Los Angeles Rams fans saw a lot of things from QB Jared Goff in his rookie season. The issue is that, not many of those things were things that many — if any — thought they would see.
There’s no point in sugarcoating it — Goff was a scrub in his first season.
Granted, he only played in seven games, but that’s kind of part of the bad. He could not beat out Rams QB Case Keenum for the starting job to open the season. In fact, he began the season as third on the depth chart, as QB Sean Mannion also outperformed him during the preseason. If we’re being completely honest, being promoted one week later to the backup was more political than earned. Guys aren’t so bad that they are third string and in one week’s time — really three days because that’s all the practice time allowed — they have suddenly done enough to be put in position to go in and win you the game if called upon. They were third for a reason. Goff was outperformed by nearly every single rookie QB to play in the 2016 preseason.
Goff was one of the least pro ready QBs in the 2016 NFL Draft. However, his potential is what many — including myself — liked about him. But as I always say, potential doesn’t equal production. So his struggles as a rookie should not be a huge surprise.
If anything the front office should be blamed, as it was rumored former HC Jeff Fisher did not want to draft Goff. Considering Fisher continuously said throughout the season that Goff is not ready, then WAM!!! out of nowhere he was ready, it would seem that Fisher’s hand was forced. Though Fisher claimed it was a gut decision and he felt it was time, also that it was his choice entirely. Either way, the kid wasn’t ready to be thrown in there — but that’s exactly what happened — and you can’t blame that on him.
When scouting Goff last offseason and ranking my top 10 QB’s for the 2016 NFL Draft, I had this to say:
Goff is a true pocket passer that has the ability to pick a defense apart. He plays his best ball against zone. His struggles have come against man coverage. He doesn't always pull the trigger when the window of opportunity is there and this has often hurt him. He also has to be willing to take more shots down field. He often leaves an open first read down field if the safety shows deep coverage, even when the target is open. This will likely lead to a ridiculously low YPA average. The last thing he should want to do is become a check down king. He's not as bad as (Chiefs QB) Alex Smith was but if he hesitates this much in college it could become worse in the pros, putting him on the same level as Smith, if not worse. However, when he rips it down field, more times than not the pass is a beauty. He has to trust his receivers more as well as himself.
Goff reminds me a lot of a young Matt Ryan. Like Ryan, Goff can quietly take over a game. Before you know it he is 30 of 40 passing, with 350 yards. Even so, this is not what should be expected out the gate. Wherever he lands, the team needs to know he is a major project, and will not be ready at all in his first season. This is where he differs from Ryan. Goff has to learn pre-snap reads or he will get pummeled early and often in his career. He also needs to learn an NFL playbook and how to call plays, as well as run a huddle. Air raid QB's have zero history of success in the NFL, but Goff is unquestionably the best to enter the NFL from that type of system. If he's allowed to sit and develop for about two years, he could become a perennial Pro-Bowl player.
Goff proved most of this to be true in his rookie season. Some will like to point to the players and coaching he had around him. The idea behind this claim, is to be fair and include all factors that may have affected him. We must be fair in any assessment, but to be fair, we have to look at everything from every aspect.
Goff wasn’t inserted into a completely different offense from the one Keenum ran, and he had all the same players surrounding him. However, Keenum grossly outperformed him in every category:
Goff vs Keenum
The most shocking stat is the discrepancy in yards per game. Goff averaged a sad 155.5 yards per game (seven starts), to Keenum’s 244.5 yards per game (nine starts).
These are staggering differences for two QB’s who played with the exact same supporting cast, running the exact same system. Hard to blame receiver drops when the receivers dropped more passes from Case than Jared.
Jared struggled mightily with pre-snap reads and identifying the blitz. When the blitz would come, he’d often run backwards rather than step up into the pocket or staying close to the line of scrimmage to minimize the loss. Some of this can be attributed to a young guy just trying to make a play, and part of it is a young guy panicking when the blitz is closing in. We saw both scenarios a lot. Either way, it resulted in nearly 80 more yards loss on only three more sacks than Keenum. Goff was sacked more in less games/drop-backs, in large part because teams were able to identify that he did not do a good job picking up on the blitz. OC Rob Boras mentioned Goff’s struggles with understanding protections and protecting himself, as he had this to say;
We all understand we need to protect him. He has taken too many hits, some of those are on himself.... Again he needs to be able to protect himself as well. Part of protection is knowing where you are vulnerable, and that’s what he needs to understand as well.
Another reason for Goff’s higher sack total is the length of time it takes for him to release the ball. When a young QB is unsure he finds himself thinking too much. He’s trying to process information and figure out what’s going on. This slows all the things you do naturally down. Keenum was tied for the second fastest release time in the NFL at 2.38 sec. Goff was in a three way tie 15 spots down the list at 2.58 sec. It just simply took him longer to get rid of the ball. He wasn’t the slowest by any stretch of the imagination, but it stands out because one of his positives coming out was how quick his release was.
Goff’s biggest issue above all else however, was ball placement. This was a personal shocker for myself, as his ball placement was above average in college, and I thought it’d be something he could hang his hat on more often than not. Case finished the season with a 61% completion rate, while Jared finished at 54%. The receivers did not suddenly get worse in the second half of the season. Jared just simply threw a lot of balls that were off target; throws were high a lot. He had more high throws than any other kind of throw. They were also low, over thrown, extremely short, and behind the target far too often.
These errors are more acceptable when there’s pressure in a QB’s face — though as Boras mentions he has to get better at identfying that pressure and knowing what to do whether it’s changing his protection, checking to a run, or throwing to your hot read — but the issue is even when he had time, we saw more of the same:
Here we have Goff throwing an interception. As you can see there is a blitz but its delayed, and the ball is long gone before the defender gets there (hence the play not standing due to a late hit on the QB). He had the time to make the right kind of throw. Instead, he first locks onto the target, which is mistake number one. However, TE Lance Kendricks has the step on the defender as he was caught flat footed. The ball should be thrown over Kendricks shoulder towards the sideline. Instead, Goff throws it both short and behind Kendricks, allowing the safety who was beat, to make the interception. WR Tavon Austin cleared out he space on the sideline by running a go route. Theres about 12 yards of opportunity to throw into. These are the throws we saw too often.
According to Pro Football Reference, the team technically got worst after Goff was inserted into the lineup. The team was in most games as they moved down the field better with Keenum under center. Once Goff took the reigns the teams three and out totals per game went up, and they allowed the sixth most points allowed over the final six games. While some will point to the defense being at fault for this downward trend, when you consider the offense giving the ball back after only three plays, the opposing offense was allowed more opportunities to score. The team also twice had less than ten first downs under Goff, and he only lead the team to eclipse 300 total yards of offense once, whereas Keenum did it five times.
Does the kid have potential? Yes. Is he ready to lead a franchise? Probably not. We can point to him being a rookie all day, but to what avail? Fellow rookie QB’s, Cody Kessler, Dak Prescott, Carson Wentz, and maybe even Jacoby Brissett — Brissett is 100% debatable — all performed better than Goff when given an opportunity. And we can mention their supporting cast, but they still have to make the throw. And it’s not like Kessler had a stud supporting cast in Cleveland. Between the Eagles and the Rams only one team had a 1000 yard receiver. In Dallas, we saw how a not so good QB can squander a golden opportunity with an amazing cast surrounding him in week 17 (here’s to you Mark Sanchez).
Goff showed no command on the field, often looking lost and confused on where to go with the ball. He far too often hesitated to make the throw into tight windows. It’s not the college game anymore, he’s going to have to throw it in there as well as make more anticipation throws.
He’s only seven games in so let’s not start the bust talk. He technically has yet to get a full 16 game season under his belt. But from what we were able to see in seven games, he has a long way to go to be ready to take over a game.
Hell, he has a long way to go to just being good at managing a game...