Matthew Stafford and Sean McVay are all of two years apart. Both are entering their 13th seasons in the NFL. They were also starting quarterbacks for state champions in high school, with McVay earning a player-of-the-year award in Georgia over eventual Stafford teammate and Pro Football Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson.
Their primary commonality now, of course, concerns their respective roles with the Rams. Stafford is the franchise quarterback tasked to take Los Angeles back to the Super Bowl, a game in which McVay has reached before but ultimately fell short of winning. Two years outside serious contention prompted the Rams to trade for Stafford, who did just about everything but win in Detroit over the last decade-plus.
In short, McVay and Stafford could be exactly what the other needs. After just a few months of collaboration, the offensive mastermind said his new QB has already made him "a better coach."
"I think (because of) his experiences," McVay told NFL Network's Omar Ruiz on Thursday as the Rams held their first open practice at SoFi Stadium. "When you listen to the different, great coaches he's been around, experiences he can draw on, he's just a wealth of knowledge. And being able to get his perspective with so much that goes on at the quarterback position. It's been really enlightening, he's got a great, consistent energy day in and day out."
Stafford has been a model of consistency throughout his career, in ways both good and bad. He's started 16 games in nine of the past 10 seasons, eclipsing 4,000 yards and 20 touchdowns in eight of them. But he boasts a sub-.500 mark as a starter (74-90-1) and is still seeking his first playoff victory through a modest three appearances.
Expectations are much greater for the Rams with Stafford succeeding Jared Goff, whose play regressed after making a pair of Pro Bowls following McVay's 2017 hire. Stafford, interestingly, has been selected to just one Pro Bowl. Being chosen to lead a title contender while still presumably in his prime is an even bigger honor. And it casts a brighter spotlight on the 33-year-old than what he's used to.
His new coach believes the whole team will be better for it.
"I think the first thing you can tell, anybody that knows Matthew knows that it's not too big for him," McVay said. "He expects a lot of himself. I think he also understands how difficult this game is. In order to do things the right way, it's one week at a time. But it's not too big for him. He's played at a high level for a long, long time. He's going to raise the level of play of everyone around him. Guys are going to play well around him, and our jobs as coaches is going to be able to help bring out the best in these guys as well."
Getting the best out of Stafford alone might make this Rams team one of the best in the NFL.