The NFC West was hit with a seismic shakeup Saturday when the Los Angeles Rams agreed to trade Jared Goff, two first-round picks and a third-round pick to the Detroit Lions for Matthew Stafford.
Acquiring Stafford immediately places the Rams atop the NFC Super Bowl favorites list along with the Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 49ers were thought to be a potential player in the Stafford sweepstakes, but San Francisco reportedly never made a formal trade offer as the price got too big for the Niners' liking.
While the addition of Stafford makes the Rams an even bigger threat in the NFC West, George Kittle doesn't think the 49ers need a QB upgrade to match their rival. Kittle believes the 49ers already have the perfect type of firepower to combat the Stafford-led Rams.
"Matthew Stafford is a great quarterback," Kittle said Tuesday on FOX Sports 1's "Undisputed." "I think he played incredibly well his entire career with the Lions. The throws that he makes -- he's a hell of a quarterback and a hell of a leader. The Rams are obviously getting a great football player. I think it's definitely going to help them, but I'm very confident in our defense and the players that we have to go up and compete with them twice a year.
"You know, I think that's all it is is speculation," Kittle said about the rumors surrounding the 49ers QB search. "You know, the 49ers aren't in the playoffs this year so let's just talk about the most controversial thing which for the past two or three years has been the quarterback position of the 49ers. I think Jimmy G is a hell of a quarterback. I love playing with him. I think he's a great leader on and off the field. He gets guys into the positions they need to be in to win. Whenever he's given the opportunity he plays at a really high level, especially when he's not injured. Fighting fire with fire? I think my fire is Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead and Fred Warner and I'm pretty confident in that."
Kittle's right that the 49ers' defense has been able to stymy the Rams' offense over the past two seasons. But defensive coordinator Robert Saleh now is the head coach of the New York Jets, and the 49ers' defensive plan was predicated largely on forcing Goff to make tight-window throws in the middle of the field. The addition of Stafford undoubtedly will change how the Rams choose to attack defenses and give them more of a vertical passing threat, something Sean McVay has been itching for.
Stafford heading to Los Angeles makes it even more likely that Jimmy Garoppolo will return as the 49ers' starting quarterback next season. The 49ers still could try to engineer a trade for Deshaun Watson, although that seems unlikely. They could try to draft one of the top four quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft, something that the Lions' acquisition of Goff could help them accomplish.
Conventional wisdom says that head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch will elect to bolster the rest of the roster around Garoppolo, believing he is good enough to get them where they want to go when healthy.
The 49ers now play in a division with three top-12 quarterbacks. Their defense will have to return to its 2019 level if they plan to rebound from their hellish 2020 season and return to the playoffs.