How the one-year 'bust' label molded Rams QB Jared Goff into the league's most underrated QB

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It wasn’t long ago the California Golden Boy himself Jared Goff was the number one rated QB heading into the 2016 NFL Draft. Goff was coming out of the University of California, the same school as arguably the best QB to ever play the game, Aaron Rodgers came from. Goff was number one in just about every mock draft to go to the Cleveland Browns via trade, who were slated to have the number two selection. Paxton Lynch, the strong-armed physical freak out of Memphis was making a push to dethrone Goff. Then, all of the sudden, the mainstream caught up and started talking up the FCS signal-caller Carson Wentz of North Dakota State. After most of the season being considered “the guy” Goff suddenly had competition at his position. Wentz, a senior, went to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama and was electric, he had scouts and media personnel buzzing. The junior out of California really made his presence felt at the NFL Combine but the problem was, so did Wentz. After a Goff vs. Lynch argument had run its course, Carson Wentz had taken over as the top QB on half of the country’s board. It was a legitimate 50/50 battle who was going to go number one overall. Out of nowhere, the Los Angeles Rams packaged and quite frankly mortgaged their future to trade up to the number one overall spot with the Tennessee Titans to select either Wentz or Goff. After a long debate and the NFL making the Rams wait until the official draft pick to take him…the Rams made Jared Goff the future of Los Angeles football. It became apparent early on he wasn’t ready to take over the offense and so Case Keenum, a veteran gunslinger in his own right took over the reigns. 

 

The way the Rams season started off at 3-1, it looked as though the team may never switch from Keenum that year, but it became apparent after only winning one more game going into week 10, Jared Goff needed to get his shot as the starting QB. Goff as a rookie had perhaps, statistically, the worst rookie season for a QB in the history of the NFL. That may sound like an exaggeration but it was bad. Goff’s star RB Todd Gurley had a nightmare season that saw him not even amass 900 yards rushing, his best WR was Kenny Britt who cannot even stay on a roster now and his offensive line was absolutely terrible and was likely the worst unit in football. Goff had his big-time “flash” game in New Orleans to start, he threw three quick first-half touchdowns but had a miserable game in the second half in what turned out to be a blowout. Goff had finished the year 0-7 and had websites such as Walter Football calling for the Rams to draft Sam Darnold in the 2018 NFL Draft as a “way-too-early” mock draft. People lost all of their confidence in Goff, but Goff, in reality, was set up to fail. Carson Wentz during his rookie year flashed massive amounts of potential but his rookie year wasn’t perfect either. Goff had come off a season that saw him possessing one of the worst run games, receiving core, tight end group, offensive line, a defense that practically gave up towards the end of the season and a below average coaching staff. Goff has always been a competitor going back to his days at Cal in which he saw his first season as the starter of their football program go south in a hurry. Goff played for the 1-11 California Golden Bears and that was one of the things early on that prepared him for the likes of what he could see in the NFL. Head coach Jeff Fisher and almost the entire coaching staff aside from Special Teams coordinator, interim Head coach John Fassel and Running backs coach Skip Peete stayed in the building. In what was supposed to be the Rams epic return to Los Angeles, quickly turned into the disastrous nightmare scenario and a backbreaker for fans that had been waiting for the Rams to return home for over two decades. 

 

The Rams hired Redskins Offensive coordinator and 30-year old Head coach Sean McVay and suddenly everything changed. The Rams felt the need to surround poor Jared Goff with weapons, albeit the team lacked a first-round pick, the Rams were able to go out and sign All-Pro LT Andrew Whitworth, WR Robert Woods not including the draft picks the Rams made acquiring TE Gerald Everett in the second round, WR Cooper Kupp in the third round and Josh Reynolds in the fourth round. The team didn’t feel as comfortable with the pieces for Goff so General manager Les Snead contacted newly appointed Bills GM Brandon Beane and made a blockbuster trade sending CB E.J. Gaines and a second-round pick in 2018 for disgruntled but extremely talented WR Sammy Watkins. It was clear the Rams had Goff’s back and were invested in him. Sean McVay did not waver his opinion of Goff and instead of trying to push him out and find “his guy” like most coaches oftentimes do, McVay truly wanted to build around the 22-year-old QB. Goff started off the season looking like a solid QB that could manage a game well and still test defenses with that impressive deep ball he had in his arsenal. However, Goff did not seem as though he was a future top five overall QB in the league. There was something off with Goff, he just didn’t seem to read coverages quick enough and he seemed to be looking down receivers and tipping his hand too often. He still made his “wow” throws here and there but you could see especially with the way Sean McVay game-planned for the Seattle Seahawks in week four and the Jacksonville Jaguars in week five, the Rams could use more out of Goff in regards to his development. With the same token, it was also imperative for many to realize this was still in a way Goff’s rookie year after only playing in seven of the 16 games last season.

 

Many felt this Rams team was really good but Goff had not played up to the level of the team. That was quickly put to bed after the Rams bye week. Sean McVay clearly sensed growth, understanding and awareness out of his young QB as he unleashed him to the NFL starting off with a 52-point outburst on the road across the entire country. Goff, all of the sudden after starting off his career 0-7 had quickly become a dark-horse MVP candidate. Rams RB Todd Gurley was a big part of the Rams offense and was likely the biggest but Goff had officially turned himself into a legit NFL starting QB as he led the Rams to their first NFC West Division Title since 2004. The team shot into the playoffs as the highest scoring offense after finishing as the worst offense a year ago. Goff went toe-to-toe with 2017 NFL MVP Matt Ryan, that same Matt Ryan who led his team to the Super Bowl the year prior. Goff out-played Ryan, in a game that didn’t go the Rams way, Goff showed poise in the pocket and made some spectacular throws to give Los Angeles a chance to steal the game back after three turnovers. Unfortunately, the supporting cast let him down with two touchdown drops and one big-play drop as well. The Rams 2017 campaign was over but Goff had turned in a great performance.

 

McVay and company realized after their brutal home defeat versus the Atlanta Falcons, the team needed some overhaul. The Rams overhauled their defense with a mission to bring in players that would create more turnovers and put Goff back on the field with the offense more often. With the exciting additions of Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, Ndamukong Suh and Sam Shields, nothing was more exciting for the offense than when the Rams traded their 23rd-overall selection to acquire former Patriots and Saints WR Brandin Cooks. The Rams had just lost Sammy Watkins to the Chiefs and by doing this trade, the team had replaced Watkins with a player more capable of fitting the offense and being able to do everything the team needed him to. The Rams didn’t stop there, for Goff, they signed RB Gurley, WR Cooks and RT Rob Havenstein to long-term deals which only stabilized more around the young Rams franchise QB. Going into the 2018 season, the Rams were one of the favorites to win the NFC but they weren’t quite there yet according to many. 

 

No matter how fun the Rams team looked on paper, no matter what McVay meant to the team, no matter what Snead had done in the off-season the Rams simply were not getting the respect at the QB position. Many outlets had already dubbed 49ers franchise QB Jimmy Garoppolo as a top-ten QB after only seven career starts in the NFL. Jared Goff however, was around the top 15 conversation and why was that? It was due to his rookie year. You see, when someone says it’s all about the first impression it makes sense. If you step into a job interview and leave a bad first impression, odds are, you aren’t getting the job. With the media, fans and league executives alike, Goff had already made his first impression when he went 0-7, it didn’t matter about who or what was around him. Now, instead of giving Goff the benefit of the doubt in 2017 and commending him on a job well done, it was all about Sean McVay. McVay is likely the next Bill Belichick, but to discredit Goff and even call him a “System Quarterback” was just silly. As great as McVay’s offense is and will continue to be, Goff has transformed himself as a player. You saw the California kid on Hard Knocks, he wasn’t ready to lead a football team. You also saw him in a season-ending interview: “We will get this fixed.” Goff has taken accountability, he didn’t pin any blame on his turnstile of an offensive line, or his star running back who struggled or his awful coaching staff that didn’t seem to know what they were doing. You see, Goff was prepared for this from his 1-11 season at California as previously mentioned. Sure, he may not have won a National Title, he may not have been a five-star recruit coming out of High School but Goff has proven in a short amount of time he can change fortunes, opinions and succeed. Jared Goff is clearly a franchise QB, that is no longer a debate.

 

Now, you know the story, you know Goff is not a bust, you never look back and think what could have been with all of the draft picks the Rams traded away for Goff and you certainly don’t throw a fit anymore that Sean Mannion isn’t starting over Goff. That’s all because at the end of the day Goff has taken an unprecedented amount of pressure in being the first-overall pick, in his home state to be the answer for a long-time losing franchise that had just relocated back to their original home of 49 years. It was a massive amount of pressure on Goff to turn around a California program from 1-11 or rather rock bottom just like it was with the Rams 4-12 season. Goff, with the help of many, has done that. However, Goff is now really starting to show early on in his third season just how good he truly is. The 23-year old signal-caller has a career stat-line even after his debacle of a rookie season of 39 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, 6,093 passing yards, 60.7 completion percentage, 7.4 yards per pass, a 92.2 passer rating and a 14-11 win/loss record as a starting QB. If you take away his rookie year, Goff has an extremely efficient stat-line of 34 touchdowns, 9 interceptions, 4,745 passing yards, 63.5 completion percentage, 8.2 yards per pass, a 102.3 passer rating and a 14-4 win/loss record as a starting QB. Not bad for a bust right?

 

Here’s an even better look at Goff’s early career compared to some spectacular QB talents. He started in his 25th game of his career this past Sunday so here are his first 25 regular season game results compared to some other big name QB’s:

 

Notable QB’s Through First 25 Regular Season Starts in NFL:

 

Tom Brady: 64.6% CMP, 42 TDs, 22 INTs, 5,680 yards, 6.7 YPA, 90.0 RTG, 17-8

Drew Brees: 59.6% CMP, 26 TDs, 29 INTs, 5,097 yards, 6.1 YPA, 73.3 RTG, 9-16

Derek Carr: 60.2% CMP, 42 TDs, 18 INTs, 5,666 yards, 6.1 YPA, 85.2 RTG, 7-18

Joe Flacco: 62.2% CMP, 26 TDs, 19 INTs, 5,170 yards, 7.10 YPA, 84.6 RTG, 16-9

Jared Goff: 60.7% CMP, 39 TDs, 16 INTs, 6,093 yards, 7.4 YPA, 92.2 RTG, 14-11

Andrew Luck: 55.6% CMP, 37 TDs, 24 INTs, 6,572 yards, 7.01 YPA, 80.1 RTG, 17-8

Eli Manning: 53.16% CMP, 35 TDs, 28 INTs, 5,357 yards, 6.52 YPA, 73.5 RTG, 13-12

Peyton Manning: 57.7% CMP, 43 TDs, 38 INTs, 6,258 yards, 7.06 YPA, 78.0 RTG, 10-15

Philip Rivers: 61.4% CMP, 32 TDs, 19 INTs, 5,131 yards, 7.18 YPA, 87.0 RTG, 19-6

Aaron Rodgers: 63.7% CMP, 45 TDs, 18 INTs, 6,482 yards, 7.7 YPA, 96.6 RTG, 11-14

Ben Roethlisberger: 64.8% CMP, 32 TDs, 18 INTs, 4,830 yards, 8.90 YPA, 99.0 RTG, 22-3

Matt Ryan: 60.5% CMP, 30 TDs, 23 INTs, 5,448 yards, 7.44 YPA, 84.1 RTG, 16-9

Matthew Stafford: 58.8 CMP, 46 TDs, 35 INTs, 6,329 yards, 6.5 YPA, 79.4 RTG, 10-15

Carson Wentz: 61.8% CMP, 39 TDs, 19 INTs, 6,044 yards, 6.6 YPA, 87.3 RTG, 15-10

Russell Wilson: 63.4% CMP, 41 TDs, 16 INTs, 4,963 yards, 7.95 YPA, 99.3 RTG, 19-6

 

Shocking huh? The crazy thing is that no matter where you look, Jared Goff, is considered outside of the top ten of QB’s by many. It’s not like it’s a big deal, Goff was already asked if he was a system QB and he basically said he can be a system QB as long as the Rams keep winning. Goff has made tremendous strides and really this past week three matchup you saw all of it come together. Sure, he has the best offensive mind in the game, the best RB in the backfield, arguably the best WR trio and now one of the best offensive line’s but Goff is making all of the throws. He just played the best game of his career, Pro Football Focus even gave him an elite grade for his play. Goff is top five this year in adjusted completion percentage, he’s quickly become one of the best deep ball throwers in the league and he’s leading this 2018 Rams squad to their first 3-0 start since 2001. Things aren’t all just different because of McVay, he has a ton to do with it but as you can see above Jared Goff is producing big-time numbers that make you seriously wonder what his potential is. In 25 starts Goff’s completion percentage is higher than Matt Ryan’s, his touchdown total is the same as Carson Wentz, his interception total is the same is two less than Aaron Rodgers, his passing yards are higher than Drew Brees, he’s averaging a higher yards per pass than Andrew Luck, his passer rating is higher than Tom Brady and his win percentage is greater than Aaron Rodgers was to start off his career. 

 

It wasn’t fair to say Goff was just Matt Ryan or Eli Manning, it wasn’t fair to say he was a bust after seven games and it certainly wasn’t fair to call Deshaun Watson and Jimmy Garoppolo better QB’s after seven starts of their own. However, it doesn’t matter, Goff is surprisingly the most underrated signal-caller in the league as he leads at the helm of what is the league’s current Super Bowl favorite. It has nothing to do with the lack of media attention, stats or marketability. Jared Goff is not considered a top 10 QB because of what he did when Jeff Fisher was his Head coach and Greg Robinson was protecting his blindside. Goff has shed that label, it’s gone. Now it’s up to the rest of the world to catch up and watch as the former “bust” makes his way towards stardom. 

 

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