I owe Jared Goff an apology. Here’s why.
It’s more than just Goff turning out to be better than I (and to be fair, most football/Rams fans I know) expected. That happens frequently enough. I didn’t think Todd Gurley would be as incredible as he is. Sure, I knew he’d be good. We all did. I just didn’t think his explosion would ever get back to 100% after his college knee injury, thereby limiting his potential to merely good, rather than special and transcendent. It also happens enough that a guy I proclaim to be the messiah ends up out of football in three seasons. It happens. I was beyond convinced that Greg Robinson was going to be the next great Rams offensive tackle, carrying on the legacy of the great Jackie Slater and Orlando Pace. Whoa, did I swing and miss on that slider in the dirt.
But neither of these examples, nor any others I could provide, approach how badly I got Jared Goff wrong.
It started before the 2016 draft. The blockbuster trade with the Titans hadn’t gone down, and there certainly weren’t any rumors I was aware of. I was cautiously optimistic that the Rams were going to finally address a variety of glaring roster deficiencies that may finally set the team on a path to respectability in spite of Jeff Fisher’s brutal ineptness as a head coach. I was fine with Case Keenum at quarterback. You know, not long term, but he was fine. And when you have a guy who will do a mostly acceptable job on a team with far more pressing needs, why not take of those first? And then the trade announcement came on my morning commute.
I didn’t immediately lose hope. For a brief time, I held out some hope that they’d take Carson Wentz. Again, I didn’t think they needed a quarterback, but if they were going to take one, Wentz’s combination of athleticism and aptitude would have made him my choice in spite of never having faced elite college competition. It rapidly became apparent, however, that Goff was the organization’s target, and I couldn’t stop bitching about it.
Not that I thought Goff was awful; I didn’t. I just thought he was… decidedly average. Tall, skinny guy with a big arm. Fairly accurate, but also mostly immobile. Joe Flacco on a good day. Again, there’s nothing wrong with Flacco. He’s been a champion for Christ’s sake. But if you’re mortgaging your entire future to pick a guy, he should be better. Couple all of that with Goff not sounding all that bright in his interviews, I was ready to whole-heartedly assume the worst.
As an aside, something dawned on me in hindsight here. Jeff Fisher had one of the most simplistic, uninventive, and predictable offensive philosophies I have ever seen, so if a quarterback with limited brainpower was going to succeed, he’d do it a system like Fisher’s. Anyway, just wanted to get that in here before I forgot…
Back to the point, from the moment the Rams drafted Goff to the end of the 2016 season, my “I told you sos” were at a fever pitch. Waste of a top pick! Waste of all the great picks to acquire him! If a hack like me can see it, why can’t these idiots who get paid millions of dollars to work in football see it!?
Fast forward to 2018, crow has never tasted so good. I’ve gone from being Goff’s fiercest critic to his staunchest supporter, and that’s saying something considering the fact that some say he’s a dark horse MVP candidate. Now, when people say he’s just a “system quarterback,” I put them in their place. How does that happen? It’s mostly the fickleness of results, but there’s a lot that goes into it.
It’s not just the impossibly accurate throws, like the gorgeous touchdown dime to Cooper Kupp in the corner of the end zone against the Vikings. It’s not just the pocket presence, and progression reading before firing bullets into the zone’s soft spots. It’s not just the almost instantaneous grasp of Sean McVay’s intricate offensive blueprint. While all those things have something to do with it, there’s an offensive swagger that we haven’t seen since Kurt Warner and the Greatest Show on Turf. You know you can take 35 points to the bank every week. It doesn’t matter whether that’s in the comforts of home, or the unfriendly confines of hostile venues like Seattle. No, it won’t always be enough, as evidenced by the week 9 loss to New Orleans, led by its own brilliant quarterback. But it’s there, and he’s the general.
No, he’s not perfect. His internal clock still needs work, as evidenced by some of the coverage sacks he takes. He still makes the occasional head scratching pass, like the one that floated between the numbers of San Francisco’s Jaquiski Tartt, who somehow contrived to drop it. He seems to sometimes have trouble with the play clock, leading to unnecessary timeouts wasted.
And yes, having an offensive line that can actually block helps. Having a head coach whose football acumen exceeds that of your average toddler helps. Talented receiving corps? Check. Superstar running back? Double check. But none of it moves without the engine, and that’s your 24-year-old franchise quarterback. And in the next year or two, you might very possibly be adding “Super Bowl winning” to that description.
So there you have it. I’m sorry, Jared. I was wrong about you.