THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Nearly nine months after the Los Angeles Rams agreed to trade Jared Goff to the Detroit Lions, and with a pending reunion at SoFi Stadium on Sunday, coach Sean McVay expressed regret about how the deal went down with his former quarterback.
“Yes, I wish there was better, clearer communication,” McVay said Monday. “To say that it was perfectly handled on my end, I wouldn’t be totally accurate in that. I’ll never claim to be perfect, but I will try to learn from some things that I can do better, and I think that was one of them without a doubt.”
The Rams are 5-1 and heavily favorited against the 0-6 Detroit Lions in the Week 7 matchup, but plenty of intrigue surrounds the game as McVay and Goff prepare to face off after a conflicted ending to their four-year run.
“I think he’ll be received well,” McVay said about Goff’s return to L.A., where he spent five seasons after the Rams traded up 15 spots to select him first overall in 2016. “I think the L.A. fans and I think the Rams fans know what a great job he had done and how much — I think how much he meant to the Rams organization both as a football player and also the community.”
After McVay was hired in 2017, he and Goff won two division titles and an NFC championship. However, following a 13-3 loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII, the Rams offensive production declined, and they missed the 2019 playoffs.
Following a divisional playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers last season, Goff’s status as Rams starting quarterback appeared in question when neither McVay nor general manager Les Snead committed to him. Days earlier, quarterback Matthew Stafford requested a trade from the Lions, and a chance run-in between Stafford and McVay — both were vacationing in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico — marked the end of Goff with the Rams, as he was traded along with two first-round picks and a third-rounder to the Lions in exchange for Stafford.
In the aftermath, Goff told reporters that McVay and the Rams had no contact with him from the time the season ended to when he received the phone call about the trade. Goff claimed he was blindsided by the move.
“You don’t want to catch guys off guard,” McVay said. “It came together a lot faster than anybody anticipated, but yeah, of course I think that any time that tough decisions and things like that where people are affected, you always want to be as understanding, as empathetic as possible, think about it through the other person’s lens and there’s certainly things that I know I would do it a little bit differently if — when those situations arise in the future.”
McVay insisted Monday that there was no tipping point in his relationship with Goff and that the chance to acquire Stafford was too great to pass.
“That was why that decision was made and that was why things came together as quickly as they did because we felt like it was a rare opportunity to acquire a player of Matthew’s caliber,” McVay said. “Those opportunities just don’t come up often.”
Stafford has two seasons remaining on a five-year, $135 million deal. In a short period, he has ignited the offense and has the Rams among the Super Bowl favorites.
Stafford has passed for 16 touchdowns, which ranks tied for third in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys‘ Dak Prescott and behind the Kansas City Chiefs‘ Patrick Mahomes and Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ Tom Brady. They are the most by any quarterback through his first six games with a team in NFL history, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Stafford said he would treat Sunday’s reunion with the Lions “just like every other game,” though he added that there likely would be an extended period of greetings with friends, former teammates and, if in attendance, the Ford family before kickoff.
McVay said he would talk to Stafford about facing his former team, but expected the 13th-year quarterback to handle it as he would any other game.
“He’s so impressive in terms of his weekly rhythm and his consistency through these first six weeks,” McVay said. “He’s so steady and even-keeled, I don’t think he’ll make it bigger than what it is.”