the Rams win a Super Bowl this season, Stafford’s first with the team. The narrative of Stafford’s career would be that the Detroit Lions were entirely at fault. It’s not entirely accurate. But Stafford making just one Pro Bowl and leading zero playoff wins would be blamed completely on a Lions franchise that has one playoff win since 1957. There’s no need in fighting it. That would be how Stafford’s career is viewed going forward, and we all know it. 

Stafford wouldn’t be the only reason the Rams would win a Super Bowl either. Sean McVay is a fantastic coach (taking Jared Goff to a Super Bowl is aging very well), Aaron Donald might be a top-five all-time defensive player, and other guys like Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham Jr., Andrew Whitworth, Von Miller, Jalen Ramsey and Leonard Floyd are blue-chip players. There’s at least a couple future Hall of Famers in that group. 

But too much NFL analysis unfortunately begins and ends and quarterback. If the Rams win, many will simply give all the credit to Stafford and ignore the great teammates listed in the paragraph above. Again, that’s just how it goes. Consider how many people cite quarterback wins as a real stat. 

The better question for Stafford is if he has a shot at the Hall of Fame without a title. He could reach 70,000 yards with about five more seasons, and that group is Brady, Brees, Peyton Manning and Favre. Stafford is also an attainable 77 touchdowns from 400 in his career, and that group is only eight names long. Counting stats always matter for Hall of Fame arguments. If Stafford never wins a title, he’ll go in the Philip Rivers/Matt Ryan bin of players who might come up just short of the Hall despite ranking very high in some key categories. There’s a lot on the line for Stafford these next two games. 

What probably won’t be worth arguing is if Stafford makes the Hall of Fame if the Rams beat the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday and then win Super Bowl LVI. He’ll likely get the votes. Maybe there will be a nuanced discussion over the years that follow examining Stafford’s role in why the Lions couldn’t win one division title, why Stafford made only one Pro Bowl, and assigning proper credit to Stafford’s Rams teammates and not just singularly crediting the quarterback. But probably not. 


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