An Analytical Look at How Jared Goff Can Become Elite in 2019

Jared Goff
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When it comes to the Los Angeles Rams and Jared Goff, where the quarterback ranks might be one of the hottest debate topics in the NFL.  Is he a top-10 quarterback? Is he a top-15 quarterback? How much of Jared Goff’s success is Sean McVay? And finally, the best one, is Jared Goff, a system quarterback?

The Rams know what Goff is capable of. Without him, they wouldn’t have been in the Super Bowl last season. McVay’s system certainly deserves credit, but a system is only as a good as the talent executing it.

In 2018, there were two halves of Jared Goff. There was the Goff that played at an MVP caliber level before the bye week and then the Goff that looked pretty mediocre in the final five games of the season and the Super Bowl.

In Weeks 1-11,  Goff threw for 3,547 yards which ranked second behind only Patrick Mahomes. The Rams quarterback completed 67.7% of his passes with 26 touchdowns to six interceptions – the third-best TD:INT ratio in football.

Had Goff kept that pace, he would have finished with 5,159 yards which would have been 30 yards better than Ben Roethlisberger‘s league-leading mark. His 37 touchdowns, meanwhile, would have finished third.

While Mahomes stole the show and did it for 16 games. However, had Goff kept up his pace, he would have had a legitimate case for MVP. Below is an analytical look at several different categories and how Goff can win MVP in 2019.

Accuracy

This is an essential trait for an NFL quarterback and is an area in which Jared Goff continues to improve. Goff completed just 54.6% of his passes as a rookie and improved that to 62.1% in his sophomore year. That number again took a jump in his third season, increasing to 64.9%.

This was the case in his adjusted completion percentage as well. His adjusted completion percentage was 72% in 2017, trailing Drew Brees (80.1%). That mark improved in 2018, jumping to 75.1%, again trailing Brees (82.2).

However, completion percentage as a standalone statistic is imperfect.

Pro Football Focus has a metric that take these imperfections into account. They take into account the depth of every target thrown by a quarterback and compare them to what the expected completion percentage should have been.

With this stat, Goff ranked ninth in the NFL last season with a +3.3 difference of completion percentage and expected completion percentage. Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes led the league in this stat at +8.1 and +7.1 respectively. This also trailed Carson Wentz (+6.5), DeShaun Watson (+4.9), and Andrew Luck (+3.4).

NFL’s Next Gen Stats provides additional context with a metric called completion percentage above expectation. It looks at the probability of a completion on every throw, based on multiple factors such as a receiver’s separation from the nearest defender, where the receiver is on the field, how close the nearest pass rusher is to the quarterback, etc.

In this category, Goff ranked 16th in the NFL and trailed quarterbacks such as Cody Kessler, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Nick Foles. This metric takes the system and talent of receivers more into account. While Goff ranked 16th, Mahomes wasn’t much better at 14 while Drew Brees (+7.4) still ranked at the top. Goff’s +1 in this metric was a significant improvement from his -2.1 the season before and his -5.4 in 2016.

The increase in accuracy every year is an indicator that Goff continues to get more confident each season. While his accuracy is average-above average, he still has the capabilities of making the elite throw. However, in order to take that next step, he’ll need to improve even more. You’d like to see the adjusted completion percentage around 78% which is right where it was the first 11 weeks of the season (77.5%).

Aggressiveness

When it comes to Jared Goff,  many believe he plays too conservatively because he plays behind McVay’s headset.

Next Gen Stats tracks a metric called aggressiveness, which measures the percentage of throws a quarterback makes into windows when there is a defender within 1 yard of the receiver.

While being aggressive is a good thing, you also don’t want a quarterback to be too aggressive. Being less aggressive can actually be a good thing because it means that a quarterback is throwing to open receivers which again brings the  scheme into account.

Last season, Goff’s aggressive throw percentage was 13.2% while notable quarterbacks such as Andrew Luck (18.2), Dak Prescott (17.7), and Cam Newtown (17.2) all had higher percentages. Again, this can be seen as a good thing and speaks to the system. And no, that’s not saying Goff is a system quarterback.

MVP Mahomes’ aggressive throw percentage was just 12.2% and Tom Brady‘s was 13.9%. Mahomes plays in a great system under Andy and Brady the same with Brady andJosh McDaniels.

However, what is troubling in a sense is that Goff’s aggressive throw percentage was actually down from 2017 (14.3%). For Goff to take that next step, he doesn’t need to be overly aggressive but being able to take calculated risks will help him escape the system quarterback label.

Decision Making

Quarterbacks in the NFL get judged by two things: sacks and interceptions.

Despite having the third-longest time from snap to sack, Goff was sacked the 18th most in the NFL last season. Only Joe Flacco and Dak Prescott had more time. Flacco was the sixth-fewest sacked quarterback last season while Prescott was the second-most sacked quarterback.

Goff was also given the fifth-most time to throw by his offensive line. 23 of Goff’s 25 sacks occurred when he was given 2.5 or more seconds to throw. This is the case for most quarterbacks as if you’re getting rid of the ball in under 2.5 seconds, most likely you aren’t getting sacked.

However, Goff’s 13:1 ratio of sacks over 2.5 seconds to sacks under 2.5 trailed only Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, and Ben Roethlisberger.

This means that when Goff is getting sacked, most of the time, it’s because he’s simply holding on to the ball too long and not throwing it away. This either means that Goff doesn’t see the field correctly on these plays, is waiting for something to develop, is trying to make too much happen, or it’s merely a coverage sack.

Despite being given the third-most time to throw, Goff’s 5.6% sack percentage ranked 12th. Meanwhile, Andrew Luck had an average release time of 2.43 seconds and had the lowest sack percentage of 2.7%.

Goff’s sack percentage remained relatively the same from year one to year two under Sean McVay. In 2017, the Rams quarterback had a sack percentage of 5.0%. Goff’s release time must get quicker to avoid taking sacks.

When it comes to interceptions, Goff has remained relatively consistent, but again, took a slight drop in 2018.  In year one with McVay, Goff had an interception percentage of 1.5% compared to 2.1% in year two.

His 2.1 interception percentage ranked 15th in the NFL and was the same as  Mahomes as both quarterbacks threw 12 interceptions.

When it comes to throwing the football, Jared Goff remains one of the best in the NFL. Since 2017, his 1.83 interception percentage ranks ninth.

Situational Football

NFL games are won and lost in the red zone and on third down. If teams can’t succeed in those situations,  it’s hard to win football games.

The Rams over the past two years have been mediocre when it comes to the red zone. McVay’s offense ranked 19th in red zone efficiency in 2018 and was one of four teams to make the playoffs despite ranking in the bottom half of the league. However, the Rams were just one of two teams in that category to win a playoff game along with the Philadelphia Eagles.

This trend continues in nearly every metric in the red zone. The Rams ranked 16th in points per red zone trip and touchdown percentage.

Like everything in football, that begins and ends with the quarterback. Goff’s completion percentage dropped from 64.9% to 58.42% in the red zone. That 6.48% drop in accruacy was the 15th largest in the NFL. Most of the time this drop had a direct correlation to a team’s success in thered zone. Teams with quarterbacks that had more than a 5% drop in accuracy finished average to worst red zone offenses in the league. The only exception being Ben Roethlisberger who saw a 10.62 drop in accuracy despite leading the best red zone offense.

Goff had a 56.79 completion percentage in the NFL in 2017 under McVay and again had that 5.31 drop in accuracy.

In the red zone, the field shrinks, and it’s obvious that Goff struggles in that area. His 58.42 red zone  percentage drops even further to 50% inside the 10 yard line which tied for the seventh-worst mark among quarterbacks with more than 25 attempts.

Goff was one of just three quarterbacks to throw more than 100 passes in  red zone last season, but was the only one of those quarterbacks to throw less than 25 red zone touchdowns. The Rams quarterback was also one of 14 to throw multiple interceptions inside the 20.

Looking at the top quarterbacks in the league, Mahomes threw 35 touchdowns to one interception in the red zone last season while Brees threw 22 touchdowns to no interceptions. For the Rams to get better in the red zone, Goff must get better.

While Goff struggles in the red zone, he remains one of the best on third down. In 2018, 46% of Goff’s passes on third down, went for first downs. That was the sixth-best mark in the NFL, trailing Mahomes by 5.1%. Goff’s completion percentage remains a  steady 65.3% on third-down which is 1.3% less than his completion percentage on first down and 2.1% better than second down.

One last mark to note here is when the game is in the final minutes and the team is within one score.  In the final seven minutes of games, the Rams quarterback saw his passer rating drop from 8th (101.1) to 30th (76.8). That continues in the fourth quarter when the game is within seven points whether leading or trailing. Goff completed just 58.1% of his passes in those situations in 2018.

However, Goff led four game-winning drives, last season, including in the NFC Championship game. Clutch stats are overrated. While Goff’s numbers in the fourth quarter may have taken a fall, the fact is, the Rams trailed in the fourth quarter nine times last season and the Rams went on to win five of those games.

Producing explosive plays

Explosive plays make the job of an offense a lot easier. If you are able to shorten drives, it’s a lot less work for an offense. The Rams have excelled in this area with Jared Goff. The Rams ranked third in the NFL in 20+ yard passing plays last season. The team then ranked 12th on 40+ yard passing plays.

A lot of that has to do with Goff’s deep ball accuracy. Goff’s deep passing ability is the most appealing part of his game, as he finished eighth in overall accuracy. This was a tremendous strength of his coming out of college at Cal, and it has transferred to the NFL.

Goff was at his best in three areas, finishing fifth in accuracy percentage in the 26-30 range (66.7%), in clean pockets (60.0%) and throwing into tight windows (42.11%). Goff also finished in the top ten in accuracy on throws of 36-40 yards.

When it comes to being among the elite quarterbacks, Goff sets the standard with the deep ball.

Conclusion

Jared Goff has solidified himself in that second-tier of quarterbacks at just 24-years of age. The good news about that is, he’s just entering his prime and continues to get better. The Rams quarterback has proven that he can play at an MVP-caliber level, but needs to prove he can do so over 16 games. The return of Cooper Kupp and another season under McVay should help with that.

Goff’s accuracy continues to improve  and he continues to flourish in McVay’s system. But that doesn’t mean he’s a system quarterback. He needs to improve in the red zone and in his decision making. However, he’s right there and ready to take that next leap. His efficiency on third down and deep ball are among the elite quarterback in the lague and it’s only a matter of time before the rest of his game follows suit.

 

 

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