The 2019 season, not only for Jared Goff but the Los Angeles Rams as a whole, was a roller coaster that at least ended on a reasonably high note. Granted, they didn’t make the playoffs, and it’s certainly fair to measure their overall success against that outcome. But, the team did finish 9-7 after a tough stretch in November, leading to a third straight winning season under head coach Sean McVay. The bar is higher than it’s been in decades, and everyone knows it.
For Rams QB Jared Goff, expectations for 2020 are at an all-time high after finishing one game short of making the playoffs. In a division where the San Francisco 49ers made the Super Bowl, and the Seattle Seahawks made the playoffs, Goff and the Los Angeles Rams need to find the form that propelled them into the Super Bowl one year earlier.
This piece focuses on why Goff can (and will) have a bounce back performance in 2020. In the words of Austin Powers, Goff just needs to find his mojo again.
Despite having a career-high in interceptions, Jared Goff still threw for 22 touchdowns and 4,638 yards (even including zero TD’s in November). Furthermore, Goff set a career-high in pass attempts with 626, which also tied the league for the year. Goff was relied upon a lot more than in years past, when the offense ran through all-purposes (and All-Pro) running back Todd Gurley.
Although Goff did have a few terrible turnovers at the wrong time (including some costly pick 6’s), he still led the team to a 9-7 record despite having a weak offensive line and inconsistent run game for most of the season. It’s well known that the O-line’s inexperience, coming from the fact that several key starters were banged up for most of the season, contributed to Goff’s lack of consistency.
McVay had to build a scheme to help protect Goff, who had a massive amount of pressure when just simply dropping back and working through his progressions. The 22 sacks given up by the offensive line were impressive on paper, but the Rams had to bootleg Goff out to buy him time and even then he was still pressured/hurried.
The running game didn’t live up to high expectations as well: Todd Gurley never had a 100-yard rushing game all year, and his longest run was <30 yards. The running backs as a whole had an average yards per carry of less than four across the board. The decreased product from the RB’s was likely attributed to McVay not being able to balance the pass/run game as well, what with a mix of the offensive line injuries, inexperience and inconsistency. It’s not all on the O-line, but that was one of the major shake-ups that Goff (and McVay) faced in 2019.
A Money Problem
Like I mentioned before, Goff did make some costly mistakes with the types of turnovers that have been an issue for him over the years (ones where you say “what did he SEE there??”). But, Goff is still a franchise QB that most teams would want to build around and that’s why the Rams gave him the biggest guaranteed salary in the league. The Rams gave him a 4 year/$134M contract with $110M being guaranteed, with a potential opt-out in 2023. This year alone, Goff will have a $36M cap hit on the team and it’ll be down to $32M and $30M over the next couple years. Also note that the salary cap keeps increasing, leading to more and more starting QB’s getting paid these types of numbers.
There have been rumors of a possible contract restructuring between the Los Angeles Rams and Todd Gurley, in order to spread out his bonuses to free up cap space over the next few years. This could help the team in free agency to keep starters like K Greg Zuerlein, ILB Cory Littleton, and maybe DL Michael Brockers while possibly extending CB Jalen Ramsey as well. Goff’s contract could be harder to strain.
According to Spotrac, trading Goff isn’t an option that the Rams can afford, since his dead cap this year alone is $51M and it doesn’t get any cheaper from there. The only time that could work for the Rams won’t come until 2023 when it’s down to $5M. The Rams front office, and more importantly HC Sean McVay and new OC Kevin O’Connel, believes in Jared Goff and that’s why they paid him the big contract.
To summarize his 2019, Goff was tied for first in attempts with 626, third in passing yards with 4,638, tied sixteenth in touchdowns with 22, while unfortunately being fourth in interceptions with 16. Those are not objectively terrible numbers, but for a QB expected to lead his team to the playoffs consistently, he needs to cut down the INT’s and dramatically increase the TD/attempt ratio.
Can Goff Still Perform?
Even though his TD/INT ratio was not ideal, Goff did have a grade of 72.4 according to Pro Football Focus. As he showed in 2017/2018, Goff can be an elite quarterback, and with an offensive line that’s healthy and can mesh well, you will see Jared Goff rebound in 2020. With McVay and newly acquired offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell joining forces, there will be a resurgence in the run game that could help relieve the pressure from Goff to be relied upon so much to move the sticks.
2020 will be a resurgent season for Goff if he can get the help from a run game that struggled last year but has the pieces to be dominant. If the offensive line stays healthy, along with a proper game plan from McVay and O’Connell, the offense will be clicking on all cylinders as it did back in 2018. Who knows, it could unlock more potential for more scoring, something Rams fans and management are dying to see from this Rams team.
Look for the 2020 Rams to be making some noise in the NFC West and possibly make a playoff run if Goff and co. can bring it all together.