A defensive back for the San Francisco 49ers had a lot to say about a division rival’s new quarterback addition, not much of it flattering.
Safety Jimmie Ward sat down with Grant Cohn, of Sports Illustrated’s All 49ers, for an hour earlier in July to talk about everything from the upcoming season, to his new contract, to his beefs around the NFL. Ward may have created a brand new contentious relationship out of thin air after he was asked about quarterback Matthew Stafford, who will start under center for the Los Angeles Rams this season after spending his entire career in Detroit.
“He’s the same quarterback who was on the Detroit Lions and they still didn’t go to the playoffs, and they had Megatron (Calvin Johnson),” Ward said. “What was the problem over there in Detroit?”
Ward twisted the knife further by extolling the virtues of Jared Goff, who was part of the Rams’ trade with the Lions and is the quarterback Stafford was brought in to replace.
“(The Rams) went and traded Jared Goff, who went to the playoffs several times and went to the Super Bowl,” Ward continued. “Yeah, he lost. He went to the Super Bowl, though. I’ve yet to see that with Matthew Stafford.”
Trash Talking Stafford Isn’t First Time Ward Has Gone After Rams This Offseason
Stafford was not the first member of the Rams who Ward has taken out this offseason. In fact, he wasn’t even the first Rams personnel the Niners’ free safety went after in his one-hour interview with Cohn.
Ward also took shots directly at Los Angeles head coach Sean McVay, claiming the way the offensive guru game plans against San Francisco’s defense is a blatant act of disrespect slanted in Ward’s direction.
The seven-year veteran, who has played his entire career in the Bay Area, has spent the last four seasons battling the Rams inside one of the NFL’s strongest divisions. Considering their level of familiarity with one another, Ward questioned why McVay keeps coming at him in individual matchups with what the safety characterized as little success.
“What’s with their coach (Sean McVay)? Does he have the big head? I don’t want to say he has the big head, because I think he’s a hell of a coach,” Ward said. “But what does he have against me to make him go at me every game and lose?”
“And I don’t even talk s*** when we play the Rams. I don’t remember me talking s***. But I’ve had some good games against them,” Ward continued. “I don’t understand why he tries to go at me. I think I would try to go at somebody else.”
Ward has Backed up Chatter in Battles With the Rams
Over the past four seasons, the Niners and the Rams have squared off eight times, all in the regular season. The 49ers are 5-3 in those contests, including winners of the last four.
Ward contended that his own performances have mirrored that of his team against a coach who is considered one of the best offensive minds in today’s NFL. And the stats back it up. Pro Football Focus noted that two of Ward’s three best games last season were against the Rams.
“If you look at my track record, you’d be like, ‘Damn, this m***** f***** dominated against the Rams.’ I even blocked a punt against them. Why even go at me?” Ward continued. “I don’t know, maybe there’s film. I wish I knew what offensive coordinators think of me. Do they say, ‘We’re going to go at this guy, he doesn’t cover as well, doesn’t tackle well.”? I don’t think they say that. I just would like to know.”
The recent on-field narrative between the Niners and Rams may change now that Stafford has entered the fold in Los Angeles. For all of Ward’s comments about Goff, Stafford is widely considered an upgrade over the Rams former quarterback, at least from the perspective of physical talent.
Their numbers are very similar, each with a touchdown/interception ration of approximately 2-1, and Goff just edging out Stafford in completion percentage (63.4% to 62.6%) and QB rating (91.5 to 89.9). Goff has two Pro-Bowl selections in five seasons, to Stafford’s one selection over 12 years.
However, Goff has been criticized by some as a system quarterback who benefited from the offensive prowess of his head coach. And it was McVay who was reported to be fed up with Goff’s physical limitations and who pushed the Rams to deal for Stafford specifically.
Stafford has a losing record over a dozen seasons in Detroit, but the Lions have been one of the least successful franchises in the NFL since the league’s inception. While Goff is popularly viewed to be productive because of his circumstances, Stafford has been considered productive in spite of his environment.
Ward Leaves Himself an Out While Criticizing Stafford
As with all of the critical comments the Niners’ free safety made to Cohn about the Rams (prefacing his McVay comments with the “hell of a coach” moniker, for instance), Ward left himself a little breathing room on the Stafford front.
“(Stafford’s) still great. I believe he’s a top-10 quarterback, maybe top-five. I don’t know. We’ll see,” Ward said. “I’m just going off of what I see. And I see Jared Goff got those boys to the Super Bowl.”