7 things to know about John Wolford, the Rams’ starting QB for Week 17

Cameron DaSilva
·5 min read

After undergoing surgery on his thumb Monday, Jared Goff will officially miss the Los Angeles Rams’ final game of the regular season. Needing a win over the Cardinals or a loss by the Bears in order to make the playoffs, the Rams’ season hinges on Week 17.

And the man to lead them in this pivotal game is John Wolford, an unheralded quarterback who many fans may not know much about. And although his NFL experience is limited, Sean McVay is confident in the Rams’ backup quarterback heading into Sunday’s game.

Here are seven things to know about Wolford, who had success in college and in the AAF before the league shut down.

He’s never attempted a pass in the NFL

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

That’s right. In their biggest game of the season, the Rams are turning to a guy who has never thrown a single regular-season pass in the NFL. Wolford has played in five preseason games (more on that later), but he’s never even taken a snap in a meaningful game. It’s rare for a team to rely on a player this inexperienced in such a big spot, but they don’t have any better options. Wolford has been with the team for two years after signing as a free agent in 2019, and he gives them the best chance to win this critical matchup with the Cardinals.

He led the AAF in touchdown passes

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The AAF is not the NFL, but Wolford did have success in the now-defunct football league. Against NFL hopefuls, Wolford led the league with 14 touchdown passes in eight games. He completed 63.4% of his passes for 1,616 yards, also tossing seven interceptions – three of which were in one game. His 1,616 passing yards ranked second in the AAF, too, so he was undeniably one of the most productive quarterbacks in the league.

Sean McVay likened him to Doug Flutie

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Few quarterbacks compare to Flutie, but Wolford’s smaller stature (6-foot-1, 200 pounds) and playing style remind McVay of the former NFL Pro Bowler. McVay said this summer that Wolford has some “Doug Flutie-type stuff in him,” praising his skill set and the job he’s done on scout team. Wolford has a quick release, a live arm and good mobility, making him an intriguing player under center. He shouldn’t be expected to produce like Flutie, but there are elements of his game that resemble Flutie’s.

He’s quicker than fast

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No one is going to mistake John Wolford for Lamar Jackson or Kyler Murray speed-wise. And his 40-yard dash time (4.77) is just barely faster than Goff’s (4.82). However, he is quick has great mobility outside the pocket. Because he wasn’t invited to the 2018 NFL combine, Wolford’s numbers are all from his pro day. His 6.78-second time in the three-cone drill would rank as the fourth-fastest at the combine since 2016, only being bested by Easton Stick (6.65, 2019), Josh Woodrum (6.74, 2016) and Joshua Dobbs (6.75, 2017). In the short shuttle, his 4.18 would rank as the 10th-fastest at the combine since 2016, showing off his quickness and agility. So while he may not have breakaway speed, he can make defenders miss with his quickness.

Has found success in limited preseason action

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Wolford has played five career preseason games, four with the Rams and one with the Jets. Here are his total stats in those games.

  • 33-for-64 (51.5%), 338 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT

He was far better with the Rams in 2019 than he was in his lone action with the Jets, completing only 8 of 20 passes with New York and tossing his only interception. Unfortunately, there was no preseason this year due to the pandemic, but he looked great last season, throwing several impressive passes in four games. https://twitter.com/RamsNFL/status/1167235949790519297?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1167235949790519297%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Ftheramswire.usatoday.com%2F2020%2F12%2F28%2Frams-jared-goff-backup-john-wolford-week-17%2F McVay’s system fits Wolford well thanks to his mobility, so hopefully he can find some success in the regular season after having some in the preseason with the Rams.

Was second-team All-ACC at Wake Forest

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Wolford played four seasons at Wake Forest, but his best season was undoubtedly as a senior in 2017. That year, he threw for 3,192 yards and 29 touchdowns, tossing only six interceptions with a completion rate of 64%. He set single-season school records in passing yards, touchdowns, total yards and passer rating. He led the Demon Deacons to the Belk Bowl that year, and proceeded to throw for 400 yards with four touchdowns. He was the first FBS quarterback to throw for 400 yards and rush for 65 yards without an interception in a bowl game since 2000. He wasn’t highly regarded out of college, but he certainly put up impressive numbers during his time at Wake Forest.

He comes from NFL roots

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Wolford has family ties to the NFL, with his uncle playing 13 seasons as a pro. Will Wolford was a tackle and a former first-round pick, though, making three Pro Bowls and winning three AFC championships in the early ‘90s. John Wolford didn’t get his uncle’s size, but he’s hoping to carve out a path of his own in the NFL.

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