ARIZONA CARDINALS

Neuheisel: Underestimating Rams QB Wolford would be ‘very big mistake’

Dec 29, 2020, 5:21 PM
Arizona Hotshots quarterback John Wolford throws down field against the Salt Lake Stallions in the ...
Arizona Hotshots quarterback John Wolford throws down field against the Salt Lake Stallions in the first half during an AAF football game Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

The Arizona Cardinals take on the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium on Sunday in what is technically the final contest of the 2020 regular season, but might as well be considered as a postseason play-in game.

That’s because the winner of the Cardinals-Rams Week 17 matchup will do just that: Make the playoffs, while the loser packs it in for the offseason along with the other 17 non-qualifiers.

But while a divisional matchup usually means familiarity, there will be at least one new face playing a major role in Rams quarterback John Wolford, who will be starting in place of Jared Goff after the former Cal Bear had surgery to repair an injured thumb on Monday night.

Wolford went undrafted out of Wake Forest in 2018 and spent training camp with the New York Jets before being cut prior to the start of the season.

If his name sounds familiar, it’s because he was the signal-caller for the Arizona Hotshots of the AAF in spring 2019 until the league folded due to bankruptcy.

“He’s the kind of guy that comes up to you and says, ‘OK, coach, here is what they are doing. Here is what we should do.’ I can’t tell you how often he was right,” former Hotshots head coach Rick Neuheisel told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta on Tuesday.

“The guy just sees the game in slow motion. And because of it — he doesn’t look anywhere NFL-ish in physical stature — but his arm strength and his accuracy, coupled with his mental [IQ] for the game, make him very dangerous. I think that underestimating him would be a very big mistake.”

In eight games, the 6-foot-1 QB managed to accumulate 1,617 yards, a 63.4% completion percentage (130-of-206) and 14 touchdown passes, the latter of which is the most in league history.

However, Wolford is no stranger to the elaborate offensive playbook of Rams head coach Sean McVay, as the 2017 Second-team All-ACC selection is in his second season in Los Angeles.

“My only concern for Wolford in this spot is that others will spoon-feed him thinking that he hasn’t been in there,” Neuheisel said. “Even though he hasn’t played for the Rams, I guarantee he knows the offense inside and out.”

“I really think that with the people around him and the coaching staff are probably more nervous than John is. I think that John is the kind of guy that says, ‘OK, I’ve been waiting for this chance, I’m going to let it fly.'”

Neuheisel — who graduated from McClintock High School in Tempe — spoke about the unique situation he finds himself in, as his hometown team gets set to face his former quarterback in what is essentially a playoff game.

“It doesn’t make me not a Cardinals fan … I just have immense confidence in John Wolford,” he said. “The guy is a diligent learner, he’s very perceptive to what’s going on within a defense.

“I guarantee you he’s partially an assistant coach for Jared Goff and his role as a backup there for the Rams. And now that he’s getting to play I just know the stage won’t be too big for him.”

Arizona Cardinals

Budda Baker #3 of the Arizona Cardinals returns an interception against the San Francisco 49ers at ...
Alex Weiner

Cardinals safety Budda Baker selected to PFWA All-NFC team

Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker made the Professional Football Writers of America All-NFC team for the second straight year.
16 hours ago
Owner Michael Bidwill (R) and general manager Steve Keim of the Arizona Cardinals look on during tr...
Arizona Sports

Arizona Cardinals engulfed in offseason chatter early on

It's been quite the roller coaster of conflicting reports since the Cardinals were bounced from the NFC Wild Card game just over a week ago.
16 hours ago
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Arizona Cardinals watches from the sidelines during the NFL game ...
Dan Bickley

Lessons the Cardinals need to learn from 49ers-Rams NFC title matchup

To the Valley’s dismay, the NFC Championship game will be a showcase for two NFC West teams, neither of which are the Cardinals.
16 hours ago
Larry Fitzgerald looks on during Capital One's The Match at The Reserve at Moonlight Basin on July ...
Arizona Sports

Larry Fitzgerald named executive chair of Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee

Larry Fitzgerald was named the new executive chair for the Arizona Super Bowl host committee on Monday for the 2023 game.
2 days ago
Arizona quarterback Will Plummer (15) is pressured by Southern California linebacker Drake Jackson ...
Jake Anderson

Cardinals take USC edge rusher Drake Jackson in PFF’s latest mock draft

The Arizona Cardinals have something that no other NFC West team has in the 2022 NFL Draft: a first-round draft pick.
2 days ago
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandon Powell (19) is tackled by San Francisco 49ers linebacker Cur...
Arizona Sports

Rams-49ers matchup in All-NFC West conference championship game

The Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers will meet in the first NFC West-only conference championship game since the 2013 season. 
3 days ago
Neuheisel: Underestimating Rams QB Wolford would be ‘very big mistake’