For the first time in a long time Rams fans have a lot to be happy about.
2017 was a year full of “For the first time in a long time” Los Angeles Rams achievements. The Rams finished above .500 and won a division title for the first time since 2003 and 2004 respectively. Their defense shutout a divisional opponent for the first time in 30 years. The Memorial Coliseum hosted it’s first NFL playoff game in 40 years. Not since the Greatest Show on Turf years has the franchise strung together as many wins, converted as many 3rd downs, and scored as many points as the 2017 Rams were able to and the list goes on.
There are undoubtedly many more benchmarks for the Rams to meet heading into the 2018 season. None are more coveted than a championship, but maybe the most immediately available and imperative achievement the 2018 Los Angeles Rams can attain would be back to back seasons of consistent quarterback play.
Quarterback health and consistency have eluded the Rams for decades. In recent years the recurring injuries to Sam Bradford led the Rams into a period of backup quarterbacks and little development at the position. Reaching back to the early 2000s finds the Rams with incredible quarterbacks, but injuries to both Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger cut short what could have been a decade of championship contention. Marc Bulger, although consistently outstanding and perfectly capable to lead a championship run, was sidelined frequently enough to disrupt what could have been. Kurt Warner is the only quarterback to string together 3 seasons of great play in recent decades. Although he was injured right in the middle of his 3 year run, Trent Green ably stepped in and played well. The Rams were lucky with Warner to begin with, but rallying around a backup and playing good football hasn’t necessarily worked out since.
Without question, quarterback play is an essential element to success in the NFL and maybe the most understated aspect of Sean McVay’s 2018 campaign. Jared Goff’s career appears to be on the upward trend from 2017 to 2018. His ability to read defenses and adjust at the line of scrimmage will continue to be met with challenges, but fewer than last season. Surely the continued relationships with McVay’s system and the offensive play makers will have a positive effect, and barring injury, Goff looks primed to put together an MVP performance and deep post season run.
Although the departure of offensive coaches Matt LaFleur and Greg Olsen may come with setbacks, it is clear Sean McVay is a talented quarterback coach and will continue to promote an environment of daily excellence and accountability. Jared Goff has already shown some of his coach’s leadership characteristics on the football field and behind the podium. McVay evidently encourages the player-coach role exampled by Andrew Whitworth last season, Aqib Talib this season, and Goff stated during OTA’s that he feels more comfortable commanding the Rams offense in year two.
Continuity at quarterback will be one of the most important aspects to the Rams future success. Unlike Dak Prescott’s sophomore season shrouded in chaos and controversy, or Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson’s return from injury, Goff is returning to an incredibly stable situation with very few question marks and very high expectations. With high expectations so too is there extraordinary pressure. Jared Goff has not only shown flashes during high pressure situations but also incredible leadership and accountability when things have not worked out for the Rams. Undoubtedly, placing the offense on his shoulders along with the accountability he maintains will harbor intangible trust that will carry the Rams through any patches of adversity.
It cannot be understated how important consistency is on the field, in the locker room, behind the podium, and in the classroom. With the understanding that the ‘standard is the standard’ and nothing less, Goff can continue to thrive under Sean McVay, bringing consistent quarterback play to a fan base that has been starving for exactly that.
If Goff can continue to build chemistry with his wide receivers, expand on his knowledge of defenses, execute contingencies at the line of scrimmage, and further exude a leadership role he will set a new tone for the Los Angeles Rams moving forward. Next season the Rams will certainly provide more “First Time in a Long Time” type story lines, and next year for the first time in a long time a really good Rams quarterback will be starting back to back seasons.