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Sean McVay: Matthew Stafford not throwing in offseason affected 2022

Mike Florio and Myles Simmons discuss the state of the Los Angeles Rams and react to the news of Matthew Stafford's potentially season-ending injury.

The Rams, at 3-9, are unofficially the worst defending Super Bowl champions in NFL history. It’s a title that includes something very good, but part of it is not good at all -- especially with the next three games in non-flexed standalone windows.

There was no reason to believe the Rams would be this bad, based on the unbridled optimism of folks like coach Sean McVay. Now that the season has crashed and burned, McVay has become more willing to acknowledge the factors that contributed to the Rams winning 25 percent of their games, so far.

In a Monday press conference, McVay was asked whether quarterback Matthew Stafford not throwing in the 2022 offseason affected the team.

“I definitely think it had an impact because you talk about rapport, establishing a rapport, a rhythm, a comfort not only with, everybody wants to talk about he and Cooper [Kupp], but even just some of the newer pieces,” McVay said. “Yeah, otherwise I’d say, ‘Why the hell do we practice?’ I think it definitely had an impact without a doubt.”

That’s a far cry from the endless “everything is fine” vibe that McVay created during an offseason that saw no throwing by Stafford due to an elbow problem.

The decision to put Stafford on injured reserve, with the apparent expectation that he won’t play again this year, was motivated by a desire to ensure that Stafford won’t have a repeat of 2022.

“It’s more about having a healthy offseason,” McVay said within a longer answer as to Stafford’s current status.

It will also help that the Rams didn’t have the kind of year that resulted in the pilfering of the coaching staff by other teams. Asked whether the turnover in the coaching staff impacted the season, McVay gave a meandering answer that included multiple references to the limited downtime following a Super Bowl run, before he landed the plane.

“Ultimately to answer your original question, that is a factor,” McVay said. “I think the turnaround, the timing of it, but ultimately it falls on my leadership and for that I’ve learned and I will continue to learn from the mistakes and make sure we don’t repeat them.”

There are other factors, too. But the Rams likely won’t embrace those, at least not publicly. The invoice came due quickly on the all-in, “eff them picks” approach of the past couple of seasons. Yes, it delivered a championship. But there’s too much money invested in too few great players and not enough cheap, young, talented players to complement the stars and provide depth when they are injured.

With major, market-level contracts given to the likes of Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Jalen Ramsey, and Aaron Donald (three of whom got new deals after the Super Bowl win), cap dollars had to be sacrificed elsewhere. The backup quarterback is John Wolford, for crying out loud. The offensive line became a mess this year once the injuries began to happen. Not surprisingly, the offense fell apart.

Yes, they have a Lombardi Trophy. They have swanky new rings to help take their minds off of the current mess. (McVay’s new mega-deal likely helps, too.) But they’ll have plenty of work to do to get back to high-end contender status. Especially since one of the rewards of having such a bad season -- a high first-round draft pick -- will be going to Detroit as the last installment of the “eff them picks” trade that not only brought Stafford to town but also offloaded Jared Goff’s horrendous second contract.