Following Thursday night's preseason game versus the Minnesota Vikings, Jeff Fisher announced that rookie Jared Goff would likely be the team's third quarterback "if we were starting right now." Considering Goff started the game and played through the first half, Fisher quickly dropping him to the third quarterback in the pecking order is concerning.
The dichotomy of Goff's situation doesn't make a lot of sense. Jeff Fisher and company were so eager to trade up for the first pick to grab Goff to be their franchise quarterback, but are sitting him comfortably behind a middling retread in Case Keenum and a developing backup in Sean Mannion. The last first overall selection at quarterback to not start their rookie season was back in 2007 when Jamarcus Russell was sidelined for a good chunk of his rookie season. Between Russell and Goff, there have been five first overall selections at quarterback, all of whom started their rookie seasons: Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and Jameis Winston.
To Rams fans, one name in particular stands out from that list. Sam Bradford. Bradford, an Oklahoma alumni, played his college ball in the then St. Louis Rams backyard. On top of a bevy of other awards throughout his college career, Bradford won a Heisman trophy in 2008, cementing himself as one of the best quarterbacks in college football at the time. Bradford totaled 88 passing touchdowns to just 16 interceptions while at Oklahoma, most of which came in his freshman and sophomore seasons, as Bradford missed most of his junior season with an injury. Bradford, on the surface, appeared to be a top tier quarterback prospect and was playing in close proximity to the Rams. It seemed like a perfect fit.
There was more to Bradford than his accolades, though. He was an accomplished college player, no doubt, but what he brought to the table as an NFL prospect was not quite as impressive. As it turned out, Bradford was more of a mirage than a messiah.
It's almost like the draft is a flat circle. pic.twitter.com/x3UHLwm8sx— Derrik Klassen (@QBKlass) September 27, 2015
The excerpt above is from a piece that I did a while back (the site is no longer running, otherwise a link to the article would have been provided). It was part of a two-part series where I went back to look at older quarterback prospects, from Peyton Manning and Tom Brady to Sam Bradford and Robert Griffin, to see whether or not their downfalls or successes were foreseeable. In Bradford's case, the red flags were there. Granted, the Rams were far from an ideal situation for a young quarterback to fall into, but Bradford did very little to make up for the problems around him.
Fast forward six years later from Bradford's April 22nd, 2010 draft night. The Rams have now traded away Bradford (for Nick Foles!) and traded up in the 2016 NFL Draft for... Sam Bradford Lite. My tweet from above, dated September 27th, 2015, was hinting at the idea that we've seen the story of Jared Goff before. We've seen the skinny air raid quarterback with shoulder problems before. We've seen the pretty in-structure, frenetic outside of structure quarterback with a middling arm before. We've seen Sam Bradford before 2016.
Despite all of that, Goff climbed up draft boards, eventually cementing himself in the minds of many as one of the top two quarterbacks in the class alongside Carson Wentz of North Dakota State. Goff was not a bad quarterback prospect, but selling him as a future superstar was a trap from the jump. In Goff's final season at Cal, he was surrounded by five or six NFL talents on offense, including wide receivers Kenny Lawler and Trevor Davis, yet Cal failed to win seven regular season games. All five of Cal's losses were to quality teams, but truly dynamic and transcendent quarterbacks find ways to beat some of the top tier teams in their way. Goff never did that.
On film, Goff displayed many of the same subtle problems that Bradford did. Timidity, lack of off-platform arm strength and an absence of creativity were all evident on Goff's film, as they were on Bradford's. Though, for Goff, they may have been worse, especially in the department of arm strength.
Goff's saving graces were his bucket throws down the field and his ability to read the short-to-intermediate area of the middle of the field well. Given those two traits, Goff was able to be fairly efficient at the college level. Those two traits should not have been enough to propel him into the first round, though, much less into the first overall draft spot.
As Goff has more time in the Rams offense, surely he will have more success in the short-to-intermediate area of the middle of the field and hopefully he will develop more confidence in his play style. That being said, the NFL is seldom as simple as functioning on script, especially when that ability only truly applies to a specific part of the field.
Jared Goff has to prove that he can be creative, dynamic and aggressive; all things that Bradford never truly was. Unfortunately, Goff was not that player in college and he has certainly not been that player in his first NFL preseason. The verdict on Goff is still a ways away, but being too optimistic about his future feels dangerous.