Los Angeles Rams: The Immediate Fall and Eventual Rise of Jared Goff

Los Angeles Rams' Jared Goff, center, reacts on the bench after throwing an interception caught by New England Patriots' Stephon Gilmore during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

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The rise of something special sometimes takes awhile. In Jared Goff’s case, his real potential took over a year of NFL experience to actually take shape. In this past year, we have seen the up-and-coming star play his way to his second-consecutive pro-bowl nod, and lead the Los Angeles Rams to the Super Bowl: that’s not average stuff. Goff has played his way out of and into Rams fans’ hearts through his three-year NFL career, and the journey has been a wild ride of emotions for everyone involved. This is Jared Goff’s career. 

The Californian Prince

“Just truly a dream come true.  Something that you kind of always dream about as a kid.  For it to become a reality is awesome. At the same time, though, I’m taking it as an honor and something I’m going to have to prove them right, that they made the right decision.” Jared Goff  post-2016 draft. 

Coming out of high school, Jared Goff had no real experience with losing. At his time at Marin Catholic High School in Northern California, he destroyed his peers both individually and with team play. Goff played his way to the University of California and once he got there, he didn’t disappoint. In his true freshman season in 2013, Goff put up 3,508 yards on 60.4 percent completion rate. Also in that season, Goff managed to throw 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Not astonishing, but also definitely not horrible for a nineteen-year-old kid. His passer efficiency rating was a 127.3, above average for any quarterback in the FBS.

 These numbers didn’t come easy. 

Punished. 

Goff was sacked time and time again, especially during his true freshman season at Cal. Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden had this to say about Goff’s toughness in 2018:

“One thing that always impressed me about  Goff was how tough he was. If you go back and watch him play as a true freshman at Cal, you would be surprised that he’s even still playing football.” –Jon Gruden on Jared Goff. 

This was the first true test of Jared Goff’s willingness and toughness when it came to the sport. Goff wasn’t tested in high school, but he went through the gauntlet when it came to revitalizing Cal football. Goff, a four-star recruit out of high school, was tested beyond belief behind a horrific offensive line in 2013. This didn’t stop him from becoming one of the nation’s most dominant college quarterbacks the very next year. 

Sophomore Surge

When it comes to the NFL, second-year players sometimes have a dip in play from the previous year. This phenomenon is universally called a sophomore slump. In the collegiate system, for Jared Goff especially, this “sophomore slump” doesn’t exist. In its place, came a season in which Goff dominated: a sophomore surge. 

The 205-pound quarterback flashed signs of oncoming dominance over the span of his sophomore season. In twelve games, Goff threw for 3,973 yards on 62 percent completion percentage; already an improvement over his first season. He threw for 35 touchdowns to a mere 7 interceptions. A ratio that led him to a 147.6 passer efficiency rating. Yeah, he was top-tier. Goff’s stellar year didn’t make a winner though, in 2014, Cal went 5-7, 3-6 in the PAC-12.  

Seeing The Future 

That 2014 sophomore season was a bit of a precursor or extreme foreshadowing at its best. After getting walloped, tossed around, and destroyed in his freshman year behind a suspect offensive line, Goff came out determined. Having this type of a season warrants NFL talk and NFL hype. Even with his individual success, Goff wasn’t satisfied with his play or his team’s.

“There’s a lot of stuff we saw on film that we’d like to fix. Missed some shots early at Washington State, and watching it on film you see that and hopefully we don’t miss it again.” –Jared Goff on Cal’s 2014 early-season. 

The sophomore sensation had come back from a beating his freshman year with a record-breaking sophomore season, and it wasn’t enough. Cal wasn’t winning, and it ate at him. The quarterback that the Rams now have as their rightful leader was starting to take shape as a player and as a man. Goff, with his incredibly high touchdown-to-interception ratio, was now looking ahead to Aaron Rodgers-level of success at Cal. He was looking forward to his last year in college. 

Junior-Year Eruption

In 2015, Jeff Fisher was leading the Los Angeles Rams to become one of the worst teams in the National Football League. The patented 7-9 record in the Rams’ first year in Los Angeles didn’t feel that good, especially to fans. This year felt like a defeat. Scoring less than two touchdowns in a game was a regular for the 2015 Rams, all looked lost in la-la land. Jeff Fisher’s firing and John Fassel’s interim hiring was the dim candle in the middle of a dark tunnel, and the season ended with a complete overhaul of the roster. Staff and players. 

Meanwhile, in Berkley, California, Jared Goff was putting on a show. The junior from Marin County put up 4,700 passing yards on 64 percent completion percentage while throwing for 43 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. I know that I said his junior year numbers were impressive, but Goff tore up the NCAA in his third collegiate season. All of this was a success for Goff because he had pulled Cal football out of their dark days. The team finished with an 8-5 record. 

Hype Builder

Goff’s junior year was noticed, it was talked about. 2015 wasn’t just a milestone year for Goff and his future, it was a historically dominant and record-cementing year for him. In his junior year, Goff became Cal’s all-time leading passer (12,220), touchdown-thrower (96), and completion-leader (977). Goff also broke records for All Pac-12 nominations and almost caught Aaron Rodgers’ record for passer efficiency, with his high-mark set at 143.95. 

Goff’s supreme showcase only solidified his name in the collegiate quarterback race, but it also cemented his name and legacy at Cal forever. Again though, Goff wasn’t rattled by the sudden fame and attention of being one of the nation’s top quarterbacks came with. He was calm, he was cool, and he was most certainly collected. The rise of Cal football was of importance to Goff, and when asked post-draft about his junior year success, Goff answered as calm as could be. 

“It’s on the rise. Definitely good for Cal. It really hasn’t hit me yet how big of a deal it probably is yet, especially for Cal.” -Jared Goff

Yes, Jared, your big season as a junior at The University of California Berkeley was huge for the program’s image and future success, but it was also huge for you. 

Picks on Picks

In mid-April 2016, around the same time the Jared Goff hype was gaining momentum, The Los Angeles Rams made a franchise-altering move in trading the 15th overall pick in that specific year’s draft, plus a barrage of early-round picks in the following years, for the first overall pick. It was the Rams’ version of the picks the Redskins gave them in the trade for Robert Griffin III back in 2012. Once the trade was made official, debates were on. Wentz or Goff? The debates spanned from big-time networks to team-centric blogs much like our own. The only thing that was certain was the Rams were taking a quarterback. 

The Draft

The 2016 NFL Draft was one of the most memorable to date, at least for me. This draft produced players such as Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliot, Jalen Ramsey, Ronnie Stanley, among other top players at their position. This was also the draft that the Rams decided on a franchise quarterback: Jared Goff. Goff had been the pick for a while, according to Rams general manager Les Snead and then-head coach Jeff Fisher. 

“Your questions are probably: how long have you known? We’ve probably known for a little while.” – Jeff Fisher in the post-draft press conference.

Wentz vs. Goff

Jeff Fisher’s quote here doesn’t do the Rams’ process justice. They brought both Wentz and Goff in for extensive workouts in the draft process and saying that the Rams “knew” a little while before the draft says something about Goff’s performance. 

The Los Angeles Rams’ 2016 draft, aside from selecting a future-pro-bowl quarterback, was vastly underwhelming and only produced one future-starter. Tight end Tyler Higbee and wide receiver Mike Thomas are the only two remaining players on the roster, in fact. Players selected include Temarrick Hemingway, Pharoh Cooper, and Josh Forrest. Yeah, all of these guys are on different rosters or are out of the league entirely. This dud of a draft coup could have been the reason for the upcoming 2016 season, and how poorly it went for LA, and Jared Goff. 

Jared’s Rookie Year

2016 would end up being one of the most depressing seasons in the Rams’ history. The season and the team’s demise began before it started: on Hard Knocks. The series is known for its deep-dives into a team’s training camp before the season, and it’s also known for being a distraction for the team involved. In the Rams and Jared Goff’s case, they were an interesting team to cover. There was a team in Los Angeles for the first time in twenty-two years, and that same team had just traded a truckload of picks for a rookie quarterback. The series targeted them for a reason. In the series, Jared Goff was quoted as saying he didn’t know where the sun sets/rises, and you can bet where the media ran with that.

Everywhere I turned I was hearing how Goff wasn’t ready for NFL action, how his passes were off, his reads were slow, and he wasn’t athletic in the pocket. Post-training camp didn’t get much better for Goff. In the preseason, Goff’s first outing didn’t leave a good taste in the mouths of Rams fans or the Los Angeles Rams’ coaching staff. 

Preseason Goff

In that game versus the Dallas Cowboys, Goff was 4/9 passing the ball for 38 yards with 1 interception. Goff played in the game after Sean Mannion and Case Keenum had their turn at the Cowboys defense, and his play was by far the worst of the three. In one of the worst designed offenses of the twenty-first century, Goff looked horrible. 

After his preseason was over, Goff was sentenced to second-string duties behind Case Keenum, as his counterpart Carson Wentz started games for his Philadelphia Eagles. In the early parts of the 2016 season, Jared Goff sat, he waited on the bench for Keenum to fall apart on the field. It took ten weeks to happen.  In week ten versus the New York Jets, the Rams squeezed out a win. They scored a total of nine points and zero touchdowns. Quarterback Case Keenum completed 17 of 30 passes for 165 yards, with zeroes across the board for touchdowns and interceptions. Directly after the game, Rams fans were calling for Goff’s debut, hoping and praying for a positive product. The Rams were 4-5, the definition of mediocrity and the fans were over it. 

Jeff Fisher answered the fans’ calls. 

“It wasn’t a spontaneous decision…..It was a progression. It’s a gut feeling. It’s not an easy thing; a gut feeling. It takes time, and we gave it time. It’s the right decision right now.” Jeff Fisher on starting Jared Goff

After an unsettling offensive performance against the Jets, Fisher called it in, the rookie would start his first NFL regular-season game against the Miami Dolphins on November 20th. 

The Debut of the Rook

The debut and what followed will always stick in my mind. Jared Goff was fine against the Dolphins, he was average. Besides looking lost when blitzed or rushed too much, Goff was fine. He wasn’t a number one pick. The following games, Goff didn’t impress either. In losses versus the Saints, Patriots, and Falcons, Goff didn’t throw for over 300 yards once, and never got a win. The not winning part is what set Goff’s season up in flames. At the end of Keenum’s fun as LA Rams quarterback, the fans booed and cried for a better product on the field. When they were given hope of that very thing, just to be disappointed, the league took sides. Goff was a bust. This four-game-skid could’ve been the single biggest blessing in disguise for Goff. What happened next wouldn’t have happened without all the losing. 

With three games remaining in the 2016 season, Jeff Fisher was relieved of his duties as Los Angeles Rams head coach. 

John Fassel would take over Fisher’s duties as coach. His appearance didn’t make a difference: the Rams went 0-3 in that span. 

Post-Bye Drought 

The Los Angeles Rams, after going 4-5 to start the league year, lost seven games in a row to end it. The disappointment only got worse when you realized they didn’t own their own first-round pick for the 2017 draft, the Titans owned the rights. For the season, Jared Goff threw for 1,089 yards on 54 percent completion rate, with 5 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. These numbers were trumped by the likes of Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott, not to mention the other young non-rookies in the league at the time. 

Goff’s rookie season was an abject failure, and a massive disappointment for an organization looking and grasping for hope. The team attempted to rally behind its rookie quarterback but the talent just wasn’t there. Neither the team nor it’s quarterback were ready for the Los Angeles spotlight, and most of one got the boot for it. Now, with a fresh coaching staff, and a revitalized roster, could Jared Goff prove nearly everybody wrong? This is a question that was answered the very next year. 

Second Year Suprise

The second year of Jared Goff’s career came with some new surroundings. New head coach Sean McVay, along with his array of new coaches to go along his staff, had made their way to LA by March 2017. New signings/draftees included receivers Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds,  left tackle Andrew Whitworth, and safety John Johnson III. You should recognize these names, as nearly all of them have become integral parts of LA rams culture. They all had their part in the Rams becoming 2019 NFC champions. Now, these are only some part of the contender that was started in 2017, it would be tough to name them all. The important thing is, Jared Goff finally got a supporting cast with both his coaches and his fellow players, now he could show out. 

2017 was a prove-it year for Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams organization as a whole. The team had cleared out everyone in sight, and the team was restructured and ready to prove they deserved attention. The season started at home versus the Indianapolis Colts, a game in which Goff showed he was a changed player. Goff finished with 21/29 passing for 306 yards and one touchdown in a 46-9 throttling of the Colts. This was Goff’s best game of his career and it was only the first game of the Sean McVay-Goff era. 

2017 was about to get fun. 

Fun Times

The Los Angeles Rams finished with an 11-5 record, and they topped the NFC West Division for the first time since the early-2000s. They had made the playoffs: the season was a success. Goff’s performance was outstanding. He finished the year with 3,804 yards on 62 percent completion rate, along with 28 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Another underrated and not-often found stat about Goff’s second year is his interception percentage: in this category, he improved vastly. Goff’s percentage dropped from 3.4% to 1.5%, which has ended up being the best of his career, to date. Even with the loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the playoffs, his season was looked at as a success: as it should be.  

Throwing fewer interceptions, throwing more touchdowns, and winning more games: Goff had hit his stride. The breakout year that every Rams fan was hoping on came to life. Seeing him having dominant games against the Colts, Giants, and Texans gave the organization a chance to step back and realize they have their franchise quarterback for the first time in years. Now, his numbers weren’t the best in the league. In fact, they were a far cry from it: that wasn’t the point. 

Goff had gone from high school famous, to college legend, to NFL bust, and he was only 21 years old. This breakout year had him step into the next chapter of his NFL career: stardom. The season had given us fans the crack in the door that we needed to believe the young quarterback was the future of our future franchise, and the crazy thing is: this wasn’t the end. 

Third Year’s a Charm

Now that we have inched closer and closer to the present day when it comes to Jared Goff’s career, we have now gotten to his best season yet. Season three of Goff-mania was a wild ride, and one that cemented Goff in Los Angeles Rams history forever. Coming into the 2018 season, the Rams had signed some big names and mostly kept their core intact. Ndamukong Suh was an example of the former, and the offense that ran through the league the year before, is the same for the latter. Returning for that offense was: Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Andrew Whitworth, Rob Havenstein, Todd Gurley, and more. New to the group was star receiver Brandin Cooks. 

Cooks, who was replacing receiver Sammy Watkins in the Rams offense, comes in as a three-time 1,000-yard receiver with the Saints and Patriots. His addition was sure to make a difference for Goff in the upcoming year. Another element to consider before the 2018 season was the Rams coaching staff. In Goff’s three year career, he has never had stability at the head coach position and quarterbacks coach position. In year three he finally got some stability. Sean McVay was, of course, returning to guide and assist Goff. Quarterbacks coach Greg Olson had left, and new addition Zac Taylor was in the building to replace him. These small changes to the team proved to be monumentally good and paved the way for Goff to have the best season of his career. 

Starting BANG

Goff’s third season started off with a bang in Oakland versus the Raiders in week one. In a 33-13 win in the bay area, Goff threw for 225 yards and two touchdowns. He didn’t have to attempt much. The running backs core was good, getting 140 yards on the ground, Goff wasn’t challenged much. 

Over the next seven weeks, Goff would lead the Rams to a 7-0 record. After the Raiders win in week one, it was eight wins in total. Over that span, Goff threw for 2,334 yards; this total was more than Josh Allen’s SEASON TOTAL which was 2,074 yards. Goff’s streak wasn’t just gaudy yardage stats, his completion percentage averaged out 67.83 during that span: a number that would be his career-high. Goff also threw for 15 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. 

Yes, I could go through all the in-depth statistics on Goff’s year, but his explosion was more than that. Leading a team to an undefeated record through half of an NFL season takes a quarterback of a certain type, a leader with different genes. Jared Goff flashed part of why he is a special leader and talent, but in 2018 he put it all together. 

Praise From Within

“To see how [QB] Jared [Goff] has taken off this year and to see him make the transition from me playing against him in college… to see how hungry he is to go out there and prove he is one of the top quarterbacks in this league — it helps us.” Marcus Peters 

Praise from his defensive teammate doesn’t do Goff justice. Watching his week four performance against the Vikings made me smile from ear-to-ear, the Rams have found their guy. From interviews where he is calm and collected after a nationally televised game against the Chiefs, to when he got mauled and thrashed against the Bears and came back stronger. Goff was made different. 

The 2018 regular season ended with a week where the Rams starters sat in preparation for the playoffs. Goff’s numbers are still outstanding for the season. He totaled 4,688 passing yards on 64 percent completion percentage with 32 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Goff also managed a career-high in passer rating with a 101.1 for the season. Goff has entered elite quarterback territory, and his name was and will be in All-Pro consideration for years to come. 

Playoff Push

During the 2018 playoffs, both sides of Jared Goff showed up on the field. Against the Cowboys, he wasn’t needed as much as expected, and didn’t have an explosive game: he was still good. That was win number one. Against the Saints in the NFC Championship, Goff was great. He was clutch, and he made some of the best plays of the game near the end. Goff’s play along with some favorable officiating propelled the Rams to the Super Bowl, where we saw rookie-year Goff for the first time in months. 

Super Bowl 53 was a mix of Jared Goff’s bad play and Bill Belichick’s defensive prowess. Goff finished with 229 yards passing on 50 percent completion percentage, with no touchdowns and one interception. His QBR was 16.4. Goff was bad, he looked like an inexperienced player who was going up against two of the game’s legends, and he looked lost. Goff’s longest completion was a 24-yard pass and he got sacked four times, the whole offense looked out of sync. This nationally televised reminder that Goff isn’t perfect has stained the brains of many. The masses have forgotten about Goff’s amazing season he had before. The Super Bowl loss hurt in so many ways, but Goff’s jump from bust to star in three years was nothing short of amazing. His one horrible performance shouldn’t discount that.  

What The Future Holds

The future is full of questions for Jared Goff. 

Will Todd Gurley be healthy?

Will the offensive line hold up?

Can Goff comeback from his Super Bowl performance?

All of these potential questions and concerns are viable and are understandable. Todd Gurley probably won’t be the same player in 2019, the offensive line is incredibly young, and Super Bowl 53 would shake any young quarterback to their core. While Goff hears left and right what could go wrong, I just can’t accept that he will crumble. 

Same Kid

This is the same young high-schooler who came into a broken Cal football program and changed it forever. The same 22-year-old who was labeled a bust in his first seven games. That same young rookie who came out of his second year refreshed and revived won’t crumble under the pressure of one loss. The “keep-it-cool” Californian has something about him, a determination, a will to deny any noise attempting to disrupt his craft. 

There seems to be an empty slate at hand for Jared Goff in 2019. Depending on his play, he’ll become one of the game’s top young players, or he will inch closer and closer to that bust label in the eyes of the national media. For Goff, 2019 is as much as a prove-it year as it is for Marcus Peters and Dante Fowler. It is essential for Goff to get back to his early-2018 form. There’s something telling me that is exactly what is going to go down. From his immediate fall from the top, to his slow and steady rise to the peak, Jared Goff has been one of the most exciting players to follow and evaluate. Through his highs and lows, there is one thing I’m certain of: the Los Angeles Rams have their franchise quarterback and leader, for now, and into the future. 

All stats found via Pro Football Reference 

Various season totals found at NFL.com 

Check out my latest article: “Week One: Stock Up Stock Down vs. Raiders”

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