I’ve never been a Jared Goff fan. That’s been a lonesome stance to stake as he blossomed under Sean McVay’s play-calling, but the Rams (and Goff) have cooled off a bit, so let’s re-examine the question.
Is the “real” Goff the gun-shooter with the golden arm who dissected defenses the last two years and beat the Chiefs in their epic Monday night shootout, 54-51? Or the skittish kid who floundered his rookie season and this year has lost two of his last three games, beating only the NFL’s worst team?
His low point came against the Chicago Bears in Week 14, when he completed 20 of 44 passes (average 4.09 yards per attempt) for 180 total yards, no touchdowns, and four interceptions. His passer rating was 19.1. He wasn’t a whole lot better against Detroit or Philadelphia in the Weeks 13 and 15.
Goff is what I call a “hothouse flower,” a quarterback who can be great in perfect conditions: A great offensive line, brilliant play-caller, stud receivers, and an All-Pro running back. The thing is, a lot of quarterbacks could be great in those same conditions.
The real measure is how he does when the going is rough: Against a great defense (such as the Bears), facing the pressure of coming back or a playoff game, or suffering under a coach known as “the Quarterback Decrier” as he did his rookie year.
Goff has crumbled in these situations more than once. Last year in his one playoff game, at home, in perfect balmy weather, Goff was nervous and inaccurate from his first pass attempt to his last. The favored Rams lost, 26-13.
The guy is gritless. He’s never going to dig deep and find anything useful.
You might say, “Every quarterback struggles against a defense like Vic Fangio’s.” Sort of? But UDFA Nick Mullens did much better against the Bears just two weeks later, in a game with an almost identical score (14-9 vs. 15-6). Mullens went 22-38-241, with 0 TD and 1 INT, for a 6.34 yd YPA average and a 65.8 rating — and he did that with a weaker offensive line, inferior receivers, three inches shorter in height, and much less NFL experience.
To get a somewhat less jaded take than mine on the current struggles of Goff and the Rams, Fooch spoke with Turf Show Times editor Joe McAtee. He cited three factors:
1) Coach Sean McVay’s play calling, which:
“continued to push Goff through some uncomfortable circumstances in-game and didn’t adjust for various situations. Instead, it pressed the gas harder and just expected the car to pull itself out of the mud.”
2) “The offensive line has gone from perhaps being the best line in the NFL over the first 11 games to struggling badly out of the bye.” He went on to note that:
“Especially against the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles, they looked horribly overmatched. That’s a huge concern given the age of some of the line’s key contributors like LT Andrew Whitworth who just turned 37-years old.”
3) “Goff himself has just not played well.”
“He’s dealt with pressure horribly. He’s missed easy throws. He’s looked uncomfortable with his command of the pocket and his need to go through his progressions. It’s just been messy for a guy who has operated a clean offense for most of the year.”
I think he means that I’m totally right, but I might be biased.
Weather has always been a weak point for Goff, who grew up in the Bay Area (Novato). The Chicago loss came in near-freezing weather, and to be fair Nick Mullens got his Chicago game at home in the South Bay.
Goff was flat-out bad in both of the college games he played in rainy Eugene, Oregon. Coach Sonny Dykes benched him in 2013 because his tiny baby hands (9.0”) couldn’t grip the football.
The 2015 Ducks-Bears game was somewhat better, but not great: 18-41 for 329 yards, 2 TDs, and an interception. By coincidence, Niners DB Tyree Robinson was one of Oregon’s starting cornerbacks that day and played well. After the game, Goff told me:
“I think it really just comes down to we didn’t make plays. I wasn’t throwing them where they need to be, we weren’t catching every ball, we weren’t making good blocks, we weren’t running the ball very well. It was all around. Everyone including myself could have been better.”
The weather forecast is perfect for Sunday’s game; 66 degrees and sunny, but Goff will play without his dominant RB, Todd Gurley (the AP’s NFL Offensive Player of the Year last season). Fangio drew the blueprint for shutting down the Rams by stopping their run game; Gurley totaled 28 yards against the Bears, and the whole offense sputtered as a result.
The Eagles followed the same script in Week 15, limiting Gurley to 48 yards in their win. Run defense is the Niners’ strongest suit on that side of the ball, and it will be a lot easier to stop C.J. Anderson than Gurley.
The Rams’ fade started with the loss of receiver Cooper Kupp (Kendrick Bourne’s teammate at Eastern Washington) to injury, which suggests that neither Goff nor Coach McVay are very good adapting to the loss of a key player. And no one (besides Aaron Donald) is more key for the Rams than Gurley.
Los Angeles is still likely to win this game, since LA mortgaged their future for a “win now” strategy, and the Niners are just as lacking in talent as they are full of injuries. SF is on their third QB and eighth safety, and has lost three more key skill players for Sunday: RB Matt Breida along with WRs Marquise Goodwin and Dante Pettis.
But this game will be a good test of Goff’s ability to handle a mild amount of pressure —the Rams need a win to clinch a bye week — without all of his preferred conditions. And the Niners have a chance to get in his head as they look forward to a hot division rivalry with Los Angeles over the next few years.