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Golden Nuggets: Are the Rams now the favorites in the NFC?

Your daily San Francisco 49ers links for Monday, February 1, 2021

New England Patriots v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

There have been overreactions in every direction now that the Rams have acquired Matthew Stafford. Losing out on Stafford wasn’t going to automatically eliminate the 49ers from playoff contention. Stafford landing with the Rams makes the route to the playoffs that much more difficult, though.

Kawakami: How the 49ers can still revamp at QB, with or without Jimmy Garoppolo

Stick with Garoppolo, draft a cornerback in the first round, take a lower-rung QB in the second round or later and offer the comp third-rounder for Houston’s J.J. Watt.

Oh: And run 40 times a game, to heck with modern NFL offense! Don’t snicker too much, the 49ers basically did that in the NFC playoffs last season. They loved doing it.

General summary: The 49ers are not without options at QB, even after the Rams gobbled up Stafford. They know they have options. They don’t like to get into bidding wars, they like to hold on to their draft picks and they know championship teams aren’t often bought and built in late January, though we’ll see what happens when the Rams and Stafford get into uniform many months from now.

Rams’ huge trade for Matt Stafford makes the 49ers seem cautious by comparison

That recent history proves there’s no exact pattern with that portends to Garoppolo’s ability to stay healthy and effective in 2021. That uncertainty is a reason the 49ers might be willing to make an upgrade to someone more reliable — at the right price.

The 49ers believe they can build a championship winner around a healthy Garoppolo, but the evidence from the last three seasons suggests Garoppolo needs optimal surroundings to win. He’s not the caliber of quarterback that elevates a franchise on his own. That’s a differentiating factor from the elite to the notches below.

From the Rams’ perspective, trading Goff and two first-round picks for Stafford is a big swing. Los Angeles is set to go seven straight seasons, from 2017 to 2023, without making a pick in the first round of the draft.

49ers Keep or Release: Tight End

Keep or Release: Release

The writing is on the wall here, as Reed was phased out of the 49ers offense the final two games during which he was targeted only twice. Reed’s on-field performance never matched what the 49ers expected, catching only 56.5% of the 46 passes that came his way. In addition, there was a bit too much finger pointing from a guy who dropped the ball or ran the wrong route as often as Reed.

If the 49ers keep Jimmy Garoppolo, are they better than Matthew Stafford’s Rams?

Favor: Stafford and the Rams

The Rams made the playoffs last season with Goff playing mediocre football, and even with Staley leaving, the core of the defense is still intact and Akers should be the lead running back for the entirety of the season, something McVay didn’t decide to do until late.

Garoppolo has been injury-prone, but he still has talent, just not as much as Stafford, and doesn’t have the luxury of the number one defense in the NFL. Both teams have ample weapons, but until Jimmy G shows to be the guy that led them to a Super Bowl, the Rams are better than the 49ers.

Stafford is a tremendous upgrade from Goff, especially after what was seen from Goff in 2020, just a couple of years from a Super Bowl trip. Woods and Kupp will love having Stafford throw the ball downfield, and McVay and the Rams have a legit shot to take the NFC West crown in 2021.

SF 49ers wouldn’t have made Super Bowl 55 with Tom Brady

Competent quarterback play in Week 4 against the Philadelphia Eagles, as well as Week 10 in New Orleans against the Saints, Week 14 against the Washington Football Team, and Week 15 in Dallas against the Cowboys feel like good starting points, as key turnovers by Mullens in all of those games led to the SF 49ers failing to take advantage of poor offensive performances in all those matchups.

An argument could be made Brady’s presence as the SF 49ers quarterback would have eased the pressure on their defense, but the fact of the matter is while former defensive coordinator Robert Saleh got the best out of that group in 2020, it struggled most against the better offenses. That certainly describes quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.

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The Lions wanted to do right by Stafford, and Stafford’s preferred team was the Rams. The Lions didn’t want another disaffected star (Calvin Johnson) leaving the organization all ticked off. Ownership and the front office were determined to try their best to accommodate Stafford and send him to a team where he’d have a good chance to win. The Rams were number one. The Colts would have been an amenable option. The Niners too.

I hear San Francisco and Washington were in it. I hear Carolina and Denver were aggressively into it, and if Detroit liked its incumbent QBs more than Goff, maybe one of those deals would have been close.

The one other thing Holmes knew but wasn’t spreading around: Detroit coach Dan Campbell liked Goff better than the other quarterbacks in the Stafford trade derby: Teddy Bridgewater, Jimmy Garoppolo, Drew Lock.